Researchers recognized the need for media owners to provide an enabling environment for women journalists subjected to sexual harassment, including revisiting or developing safety policies, safety training, and the setting up of mechanisms for reporting and investigation.
By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA – A recently published research on the Philippine news industry called on media owners to provide an enabling environment for women journalists who are often silenced as they fall victims of sexual harassment.
“We need to be able to have a safe space for women to talk about their experiences, to encourage them to speak up and hold (offenders) to account,” said one of the researchers and journalist Janess Ann Ellao during the online launch of the Handbook of Research on Discrimination, Gender Disparity, and Safety Risks in Journalism, Dec. 7.
Published by IGI Global, the book aims to serve as a reference that highlights equal rights in journalism, and best practices in promoting a safe working environment and gender equality in journalism.
Two of the 20 chapters in this new publication looked into the conditions of women journalists in the Philippines. Its researchers from the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication and the International Association of Women in Radio and Television – Philippines have noted the irony that despite the pervasiveness of such cases, women journalists could not publicly talk about their experiences.
In both chapters, researchers recognized the need for media owners to provide an enabling environment for women journalists subjected to sexual harassment, including revisiting or developing safety policies, safety training, and the setting up of mechanisms for reporting and investigation.
Dissuaded from speaking out
Both chapters noted that women journalists are dissuaded from speaking out for fear it might have implications on their work as journalists. Respondents also said they do not feel the support from colleagues and immediate supervisors to speak out publicly, let alone file a formal complaint against the offender.
Therese San Diego, also one of the researchers and board member of the local chapter of IAWRT, said gender-based threats and attacks that plague women in media remain “hidden from the public eye.”
Attacks are often perpetrated by media owners, colleagues, news sources, including elected officials, said San Diego, who co-authored the paper with AIJC president Ramon Tuazon titled “Threats and Attacks on Women Journalists in the Philippines.”
Among these include: cracking sexually suggestive jokes, making remarks with sexual undertones, and invading personal space. While women journalists know that these are wrong, they refer to it as “normal” or are “part of the reality” in the media industry.
Another paper titled “Dealing with Sexual Harassment: Are Women Journalists Silenced at Work,” penned by IAWRT – Philippines officers Ellao, Evelyn Roxas, and San Diego, revealed interns and new women journalists are often the subjects of jokes and inappropriate comments.
Researchers said that women journalists remain vulnerable to sexual harassment as the male-dominated media industry remains as a “breeding ground” for such. Ellao said that news sources, the police and elected government officials included, think they have power over women journalists because they have information or exclusive stories journalists would want to report on.
One of the Filipino journalists interviewed for the study shared, “I feared that I would not be able to find new sources, and I might compromise my job.”
Apart from this, the research also documented how women journalists are being summoned by government officials even if there is no official briefing. Some said their personal space is also being invaded, with news sources calling them in the dead of the night to ask them out on dates. They also shared their discomfort with the way some sources look at them or when the shaking of hands is “a little longer than necessary.”
Researchers expressed hope that this study is a step forward towards freeing silenced voices of women journalists subjected to gender-based violence.
Among the event partners are: AIJC, Bulatlat, Miriam College – Department of Communication, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Philippine Press Institute and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines – College of Communication.