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File picture: Pexels

#DontLookAway: Sexual harassment procedures for journalists explained

By Vanessa Govender Time of article published Dec 7, 2018

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During this year's 16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women and Children, Independent Media continues our #DontLookAway campaign by shining a spotlight on sexual harassment. 

Like most careers there will always be challenges. However, being a journalist in our current times is no easy job, as it is one of the few careers where a crime can be committed while reporting.

As more females enter the world of work, the greater their exposure to all forms of harassment, discrimination, fear and favour. Most journalists face a daily task of producing “exclusive” and “breaking news” pieces with the challenges present in each situation.

This task is not easy for both male and female journalists. However, females are more vulnerable to a society that is ridden with crime.

The safety of journalists is one of the challenges that all media houses face. Not only reporting on incriminating stories can put a journalist’s life in danger, but presenting stories in a society that feels free to violate, intimidate, harass and assault as and when its pleases also puts a journalists life in danger. Although there are no specific rules and regulations to categorically protect journalists, there are codes of good practices.

Like all employees, journalists are also protected by the provisions of the Labour Relations Act.

The Labour Relations Act is the main act that deals with sexual harassment in the workplace with a Code of Good Practice on Sexual Harassment.

Independent Media’s harassment policy deals with sexual harassment, which prohibits any form of harassment, including sexual harassment, whether committed by those in authority, co-workers, sub-ordinates or even non-employees. The policy defines sexual harassment as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, expressed in verbal, physical and non-verbal ways, including behaviour that is persisted in, although a single incident of harassment can constitute sexual harassment, when the recipient has made it clear that the behaviour is considered offensive. In the unfortunate event should our employees become a victim of harassment, they have a right to raise a grievance.

We recognise sexual harassment is a sensitive issue and those affected may feel unable to report the matter or lodge a formal grievance. We therefore encourage our staff to speak to someone in Human Resources, an employee representative, or a trusted colleague for support and guidance. Employees are then advised that they can resolve the issue in either a formal or informal manner, but with no duress to accept one or the other option.

We then proceed with the option that the affected employee is most comfortable with. Grievances about sexual harassment are investigated and handled in a manner that ensures that the identities of the people involved are kept confidential at all times, with the utmost care to protect the victim.

If the informal approach has not provided a satisfactory outcome, and if the case is severe or if the conduct continues, we then follow a formal disciplinary process. At the disciplinary hearing, only the parties concerned are present. Should the perpetrator be found guilty, dismissal is the appropriate sanction.

When an incident has been reported, the employee is offered counselling, if required, protection services to and from home and work and, if necessary, reasonable time off from duty. Sexual harassment processes are also explained in detail during new engagement and induction sessions, so new employees are also aware of the policy, as well as the processes in how to deal and address such incidents.

At Independent Media our staff have the right to be treated fairly and with dignity in the workplace, be it in the office or when working remotely.

We strive to be in a workplace that is free from sexual harassment, where reporting on harassment is done without fear of victimisation.

* Vanessa Govender is the group executive for HR at Independent Media.

How to show your support:

* Take the  pledge against sexual harassment

* Join and like Be The Change Mzansi on Facebook. 

* Follow the  Don't Look Away campaign on IOL

* Follow us on the Facebook pages of  Daily NewsCape Argus and  The Sta

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