Kuala Lumpur-based media movement Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) and Jakarta-based Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) noted with serious concern allegations of sexual harassments by elected government officials against female journalists in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
According to a report issued by the Asian Correspondent, eight female journalists from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines had been victimised as they received sexual harassment while doing their jobs as professional journalists.
The report quoted two Malaysian female journalists and an Indonesian female journalist, all three of whom shared similar experiences of being dealt with unwanted sexual advances that ranged from text messages, physical contacts, or seemingly more innocent dinner invitations.
More worryingly was also the fact one of the journalists said that reporting the incident to her editor only resulted in being told to “capitalise” on the situation in order to get a bigger scoop of news coverage.
Recognising that it is a common problem in both countries and across the region, we would like to urge concerned parties to condemn and reject any form of sexual harassment against all journalists or in these particular cases, against female journalists.
The problem has been ignored for a long time, as it is considered not an important issue or has been “normalised” as part of daily interactions between journalists and their news sources.
Geramm and AJI believe that the voices of a few women journalists who are brave enough to share their stories means the time has come for media houses to respond by setting an example on gender equality and respect.
The blurred line of what constitutes sexual harassment by a source should be clearly drawn and to ensure that there are appropriate channels for such matters to be addressed.
One of the suggestion put by various journalists is education on what constitutes sexual harassment by the media organisations and journalists groups so journalists knows their rights and what they could and should do when faced with such situations.
In addition, clear and just conduct in forms of law should be looked upon by the powers that be themselves, as the sexual harassment especially against women is widespread in the region as well
On that note, we demand all news sources, regardless of their status, to show respect towards journalists on duty.
As organisations fighting for press freedom and the rights of all media practitioners, Geramm and the AJI are united in our stand that the issue of sexual harassment should be addressed in a holistic manner.
While we acknowledge the importance for journalists to build relationships and communication with politicians, such interactions must also be based on principle of mutual respect.
There should be no excuse to allow such behaviour in the course of pursuing a story.
Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm), Kuala Lumpur
Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI), Jakarta