UNESCO supports strengthening capacities of female journalists on safety in the media houses in Kenya

Safety, including sexual harassment issues of female journalists in newsrooms have become rampant in Kenya. This is according to a recently launched report by Women in News-WAN-IFRA as well as UNESCO study “The Chilling: Global trends in online violence against women journalists”. Through its International Programme for Development of Communication (IPDC), UNESCO supported the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) to increase and strengthen capacities of 60 female journalists on safety for journalism practice and sexual harassment in media spaces on 18 and 19 May 2022 in Kenya. The participants were drawn from 10 counties namely: Nairobi, Kiambu, Mombasa, Homabay, Busia, Migori, Uasin Gishu, Kisumu, Kajiado and Meru counties in Kenya.

During the opening of the training, Ms. Misako Ito, UNESCO Regional Advisor Communication and Information in Africa stated: “Safety of journalists is a global issue. In a recent global survey, UNESCO and International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) found out that 73% of women journalists had experienced online violence in the course of their work. 20% of these women reported being attacked offline in connection with online violence they had experienced. These statistics are crucial and we need to do more to ensure safety of women in media.”

Mr. Victor Bwire, Director of Strategy and Training, Media Council of Kenya highlighted the important need for journalists safety stating that media houses need to put in mechanisms that would ensure safety of journalists during this electoral period and beyond. He said: “Since January to date, we have received 45 cases on attacks on journalists. The safety and protection of journalists is a very critical issue that we need to raise as a matter of urgency in Kenya. As practitioners, we have to look at the bigger picture and understand that harassment embodies other different forms apart from sexual. Trolling, stalking, cyberbullying, intimidation, abduction, unfair job placements, among others also lead to women leaving the media industry.”

Ms. Pamella Makotsi Sittoni, Executive Editor, National Media Group encouraged the women journalists at the workshop that their own personal safety comes first. She said: “Safety of women journalists is a major determinant in their careers, particularly when majority of female journalists have experienced and reported physical, online, or verbal harassment in their line of work. Media houses should put in place measures that enable women to work effectively in their respective work areas to boost their careers.”

Mr. Tom Mboya, Coordinator, at the Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET), indicated that: “Empowerment of female journalists in community media on safety mechanisms and sexual harassment is essential for their health, social and career development. Without safe workplaces, female journalists’ eave the profession, yet their role is extremely vital in our society.”

At the workshop, participants were taken through discussions and presentations on understanding sexual harassment; how to address it; safe spaces for survivors; story pitching; global guidelines and policies; and reporting mechanisms for sexual harassment issues in Kenya.