CS Magoha's profiling of NTV reporter among challenges women journalists face

A female journalist at work.   Seventy-nine per cent of the female journalists and HRDs have experienced some form of violence in their line of duty according to a recent study by Article 19.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Education CS Prof George Magoha recently profiled an NTV Muslim woman journalist claiming she would be an Al-Shabaab by virtue of her dressing.
  • His utterances are just a tip of the numerous challenges that women journalists face in the line of duty.
  • Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida Kenya) and Media Council of Kenya have demanded for the CS’s apology.

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha recently profiled an NTV Muslim woman journalist claiming she would be an Al-Shabaab by virtue of her dressing.

He curiously screened her as he made the biased remarks during a question-and-answer session with journalists last Monday.

His discriminatory treatment of the woman journalist is in itself threatening and creates an unsafe working environment, defying the call for freedom from bias in the world of work by the International Labour Organisation.

His utterances are, however, just a tip of the numerous challenges that women journalists face in the line of duty.

From online and offline violence for writing on gender and political issues, sexual harassment, bias in the allocation of assignments in the newsroom and promotions as well as lack of family support, all of which cause them mental health problems.

A recent study by Article 19, sampling 64 female journalists and human rights defenders (HRDs) in Kisumu and Mombasa, established that writers need psycho-social and legal support as they are threatened and carry heavy work-related burdens.

Physically assaulted

Seventy-nine per cent of the female journalists and HRDs said they had experienced some form of violence in their line of duty, which included sexual harassment, insults, physical assault and even death threats.

They complained of facing social stigma from family and community, which extended to being assaulted physically by their spouses and extended family.

Further, they reported having suffered workplace bullying, sexual harassment, and physical assault, they were silenced by fear of stigma and public criticism, a culture that encourages continuity of the abuses.

Already Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida-Kenya) and Media Council of Kenya (MCK) have demanded for the CS’s apology.

Unconditional apology

In a statement on Wednesday, MCK Chief Executive Officer David Omwoyo, said the CS being an authority in Kenya, his actions would trigger harassment, ridicule and victimisation of journalists in the line of duty.

“MCK calls on the National Cohesion and Integration Commission to ensure the Cabinet Secretary issues unconditional apology, withdraws the unfortunate remarks and rescinds his directive against the smooth operation of the media,” he said.

In calling out the CS, Fida Kenya chairperson Nancy Ikinu, said his utterances “resulted in pure discrimination and a violation of human rights contrary to and prohibited by Article 27 (4) of the Constitution.”

The Article prohibits discrimination on any ground including dress and religion.

“FIDA-Kenya demands a public apology from the CS to the journalist. FIDA-Kenya also demands that CS Magoha takes personal responsibility for his utterances and resign from public office,” she said.

Should he fail to apologise, she said, the lobby group would petition relevant institutions to institute disciplinary actions against him.

 Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) also added its voice, noting that the incident demonstrates challenges journalists face at work. It also demanded he publicly apologises to the journalist.

On Thursday, however, the CS  personally apologised to the journalist after a closed door meeting with Muslim leaders in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. According to NTV, however, he declined to go public with his apology.

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