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Tanzania’s Newsrooms Are Increasingly Becoming Dangerous for Women Journalists

A 2023 study by two organisations interviewed 100 female media workers, whereby 77 per cent reported experiencing sexual harassment within their respective media outlets.

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Dodoma. Miriam John* could not put up with her editor’s behaviour, which involved constant sexual harassment and abuse, making her work as a radio journalist increasingly difficult and stressful that she decided to leave the job she loved so much.

The 28-year-old aspiring radio journalist found herself quitting too early in the job of her dream because, she tells The Chanzo, “the work environment became so toxic that it left me with no other option” than the one she decided to take.

Miriam says that at first, her editor wasn’t so frank with her about his intention, sending the message by rejecting stories she submitted under the excuse that they were poorly done. It was only later that his intention became clearer.

“One day, when I was on my way [to report to work], he asked me to go to his house,” Miriam remembers. “I could never do that, and when I received that message, my mind started to think, now what should I do when I go to his house?

“When someone with personal interest approaches you romantically, and you decline, the work environment can become hostile. I found myself quitting. I couldn’t continue working in such an environment. 

“This incident significantly impacted me and fostered a perception that journalism [for women] requires tolerance of inappropriate behaviour.”

READ MORE: African Women Politicians Decry ‘Scourge’ of Online Gender-based Violence

Pervasive problem

Miriam is just one among many victims of sexual harassment and corruption that is reported to be pervasive in Tanzania’s media houses. 

A 2023 study by the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) and the International Media Support (IMS), for example, interviewed 100 female media workers, whereby 77 per cent reported experiencing sexual harassment within their respective media outlets.

The study, which focused on enhancing the safety and security of women journalists in Tanzania, found that 27 per cent of respondents have encountered sexual harassment from their news sources or in the field.

59.4 per cent of the study’s 37 key informants confirmed the occurrence of sexual harassment within the media sector.

Fausta Musokwa, IMS Programme Manager in Tanzania, told The Chanzo recently that the study’s findings show that sexual harassment and corruption are still a problem in Tanzania, a reality that forces all stakeholders to develop strategies that would disturb the status quo.

READ MORE: Thirteen Arrested in Zanzibar in Connection With Child Sex Trafficking Reports

“We need to review our approaches,” Ms Musokwa, who has worked in a newsroom as a journalist, said. “We need to consolidate our approaches. Because if the problem is still happening, then [it is] either we are not doing enough in terms of the level of input.”

One of the strategies that she thinks would effectively tackle the epidemic is collaboration among key actors, including media managers, anti-corruption authorities, law enforcement organs, the courts and the victims themselves.

Awareness-raising

Dr Rose Reuben, TAMWA’s executive director, spoke of the need to raise awareness about the problem among journalists, media stakeholders, and society at large, which would force everyone to see it as a problem and participate in its eradication efforts.

In an interview with The Chanzo, Dr Reuben said that apart from carrying out research, TAMWA has also been working with media houses to ensure that they have policies that address issues from a gender perspective, including having a dedicated gender policy.

“Four media houses have already started processes to have these policies, which would help journalists in those media houses to have a mechanism that’d allow them to speak [about these issues] but also provide information on sexual corruption and harassment,” she says.

READ MORE: ‘Radio Silence’: Film Highlighting the Essence of Press Freedom Screens in Dar

Dr Reuben said institutions like media houses must have mechanisms which state zero tolerance for sexual corruption and sexual harassment, and through that, many women journalists will be confident and work based on their competencies.

The Chanzo asked Lilian Timbuka, a news editor with Mwananchi newspaper if she thinks the presence of a dedicated media policy in a newsroom would help solve the problem of sexual harassment, and she said yes.

“If there is a [gender] policy [in a newsroom], which addresses gender violence and sexual corruption, it will help,” Ms Timbuka explained. 

“Because, when someone applies for a job and gets it, she or he is being provided with the policy, which stipulates what they can and cannot do [in a newsroom],” she added. “The policy must stipulate punishments for violating it. Someone will shy away from these practices.”

Adverse impacts

Sexual harassment and corruption in newsrooms affect women journalists in many ways, leading stakeholders to call for a united force to ensure the “scourge” is brought to an end in Tanzania.

READ MORE: African Women Politicians Decry ‘Scourge’ of Online Gender-based Violence

Joyce Shebe, TAMWA’s chairperson, told The Chanzo that journalists forced to engage in these practices endure long-term physical and psychological effects that take time to heal.

“Because of that, [the victim] might find herself affected psychologically or contract diseases, but also have their dignity deprived of them, resulting in feelings of powerlessness, humiliation, and dehumanisation, leading to a decrease in morale for work,” Ms Shebe explained.

She supports Dr Reuben’s point on the need for awareness raising, saying that it is important that men and women in newsrooms recognise a problem that needs interventions. 

“There should also be mechanisms for the victim to receive the necessary support,” Ms Shebe adds. “If there are supposed to be disciplinary measures taken by a relevant department, then they should be taken to allow the victim to get the necessary legal or psychological support.”

A regional study published in 2023 found that more women than men graduate from journalism schools in Tanzania, but there are more men than women in newsrooms. It concluded that women face more risks working as journalists than their male counterparts, leading them to leave newsrooms to find other jobs.

READ MORE: The Threats to Journalists’ Safety in Tanzania Are Gendered, New Report Finds

It called on the government to enact and effectively implement gender-responsive laws and policies to improve the safety of journalists, especially women journalists who are most at risk.

*Not her real name.

Jackline Kuwanda is a Dodoma-based The Chanzo correspondent. She’s available at Jackline@thechanzo.com

One Response

  1. While I agree with the fact that sexual abuse prevails in newsrooms in he country but I doubt the data which has been published here. I anything happens anywhere to he level/degree of 77 percent, then it must be so pronounced that it is hard to miss it even if you would choose to ignore it.
    I have been working in the media industry for over 20 years now and honestly I have no noticed such level o sexual abuse.
    May be I am much a careless and ignorant person, but I don’t regard myself as such

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