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Media sector sexual harassment policy

Media sector sexual harassment policy

Story by Abigirl Tembo

The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) has come up with a Draft Zimbabwe Media Sector Sexual Harassment Policy to ensure a safe working environment for media practitioners.

With an objective to provide a safe working environment for media practitioners and creating a complaints mechanism for victims of sexual harassment, the draft policy applies to all media services registered and operating in Zimbabwe.

ZMC chairperson Professor Ruby Magosvongwe stressed that the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace can no longer be ignored.

“The sexual issues confronting the media industry are real and cannot be ignored any longer. The complexity of the matter explains our coming together as the media fraternity to confront this scourge, which is becoming a cancer. This is a deep-seated and complicated malady that affects everyone in the industry, hence ZMC’s initiative to bring together stakeholders and members of the media fraternity.

“To discuss and come up with a practicable policy framework as an industry. The time has come whereby the sexual harassment policy documents should be taken out of our desks and be followed through in spirit and in truth. As a matter that relates to power dynamics, it is prudent that everyone be covered irrespective of sex or gender,” she said.

CapiTalk manager, Nyaradzo Makombe said, “We need to put in place mechanisms within our institutions to ensure that the victims get help and do not undergo victimisation because we have a lot of cases and issues taking place in our newsrooms and issues that are reported and do not go anywhere. Our situation has gotten so bad and has even escalated to rape.”

WAN-IFRA Women in News which is working with the ZMC on the policy draft, is convinced sexual harassment is the greatest barrier to the advancement of women in the media.

Deputy Executive Director of WAN-IFRA, Jane Godia said, “There is recent research which revealed that 48% of women who are working in the media have experienced either physical or verbal sexual harassment. There has been fear of reporting, why not being believed, no action taken not knowing who to report to sadly more than 40% of these perpetrators are in snr positions. How then do you report to your boss when he is the one sexually abusing you? This is a matter of safety and security.”

Information, Publicity, and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere, who also attended the validation workshop, reaffirmed the government’s commitment to eradicating sexual harassment in the media industry.
“I would like to commend you for coming up with this draft policy and of importance is the stakeholder approach that has been taken by the ZMC to bring together journalists, executives, engineers and the civil society together to be able to develop a sexual harassment policy that will take care of all the challenges that we currently have across all media houses.

“As government we believe we do not have a monopoly of knowledge and this is precisely why we are participating at this important sexual harassment validation workshop but also of key importance as we develop the sexual harassment policy that will take care of all the shortcomings in terms of the gender challenges in all the newsrooms all the media houses,” he said.

A recent survey conducted by renowned City University of London Associate Professor Linsey Blumell in collaboration with women in the news in 20 countries revealed that sexual harassment is common among men and women in the media industry.

According to the report, 26.5% of women in Zimbabwe were exposed to verbal sexual harassment five times or more while 8.2 % of women suffered from physical sexual harassment.

46% of the organisations gave warnings to perpetrators, 12.5 % were dismissed, 4% of the perpetrators were fired, while more than 70% of the cases went unreported owing to several reasons which include fear of dismissal, retaliation, and backlash in the newsroom.

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