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Discrimination, harassment and threats: The dangers women journalists face in Morocco

Discrimination, harassment and threats: The dangers women journalists face in Morocco

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Life Women’s Rights

Saturday 4 February 202301:09 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

44 في المئة من صحافيات المغرب يتعرّضن للتحرش... والمساواة في هيئات التحرير حق بعيد المنال

“More than 43.9% of female journalists in Morocco have been subjected to harassment inside the workplace, whether by colleagues, editors-in-chief, or employers. While 82.8% admitted that the harassment was verbal, 17.2% said it was physical.” This is the shocking results that were revealed by a study under the title “The Gender Approach in Moroccan Media Institutions and the Protection of Female Journalists,”, carried out by award-winning Moroccan journalist, Magda Ait El Kataoui, for the Moroccan Forum for Young Journalists (FMJJ), with the support of the international media organization Internews.

The study, which Raseef22 obtained a copy of, confirms that “30.3% of those who were subjected to harassment said that it came from a journalist colleague, while 24.2% said that it was from the editor-in-chief, and 9.1% were subjected to it at the hands of their publishing director”. It highlights that “91.2% of the female journalists do not report their coworkers, officials, and other harassers, while only 8.8% of them have done so,” not to mention the differences in the wages between male and female journalists, in all posts and positions of responsibility, with the justification that "the (male) journalist has more financial responsibilities than the woman journalist.”

66 female journalists, media students and interns representing the press community in Morocco and working in private or public media institutions, took part in the "questionnaire" on which the study was based. Out of the participants, 74.2% belong to the age group between 20 and 35 years, 14 female journalists (21.2%) were aged between 36 and 45 years, and 3 female journalists (4.5%) belong to the age group between 46 and 55 years old.

Defending and fearing society

Magda Ait El Kataoui, the author of the study and coordinator of the Moroccan Association of Young Women Journalists (AMJT), says, “Although women journalists defend the women of society and cover all the problems they experience through their journalistic materials, except when they’re harassed. They are afraid to reveal it, for fear of what they may be called or what harm may befall them.” She justifies the reason for this, saying that “they may be confused by those around them, like their fathers, husbands, or brothers, because, unfortunately, Moroccan society still hasn’t agreed upon accepting women's work in the field of journalism.”

“A female journalist who is unable to defend herself when she is harassed is self-contradictory with herself, especially if she covers human rights issues”

While speaking to Raseef22, Magda adds that women journalists “avoid revealing that they have been harassed for fear that society will project their stereotypes on them, so they opt for silence as a result,” noting that “only two decades ago, the profession of journalism and media (in Morocco) had been monopolized by men, then women entered this field in their own right, and although the number of female journalists today constitutes a small percentage, I think it is a percentage that is developing day after day.”

Around 44% of Moroccan female journalists experience harassment at work, while also suffering from discrimination in positions and wages in comparison to men. A recent study reveals the problems women practicing journalism face in the country

According to the figures of the National Press Council announced last July after processing applications for formal press cards for the year 2021, 3,394 practitioners, including 953 female journalists, obtained formal press cards. Women journalists barely represent 28% of the official press body, the same percentage that was recorded in 2020, during which 2,928 people, including 831 female journalists, received the formal press card. This percentage, Kataoui tells Raseef22, “is not enough in Morocco today, but we aspire to open more doors for women journalists, and for them to find sufficient support within society, in order to pursue studies and training in the field of journalism and media, as well as practice the profession.”

Clear discrimination

The figures revealed by this study were described as "shocking", especially since they were concerning a number of aspects related to both genders, including "wages and privileges related to travel, training workshops, and special coverage", as “62.1% of them revealed that (financial) discrimination exists and harms female journalists, while 37.9% did not experience this within the media companies they work in.” In addition, “57.6% of female journalists said that the management of the media institution they work in does not take into account the needs and privacy of women at work, while 30.8% confirmed that they work late into the night, and 23.1% complained about unsuitable working hours.”

According to the same study, "some of the constraints that hinder the work of female journalists are due to societal representations about journalists in general, which are often biased and incorrect, due to the existence of a crisis of trust between journalistic work and society. But more than that, the impact of these perceptions is not limited within the square of representation, but rather extends to the embodiment of behavior as actions and attitudes, which results in an increase in physical and mental violence inflicted on female journalists.”

They defend rights and are harassed and discriminated against in their line of work.. A situation that is causing increasing outrage among women journalists in Morocco

Amal Kennin, a journalist, says that "a female journalist who is unable to defend herself when she is harassed is self-contradictory with herself, especially if she covers human rights issues, and advocates a number of rights and principles, despite the justification that she fears losing her job.” She believes that "a female journalist who is harassed by a fellow journalist must inform the editor-in-chief, and in the event that she is harassed by the editor-in-chief, she should inform the publishing director, and if she is harassed, for instance, by the publishing director, she should work on informing the National Press Council (an official institution). But I understand the difficulty of being able to prove harassment.”

As for the improvement of laws related to journalistic work, Kennin tells Raseef22 that "the law must be enacted in order to improve journalistic work in general, and not for the sake of positive discrimination in favor of women journalists. I see, from an equality standpoint, that I am like my male journalist colleague, each of us is able to work in the field and on the ground, which should be reflected in wages.”

In the same context, Sami Elmoudni, head of the Moroccan Forum of Youth Journalists, says, “The purpose of this questionnaire is to identify the various problems related to the work of women journalists within media institutions in Morocco, of all kinds, as well as to evaluate and monitor them accurately, which will allow us to find outlets to adapt public policy related to the field of media with gender approaches”.

Speaking to Raseef22, Elmoudni goes on to say, “Through this study, we are working on presenting a number of proposals in order to formulate a public policy that advocates for gender within media institutions” He further notes that “within the Moroccan Forum of Youth Journalists, work has been done on a number of axes within this framework, and therefore it is not possible to promote the values of equality and fairness in practice without the same values within these institutions.”

This work, along with other studies, attempts to provide a clearer conception of rights and duties within media institutions, so that the “lens of society” is not tainted by damaging behaviors that are denounced on a daily basis, and reveal the seriousness of the situation.

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