harassment in the media sector.
“Verbal abuse is more rampant than physical abuse in the media houses,” says Sangita Lama, a journalist and member of the task force. “The most glaring harassment include[s] the use of words with sexual intonations in the newsroom, leaving the female workers midway to home while returning from the night duty, asking for date[s], unnecessary comment[s] on clothes and casual body touch[es] by the male co-workers.”
The report noted that harassment is especially a problem in Kathmandu.
“The cases of sexual harassment of the media workers is more severe in the capital city than in other places,” Lama says.
Sexual violence and abuse in the media houses have discouraged women from taking up journalism as their professions, says Shiva Gaunle, a president of the Federation of Nepali Journalists, a professional representative body of more than 8,000 journalists.
Victims say that sexual harassment occurs in both private and public media houses.
A 25-year-old female journalist says that she has worked for six years as a journalist for one of the four government media agencies in Nepal. She says that she has suffered sexual harassment by a senior employee since her first day.
“When I was coming out of the restroom, an [older] editor came out of the men’s room and caressed my cheeks,” says the journalist, who declined to publish her name for fear of being fired.
She says he also sexually harassed other female journalists. But because of his seniority, she says she couldn’t speak out against his actions.
“He was an executive officer and was nearly of my father’s age,” she says. “And, therefore, I couldn’t say anything to him.”
The women are frustrated with their superiors who harass and stare at them, she says. But because there are only four female journalists at the office where she works, they don’t report the sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs.
“I may lose my job if I complain,” says the journalist, who works on a contract basis. “Therefore, I cannot share my problems with others.”
She says that she is aware of the legal options available and even covers violence against women in her work. But she doubts that the perpetrator in her case would be penalized, so she has not reported the abuse against her.
“With great difficulty, I got this job on contract,” she says. “Therefore, I am silently putting up for now. In [the] future, let’s see how things go.”
Bimal Subedi, a private lawyer and legal counselor, says that although female journalists talk about their harassment experiences informally, they do not take any legal action against the perpetrators.
“If they gather evidence and start the legal process, the perpetrators will surely be punished,” he says.
Gaunle says that the Federation of Nepali Journalists is concerned about all unreported cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.
“To help legally, Federation of Nepali Journalists runs a legal desk where complaints can be lodged with confidentiality of the information,” he says.