AMWIK in partnership with UNESCO conducted a hybrid two-day training for 60 female community media journalists under the theme, “enhancing the capacity of community media houses to promote the safety of journalists in the workspace.”
The journalists were who were drawn from 10 counties namely: Nairobi, Kiambu, Mombasa, Homabay, Busia, Migori, Uasin Gishu, Kisumu, Kajiado and Meru counties were imparted with skills on online and offline safety and security and provided an opportunity to increase awareness among the community media outlets on sexual harassment particularly on reporting cases, offering survivors a voice and space for solidarity and cultivating a conducive environment for the adoption of anti-sexual harassment policies.
According to UNESCO’s Regional Advisor for Communication and Information, Misako Ito, at least 73% of female journalists are attacked online while 20% others are attacked offline. Victor Bwire, Director of strategy and Training at the Media Council of Kenya(MCK) also announced that so far, the council had received 45 cases of attacks on journalists between January- May 2022. “The safety and protection of journalists is a critical issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, locally and internationally.” he added.
According to a research by the Wan-IFRA Women in New on sexual harassment of journalists in Africa, Kenyan media houses had the highest rate at 56%. Lack of anti-sexual harassment policies that protect employees in their work place has contributed to the rising number of female journalists who feel unsafe and leave their jobs prematurely.
“The statistics on harassment are too high, media houses in Kenya should adopt and oversee policies and guidelines that enable women to work effectively in their roles free of harassment. “said Pamela Sittoni, Executive Editor at the Nation Media Group in her keynote speech.
The Executive Director of AMWIK, Judie Kaberia encouraged speaking out against sexual harassment as the only way to ensure that perpetrators are brought to book and victims to get justice. “Media houses who have and implement guidelines and policies that protect their employees against sexual harassment should be recognized and applauded,” she added.
“Online violence is not exceptional,” Yunia Amunga, Senior News Anchor, Capital Fm noted, adding that, “Female journalists are subjected to body shaming, trolling, abusive comments, hacking, impersonation, and threats,” Amunga advised women journalists to report such cases.
“We should be intentional in exposing each and every roadblock in our media entities that prevent women from scaling up in their work,” said Njeri Rugene, the Founder of the Woman’s Newsroomn Foundation.
Dinah Ondari, manager, Press Freedom, Safety and Advocacy at the Media Council of Kenya(MCK) however cautioned on the role of individuals to ensure their own safetystating,”Concerns on safety have to start with the individual before it gets to the management. Always understand the risk of where you are covering, war protective gear and have contacts of the police and the contacts of MCK or AMWIK on speed dial.”
As an alternative to highly commercialized mainstream media content, community media puts the tools of communication into the hands of communities, allowing them to create localized content and dialogues that highlight the crucial issues affecting that specific community.
However, with limited skills and resources, AMWIK believes that it is important to enhance the capacity of community media houses while addressing the emerging issues in media such as enhancing the safety of journalists in the workplace both online and offline.
The project was supported by UNESCOs Information Programme for Development of Communication (IPDC), the only multilateral forum in the UN system designed to mobilize the international community to not only discuss and promote media development but also seek an accord to secure a healthy environment for the growth of free and pluralistic media in developing countries.