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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Study Exposes the Many Challenges Facing Women Journalists

Friday , 01 March 2024

In Lebanon’s vibrant media landscape, Nadine Moubarak’s groundbreaking study, “A Psychosocial Harm and a Hampered Career: The Struggles of Women Journalists in Lebanon,” published by SK Eyes, exposes the hidden challenges faced by female journalists.

Through a mixed-methods approach combining quantitative data analysis and qualitative insights, the research delves into the pervasive issues of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the journalistic workplace.

The study’s findings reveal significant disparities in career advancement opportunities. Of the 70 women journalists, with ages ranging between 18 and 64, who were interviewed for the study, 64% reported no salary increase or promotion for over five years.

Moreover, the research uncovers alarming statistics regarding sexual harassment, with 37% of respondents experiencing harassment live on air. Even more concerning is the revelation that 96% of respondents confirmed their female colleagues have also endured such misconduct. Distressingly, 81% attribute these incidents directly to their gender, underscoring the entrenched nature of gender discrimination within the industry.

Equally troubling are the findings regarding institutional responses to incidents of harassment. Despite the prevalence of misconduct, 55% of respondents reported negative reactions from their employers, with no action taken to address the issue.

Amidst the data collection process, one journalist highlighted a concerning observation: “Tasks deemed as light are assigned to women, while men are entrusted with tougher assignments. For instance, investigative political journalism often goes to men, whereas women are frequently assigned to entertainment and leisure topics.”

Additionally, female journalists frequently face skepticism, intimidation, and astonishment regarding their expertise. An illustrative example is the question: “Do you really have knowledge in economics?” Furthermore, discriminatory attitudes persist, such as the notion that certain physical attributes, like curly hair, are inappropriate for on-air appearances. Indeed, echoing another interviewee’s sentiment: “In Lebanon’s journalism sector, the standard of being ‘good-looking’ remains a prerequisite for women seeking employment opportunities.”

Furthermore, the study highlights potential barriers to women journalists in accessing and maximizing their entitlements, and their representation in leadership positions within media organizations.

Some institutions were found to actively conceal instances of assault, perpetuating a culture of dissimulation rather than support for victims. Furthermore, women journalists encountered obstacles and threats in the workplace when attempting to report such incidents, with some facing repercussions for years after seeking assistance.

The study calls for meaningful reforms and proactive measures to create a safer and more supportive environment for women journalists in Lebanon. Recommendations include mandatory training on Hostile Environment and Emergency First Aid, prioritizing mental health support group sessions, and establishing Preventing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) policies. Additionally, improving recruitment processes for diversity and inclusion as well as educating journalists on their labor rights and legal support are essential steps towards fostering a culture of respect and equality within media institutions.

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