Challenges faced by female journalists discussed

Kathmandu, November 4

Women journalists from Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan shared their experiences of working with media during the South Asia Regional Training Workshop for Women Journalists held here on Friday and Saturday.

The two-day event jointly organised by Media Action Nepal and Article 19 highlighted the issues and challenges women journalists face while working with media. Immediate strategies to promote freedom of expression and safety of women journalists were discussed at the workshop.

Women journalists from various countries said sexual harassment, pay discrimination and character assassination at workplaces were common in all South Asian countries. They also shared how they were mistreated by their fellow colleagues and threats they had received after publishing or broadcasting their stories. The journalists also shared how media houses showed less trust on them only because they were women.

Speakers and participants of the workshop also discussed positive sides of working with media. Anita Bindu, one of the journalists, suggested to women that they should say “STOP” if someone is trying to sexually harass them.

“It will at least compel the perpetrator to take a step back from the act,” she opined.

Similarly, speakers at the workshop talked about media accountability, impunity and self-censorship, tackling newsroom challenges, opportunities of working in media and also discussed about the professional safety of women journalists.

The two-day event highlighted how the state has failed to address professional safety of journalists. Meanwhile, discussions revealed that journalists censor their stories themselves for fear of losing jobs.

Laxman Datt Pant, chairperson of Media Action Nepal, opined that the reasons behind self-censorship by journalists are professional insecurity, absence of the rule of law, inadequate law enforcement and widespread impunity. He suggested to journalists to immediately report the threat cases to their supervisors and also file cases if necessary.

Associate editor of Asian Age, Bangladesh, Syed Badrul Ahsan, shared how women journalists had been fighting their lonely battle in his country. “Women are getting threats and are forced to leave their jobs for the sensitive stories they report,” Badrul said.

Prakash Rimal, editor of The Himalayan Times, during his session ‘Professional Safety of Women Journalists: Tackling Newsroom Challenges’ informed about challenges women journalists faced in newsrooms such as long and erratic working hours, pressure from family and working atmosphere, among others. Rimal suggested to journalists to talk, share and report their problems.

Similarly, the journalists were also asked about media policies their respective media houses had towards sexual harassment, discrimination, night time work, day care, maternity leave, hazardous assignments, promotion of women to senior position and capacity building.