Report: 40pc of women in global media suffer sexual harassment


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What you need to know:

  • In total, 30 per cent of all media professionals surveyed said they had been violated.
  • The study revealed an upsetting attitude of the media managers as three out of four senior executives interviewed did not think sexual harassment is an issue.

Some 40 per cent of women media professionals across the world have experienced some form of sexual harassment at the workplace, a new joint study by World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) Women in News and City, University of London has revealed.

But then only one in five victims of either verbal or physical sexual harassment, or both, report the abuse, according to the findings in the Global Research on Sexual Harassment in the Media report released on Wednesday at a virtual press conference.

Even so, the action taken by the media houses is disappointing. The study found a warning for the perpetrator as the most form of punishment adopted by media executives.

Colleagues the leading culprits

Fellow employees (39.3 per cent) were found to be the leading perpetrators, followed by direct supervisors (19 per cent) and higher management (18.9 per cent).

The study sampled 2,005 men, women and gender non-conforming media professionals from 20 countries across Africa, Southeast Asia, Eurasia, Arab Region and select Central America between November 2020 and September 2021. Among the interviewed were 85 senior executives.

Women more affected

It found women and gender non-conforming journalists are almost three-and-a-half times likelier to experience harassment than men.

As per the findings, an average of 12 per cent of men report being victims of either verbal or physical sexual harassment. Others suffer both.

In total, 30 per cent of all media professionals surveyed were violated.

 And even though sexual harassment affects productivity of the media professionals, the study revealed an upsetting attitude of the media managers. That three out of four senior executives interviewed did not think sexual harassment is an issue.

“Women and gender non-conforming people are disproportionately affected by sexual harassment in the media sector. While we have known this anecdotally, the findings from this research show that sexual harassment is an endemic problem in the industry - irrespective of geography,” said Melanie Walker, executive director, at Women in News.

She added: “It is up to the industry to address this problem by being unequivocal in the stance against sexual harassment, and by having the policies and tools in place to manage incidents when they do occur to protect their staff, and create a safe environment for all”. 


In Africa,575 media professionals from Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe were surveyed.

The researchers found one in two has faced sexual harassment at work. About 56 per cent experienced verbal harassment and 38 per cent, physical. Nevertheless, only 21 reported the crimes and 57 per cent of the time, their organisations took action.

For Southeast Asia where 494 of the professionals from Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam took part in the study, one in three women have faced sexual harassment.

Most (45 per cent) suffered verbal harassment and 24 per cent, physical abuse. Nonetheless, only 15 per cent of them raised their grievances with their management.

It is a similar trail in Central America. A total of 234 media professionals were sampled from Nicaragua and El Salvador and three in five women reported being a victim of the sexual offences.

The data shows 74 per cent experienced verbal harassment and 43 per cent for the physical attacks. On reporting their abuses, only 26 per cent did so and 46 per cent of the time, action was taken against the perpetrators.

In Russia,176 professionals were surveyed and the researchers found one in four women has faced sexual harassment. Of the sampled, 35 per cent had been subjected to verbal harassment and 17 per cent, physical abuse.

On average, 25.5 per cent of the cases were reported and 62 per cent of the time, action was taken.

Way forward

To address the problem in the media houses, the researchers recommend a provision of clearly defined sexual harassment policy to all staff so that they are aware of how to spot the offences and report them.

They also suggest training of media managers in how to resolve the complaints “in a respectful way”.

At the same time, they identify conducting an anonymous internal survey to understand the extent of the problem as another way the media organisations can tackle sexual harassment.