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Zim media industry takes a stand against sexual harassment

Story by Abigirl Tembo

THE Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) has launched a landmark policy aimed at creating a safe working environment for media practitioners, free from sexual harassment and violence.

The initiative comes in response to a disturbing trend revealed by a recent WAN-IFRA Women in News (WIN) survey which revealed a high rate of sexual harassment within newsrooms.

Women in News deputy executive director, Ms Jane Godia said, “53% of women in the newsroom have faced sexual harassment. This is bigger than the regional percentage. And we find that in radio, if we go according to medium, in radio it’s 31%, in print it’s 29%, in TV 29%. We find that online harassment also remains a big challenge, and UNESCO also conducted research and found that three-quarters of female journalists have faced harassment and threat.”

Officially launching the policy, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Dr. Jenfan Muswere emphasised the government’s unwavering support to eradicating sexual harassment.

“Ladies and gentlemen, sexual harassment is a very complex and deep-rooted issue that has been in the media industry for years and several calls have been made to address the issue. The Sexual Harassment Policy is thus a response to public outcry for urgent interventions by the government. The policy is vital as sexual harassment is inhibiting the development of the media industry.

“Power dynamics within the media industry allow for a culture where misconduct, especially sexual harassment and sexual violence is usually overlooked or not reported for fear of career loss. This militates against the active participation of women in the industry and some men, impacting negatively on their performance from a psychological viewpoint. It is encouraging that the ZMC has seen it necessary and urgent that there be a policy framework to provide redress. We want to support the eradication of sexual harassment in all newsrooms because it inhibits growth.”

Zimbabwe Media Commission chairperson Professor Ruby Magosvongwe said the commission guided by the policy will ensure that all newsrooms are free of sex pests.

“To our media houses and practitioners, we wish to assure you that this is not a document that will sit in some gloried drawers to be dusted regularly as our offices are being cleaned. No! The ZMC will ensure that we walk the talk and live the policy. We will push hard that amendments to the ZMC Act incorporate the policy as a condition for registration and renewal of registration. We will soon launch a blitz to popularise the policy and the need for compliance. However, this will be a resource-heavy exercise and we will appeal to all individuals and institutions that share our dreams of a sexual harassment and violence-free media, to join us on this journey. The policy that is being launched today does not belong to the commission but to the industry and we encourage everyone to take ownership and run with it.”

The launch was met with positive responses from media houses and unions, including the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Zimpapers, Alpha Media Holdings, and the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists signifying a unified front against sexual harassment within the media industry.

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