The Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IoJM) is deeply troubled by the accounts of several female journalists in Southeast Asia, especially from Malaysia, regarding sexual harassment and unsolicited sexual advances made on them by politicians and elected representatives, as reported in the Asian Correspondent.:
Female journalists in the region have thrived for decades, making names for themselves despite facing a sometimes patriarchal working environment in these developing economies.
The detailed account of some of their experiences with politicians must awaken the senses of all media stakeholders in the region. Policies and standards must be put into place to address this issue if we are to see better journalism in our respective countries.
The IoJ commends those female journalists who had the strength to come out and speak against the sexual harassment they endured.
The report cites an incident where a newsroom encouraged a journalist to “capitalise” on the attention given by a politician when she had reported the matter.
We call for a halt to such practices and urge all Malaysian media houses to come up with a strong conduct policy that would protect female journalists in both the office and in the field.
Given that journalists find themselves out of the office a lot, their respective companies must adopt strong complaint mechanisms to make sure that action is taken should they face any sexual harassment, be it from politicians or public figures.
Having such strong standards and policies will not only protect female journalists, but would also be useful in stopping those that harass journalists in other ways, including blackmail or bribery.
As we look to developing a stronger media fraternity in Malaysia, politicians must be held accountable for their behaviour and attitudes towards journalists.
It is especially imperative that editors in Malaysian newsrooms and industry leaders refrain from bowing to politicians and allowing them to get away with uncivilised behaviour.
We urge a strong reaction from fellow journalists to protect our female colleagues, and demand for strong in-house measures to be put into place before harassers can be called out and identified for their actions.
Institute of Journalists Malaysia,
January 17, 2018