INFORMATION and Publicity minister Monica Mutsvangwa has threatened to take punitive measures against male journalists accused of sexually abusing their female counterparts, mostly interns.
Addressing delegates at the WAN-INFRA Women in News Alumni conference in Harare last week, Mutsvangwa said she had been receiving shocking reports of female journalists being sexually harassed at their workplaces, while others have reportedly been raped by their male bosses.
She said a recent WIN report published in January 2022 revealed that 40% of female media professionals suffered work-related sexual harassment and violence of one form or another.
Mutsvangwa urged all media organisations to come up with strict procedures and guidelines to ensure the safety of female journalists.
“Sexual harassment continues to ravage our media houses. It is the biggest challenge that has created a hostile environment in newsrooms. We need to deal with that because we want our young women not to fear journalism. As government, we want all media houses to develop sexual harassment policies and ensure there is zero tolerance,” Mutsvangwa said.
“We need to develop a culture whereby girls stay in the newsroom. Women need to report the abusers without fear so that they get arrested. Ladies, we need all hands on the deck to be able to defeat this culture that recognises women in terms of their sexual capabilities instead of professionalism. We need to support each other and also change the narrative in terms of how we are viewed in newsrooms and in society.”
The minister also lamented the sad state of affairs in newsrooms, where women have remained in lower positions.
“You will agree with me that the representation of women in the newsroom remains on a worrisome trajectory with most women being assigned to the less demanding beats which have ‘naturally been reserved for women’ as the men take up the challenging ones such as politics, investigations and business. This is not only in Zimbabwe as evidence shows that media houses across Africa and the world at large have fallen short in providing an enabling environment for women to rise in the industry,” she added.
WIN deputy executive director and director for Africa, Jane Godia said a lot needs to be done to ensure that females have equal opportunities in the media.
She said women are often the ones who get retrenched when the media is facing tough times, adding that WIN’s vision is to see women occupying top leadership positions and adding a voice to the news narratives.
“We know that when the media organisations are unstable, women are the first victims to fall. Our mission is to see an increase in women leadership and we do so by equipping women journalists with strategies, skills and support networks,” Godia said.
WIN alumni Zimbabwe chapter chairperson Melody Chikono urged other females who have already made it in newsrooms to support fellow women to also get to positions of authority.