World Association of News Publishers

Stamping Out Sexual Harassment in the Newsroom

Stamping Out Sexual Harassment in the Newsroom

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As the effects of the #MeToo campaign continue to be felt across the globe, the media is increasingly aware of the steps it must take to stamp out sexual harassment on the job. WAN-IFRA and Women in News recently published a handbook for media companies to address this pervasive issue.

By Colette Davidson

“Sexual harassment is unwanted and offensive behaviour of a sexual nature that violates a person’s dignity and makes them feel degraded, humiliated, intimidated or threatened.”

The blatant message on sexual harassment starts with a bang – it’s the lead paragraph on WAN-IFRA’s Women in News awareness poster, as part of a recently published toolkit for media organisations on sexual harassment.

The poster, which can be displayed in newsrooms and offices, offers practical advice on not only how to identify sexual harassment and rape, but how to report it, as well as employee rights and the legality surrounding harassment in the workplace.

It’s part and parcel of a comprehensive resource that includes a practical guide for media employers and employees as well as a sexual harassment policy, survey and communication templates. While the resources are currently only available in English, they are expected to arrive in Arabic in due course.

Stina Hofgaard Rosjo, head of administration at Norway’s VG newspaper and a WAN-IFRA Media Freedom Brain Trust member, has worked on policy issues related to sexual harassment at her company, using her research to contribute to WAN-IFRA’s handbook. She says the #MeToo campaign inspired VG to create a whistle-blowing policy for sexual harassment.

“We have talked with more than 30 people who have been sexually harassed, or who have seen someone being sexually harassed,” says Hofgaard Rosjo, “to learn and understand how they have experienced VG as their employer in these processes and how we can be better.”

She says that it is up to management to create a culture of change regarding sexual harassment. This is especially important in a media context that is – across the globe – primarily led by men.

“I think that we still suffer from too many men in management groups,” says Hofgaard Rosjo. “We know that men hire men, and very often men that are similar to themselves. I also do believe we have not had enough focus on gender equality. We have not measured equality well enough, and what we don't measure, we don’t achieve.

I really do hope that with everything that has happened after the #MeToo campaign, we now have enough focus and that things slowly will change.”

For those attempting to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace, there is widespread agreement that progress needs on-the-ground work. Carin Andersson, Human Resources Director at Sweden’s MittMedia and a fellow Brain Trust member, has devoted a large part of her job to dealing with workplace sexual harassment. After learning that a journalist from MittMedia had been harassed while out reporting, she decided to take the reins on the issue.

Since then, she has been travelling around Sweden to different branches of her company to discuss sexual harassment with staff. With her help, employees and managers have been able to come together in local workshops to learn what sexual harassment is, where to draw the line, and what employees can do about it.

“The problem is there and we need to take it seriously, whether it’s one or two people, or ten or twenty who are dealing with sexual harassment,” says Andersson. “We need to talk to our management and inform them that we don’t accept this behavior in any way, to spread a feeling of safety in the newsroom.”

While it might not be automatically assumed that the job of a human resources director includes educating employees on sexual harassment, Andersson doesn’t see it that way.

“Part of my time is education in leadership, and sexual harassment is definitely part of leadership education, just as gender balance and equality are,” she says. “They are important areas of my responsibilities, to write good policies and to educate.”

These are messages that both Brain Trust members took to an audience of 140 CEOs, HR directors and journalists from across Southern and Central Eastern Africa in Nairobi from 7-9 May, as part of the Women in News Summit and CEO Best Practice Share.


The WAN-IFRA/Women in News sexual harassment handbook and accompanying tools can be downloaded online at


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2018-05-29 13:20

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...