DON’T LOOK AWAY
Journalists tell of being chatted up, groped and even threatened with rape while on assignment
IN JUNE, in the middle of a crowd of football fans in Saransk, Russia, Julieth Gonzalez Theran, a television journalist from Colombia covering the World Cup in Russia, was broadcasting live when a fan jumped into frame and, grinning broadly, grabbed her breast, kissed her cheek, and then ran away.
Gonzalez Theran kept on reporting even while she was being groped, refusing to even acknowledge the incident.
It sparked a global movement called #LetHerWork, which seeks to highlight the sexual harassment female journalists often face.
It’s no different in South Africa, as female reporters are subjected to sexual harassment every day.
Award-winning EWN broadcast journalist Monique Mortlock recalls covering many dangerous service delivery protests.
“I was covering a protest in Hangberg last year. I went with my male colleague. Usually while we cover these protests, we tend to run towards the bullets, we run where the action is but at this specific protest we were running away from the action.
“Protesters were throwing petrol bombs and police were moving in. I was busy on my phone filing a story when I was told by some opportunistic criminals who took advantage of the chaos: ‘Sit daai foon weg of ons f** jou op’ (Put that phone away, or we will f*** you up),” she said.
Mortlock didn’t take much note of the comment until later.
“I was then doing a live interview on The John Maytham Show. As I was on the phone, one guy grabbed my arm and told me ‘Ek gaan nie vir jou weer warn nie’ (I’m not going to warn you again) and one of his buddies told me ‘Sit daai weg of ons rape jou’ (put that away or else we will rape you),” she said.
That scared her.
“But this man deliberately wanted to use his power over me as a big man to let me know that he could hurt me in more ways than one and in the most brutal, sexualised way possible,” she said.
SABC parliamentary reporter Abra Barbier said she had been sexually harassed by leaders of the country.
“In 2006 I was covering an MEC and his bodyguard always made little side comments and he came up to me and told me: ‘I like your boots. I can tell you are the kind of women that likes to be in charge,’ ” she said.
“It was the way that he said it, it gave me the creeps, and when you hang around those circles of MECs and MPs there’s a certain amount of power men have,” she said.
Barbier has been a journalist for more than 20 years. “The corridors of Parliament are absolutely unsafe, not only for female journalists but for any pretty young thing. I have been hit on by many MPs from various political parties,” she said.
Even the chief whip of a party made a brazen remark.
“It was a very cold day and I was about to interview a chief whip and I was wearing a thick coat, and he didn’t even care that my colleague was present. He tells me: ‘You look so cute and cozy in this jacket, I wish that I can just jump in with you.’ ”
Former eNCA reporter Aarti Narsee said: “Being on TV while I was working at eNCA, people would see you often and ask you all type of questions and sexualise your body.
“It made me feel angry and objectified. Angry in a sense that I was not being respected as a professional.”
She is now studying in the UK at the London School of Economics, doing an MSc in Gender, Policy and Inequality.
JULIETH Gonzalez Theran, a Columbian television journalist, was groped while reporting on the World Cup in Russia, but kept right on with her broadcast..