‘We take our journalists’ safety very seriously’
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 on crime, news and or events.
As more females enter the workforce, the greater our exposure to all forms of harassment, discrimination, fear and favour. A career in journalism is no different.
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 alike. However, females are more vulnerable to a society that is ridden with crime, in all its disguises.
The safety of journalists is one of the challenges 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 it pleases also puts a journalist’s life in danger. Although there are no specific rules and regulations to categorically protect journalists, there are codes of good practices that govern journalism and protect journalists against sexual harassment.
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, whether committed by those in authority, co-workers, subordinates and 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 can constitute sexual harassment, when the recipient has made it clear that the behaviour is considered offensive. In the unfortunate event our employees should become a victim of harassment, they have a right to raise a grievance and the appropriate action immediately taken.
We recognise that 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 on how to deal with the issue. Employees are then advised that they can either resolve the issue in a formal or informal manner, but with no duress to accept one or the other option.
We then proceed with the option the affected employee is most comfortable with.
Grievances about sexual harassment are investigated and handled in a manner that ensures the identities of the persons involved are kept confidential at all times, with the utmost care taken 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, and, if required, protection services to and from their homes to work and, if necessary, reasonable time off duty. A complaint around a sexual harassment is taken very seriously and support on how to address the issue is immediately available to employees.
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 for how to deal with and address such incidents.
The safety of our journalists is of paramount importance to us and we do not expect, nor request, our staff to risk their lives in pursuit of a story.
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 and knowing that a complaint is treated seriously and confidentially.