Female Journalists Face Rampant Abuse, Study Says

Female reporter

December 3, 2013

A recent study released by the International News Safety Institute revealed some troubling news for women in journalism. The study, which surveyed 875 female journalists from around the globe in order to examine harassment and violence toward female media workers, showed that almost two-thirds of female journalists had experienced some type intimidation, threats, or abuse in relation to their work. Surprisingly, the bulk of workplace harassment wasn't the result of the on-the-scenes reporting or work in other hostile environments. The report concluded that the majority of threats toward female journalists occurred in the workplace and were often initiated by male bosses, co-workers, and supervisors.

"When we talk about safety for the media, we often think in terms of staying safe in war zones, civil unrest and environmental disasters, but how often do we think of the office as a hostile environment?" said Hannah Storm, Director of the International News Safety Institute, in a press release.

The study was conducted from July until November 2013, with 21 percent of respondents coming from North America, 19 percent from Europe, and 28 percent from Asia and the Pacific. Out of the women surveyed, more than 82 percent worked as reporters, Poynter.org reported. Approximately 49 percent of the women worked for newspapers, while another 21 percent worked in television and 16 percent in radio. Over half of the women worked as employees of a business or corporation and about 28 percent worked as freelancers.

According to the study, the most common forms of abuse were abuse of power or authority, verbal, written, and/or physical intimidation including personal threats, and attempts or threats to damage reputation or honor. And since women feared retaliation, addition threats, or worse, these incidents often went unreported and unresolved.

Out of the 605 women who responded when asked if they had experienced sexual harassment in relation to their work, almost half said yes. Fortunately, more than 57 percent stated that sexual harassment happened 'rarely.' However, another 34.94 percent of women reported sexual harassment as happening 'often' and 7.63 percent of respondents said that it happened 'most of the time.'

Other reported harassment was racial. According to the report, 89 of the 563 women who responded when asked if they had experienced racial harassment in relation to their work answered yes. Even more disappointing is the fact that over 51 percent of positive respondents reported that the racial harassment they had encountered occurred in the workplace, not in the field.

In a world where female journalists are sometimes required to visit volatile regions to get the story, it's troubling that so many incidents of threats, abuse, and harassment take place at work where women should be safe. In order to provide more insight into these issues, the INSI plans to release an in-depth analysis of this problem, which will include case studies and examples, to coincide with International Women's Day in March 2014.

In the meantime, the survey results serve as a painful reminder that there is still much to be done to protect women's rights in the workplace, or wherever they may be.

"What this ground-breaking survey shows is that women journalists are often at risk in their own work places as well: targeted by their colleagues, and because they are let down by the very people they should be able to trust, the violence and harassment they face goes widely unreported and therefore unpunished," said Storm.

Compiled by Holly Johnson


"International News Safety Institute and International Women's Media Foundation Global Research Project Investigating Harassment and Violence Against Female Media Workers," newssafety.org, December 2, 2013, http://www.newssafety.org/images/INSIIWMFsurvey%20headlines.pdf

"For many women journalists, workplaces are dangerous, study says," poynter.org, December 2, 2013, Kristin Hare, http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/231970/for-many-women-journalists-workplaces-are-dangerous-study-says/

"Two-thirds of women journalists face intimidation, abuse: survey," thenews.com.pk, December 3, 2013, Tasneem Ahmar, http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-217868-Two-thirds-of-women-journalists-face-intimidation-abuse-survey

"Women Journalists Face Rampant Workplace Abuse, Sexual Harassment: Study," huffingtonpost.com, December 2, 2013, Catherine Taibi, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/02/women-journalists-abuse-harassment-office-study_n_4372764.html

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