ActionAid Nigeria and some stakeholders in the media industry have recommended ways to improved journalism and media practice in Nigeria.
A communique issued at the end of the National Media Virtual Roundtable on Actioning Safety and Protection of Women Journalists in Nigeria: Reflections and Recommendations organised by ActionAid Nigeria, on Tuesday, in commemoration of 2021 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, recommended among others that the police, other law enforcement agents and security agencies should be properly sensitised to understand how to accord and treat female journalists with respect and dignity.
The Roundtable which have speakers that include Ladi Bala, President, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ); Oba Adeoye, Anchor and Producer with Arise News TV; Theophilus Abbah, Programme Director, Daily Trust Foundation; Omolola Oladimeji, Team Lead, Women in Media Development Initiative (WIMDI), and the Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, also recommended that in mainstreaming of gender policy in the newsroom, media organisations should develop and be willing to implement robust gender inclusive policy to guide against sexual harassment and intimidation of journalists especially female journalists, insisting that the gender policy must ensure a measure of gender balance in the leadership structure of the organisations.
Other recommendations include that there should be a formulation of legal and ethical frameworks that are designed to checkmate gender biases and discrimination against journalists, with organisations such as NUJ, NAWOJ, NGE and other allied pro-media organisations should lead this campaign with support from professional and development networks including FIDA to develop draft legislation; media owners should constantly engage journalists on hostile environment training so as to adequately prepare and minimise the exposure of journalists to risks while reporting in conflict or high hazard environments; NAWOJ and WIMDI, among others, should engage in more sensitisations and awareness campaign to encourage women journalists who come under attack to speak out; the institutions must also provide a shield for journalists who have been/or are being harassed by security operatives or in their media organisations.
Media organisations need to institute workplace policies covering the welfare of journalists, this is to include health insurance as well as active sexual harassment and abuse policies to protect journalists against sexual abuse and intimidation within the media the organisation; media organisations should be willing to support and pursue to logical conclusions cases involving journalists who are involved in any form of intimidation and harassment while carrying out their duties; and media organisations should first ensure the economic protection of the journalists working with them, and that the journalists should be properly engaged as staff, this will bolster the confidence of the journalist and make them report incidences of harassment in or outside the media organisation without fear of intimidation or reprisal attack.
The stakeholders said they have observed that harassment and impunity against journalists especially sexual harassment of female journalists will not end until perpetrators are investigated and punished; networking and solidarity building are required amongst journalists for strategic advocacy and to counter threats of violence and crimes against journalists, particularly women, towards protecting freedom of expression for all; police or security operatives’ invitation of journalists on the basis of news reports is a form of harassment, insisting there are ways to address concerns regarding published stories rather than have security agencies arrest journalists, they should write to the media organisations and provide their own side of the story; the lack of a protective policy or legal framework deters harassed or abused journalists from reporting for fear of safety.
Other observations, according to them, are that the impunity, brutality, physical and verbal assaults against journalists have continued because perpetrators rarely openly get punished; the lack of supporting structure and framework by senior female journalists in mentoring and supporting younger female journalists in the profession is a drawback in protecting and enhancing the confidence of the younger journalists to face the harsh working environment of the profession; the female journalists who suffer sexual harassment in the newsroom usually lack sufficient evidence to make their case; some also keep quiet about such abuses for fear of losing their jobs especially if the harassment is from a senior member of the organisation; there still exist within some media organisations issues of lack of inclusion of female journalists in covering certain assignments considered to be for male colleagues; female journalists are still viewed from the lenses of gender while assigning beats to cover and issues of cyber bullying of journalists on the basis of their report is also seen to be increasing in Nigeria.
Michael Olugbode in Abuja