Foreign Correspondents And Sexual Abuse

by matttbastard

Must read article by veteran correspondent Judith Matloff from the Jan-Feb issue of Columbia Journalism Review

Women have risen to the top of war and foreign reportage. They run bureaus in dodgy places and do jobs that are just as dangerous as those that men do. But there is one area where they differ from the boys–sexual harassment and rape. Female reporters are targets in lawless places where guns are common and punishment rare. Yet the compulsion to be part of the macho club is so fierce that women often don’t tell their bosses. Groping hands and lewd come-ons are stoically accepted as part of the job, especially in places where western women are viewed as promiscuous. War zones in particular seem to invite unwanted advances, and sometimes the creeps can be the drivers, guards, and even the sources that one depends on to do the job. Often they are drunk. But female journalists tend to grit their teeth and keep on working, unless it gets worse.

Because of the secrecy around sexual assaults, it’s hard to judge their frequency. Yet I know of a dozen such assaults, including one suffered by a man. Eight of the cases involve forced intercourse, mostly in combat zones. The perpetrators included hotel employees, support staff, colleagues, and the very people who are paid to guarantee safety–policemen and security guards. None of the victims want to be named. For many women, going public can cause further distress. In the words of an American correspondent who awoke in her Baghdad compound to find her security guard’s head in her lap, “I don’t want it out there, for people to look at me and think, ‘Hmmm. This guy did that to her, yuck.’ I don’t want to be viewed in my worst vulnerability.”

The only attempt to quantify this problem has been a slim survey of female war reporters published two years ago by the International News Safety Institute, based in Brussels. Of the twenty-nine respondents who took part, more than half reported sexual harassment on the job. Two said they had experienced sexual abuse. But even when the abuse is rape, few correspondents tell anyone, even friends. The shame runs so deep–and the fear of being pulled off an assignment, especially in a time of shrinking budgets, is so strong–that no one wants intimate violations to resound in a newsroom.

Rodney Pinder, the director of the institute, was struck by how some senior newswomen he approached after the 2005 survey were reluctant to take a stand on rape. “The feedback I got was mainly that women didn’t want to be seen as ‘special’ cases for fear that, a) it affected gender equality and b) it hindered them getting assignments,” he says.

Caroline Neil, who has done safety training with major networks over the past decade, agrees. “The subject has been swept under the carpet. It’s something people don’t like to talk about.”

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Quote Of The Day: “An Injury to One is an Injury to All”

by matttbastard

There are no current representations of [union workers] in the mainstream media. We have long since fallen out of favor as subjects of photographs or other works of art. There are no interviews, roundtables or summits disseminated in the news media featuring the knowledge and opinions of our leaders, let alone that of the rank and file. Newspapers have long since eliminated their “labor beats.” There are no holidays in honor of our national heroes of labor; no day off for Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, Asa Philip Randolph, Cesar Chavez. No chapters in our children’s schoolbooks that give recognition to our history, our struggles, our triumphs, or our defeats.

Making us faceless, makes us disposable.

Without our presence, media imagery of unions and union workers is distorted. This distortion serves to make our interests—and those of our unorganized brothers and sisters, unimportant. Whining, even. Aren’t we glad to just have a job?

 […] 

Back in the day, [union workers] had our own forms of media. We published our own newspapers (in several languages), held rallies and night classes for our memberships. We did not rely on other to tell our truths. As corporate control of the media tightens, as our publically-owned analog airwaves are scheduled to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, I can’t help but wonder why we are not more active in pursuing our own interests in this realm. We need to do a better job of supporting the pro-labor media that exists, and create new forms of our own. Our survival, individually and collectively, depends on it. We will not hear from the mass media how the erosion of the eight-hour day contributes to rising injury and death rates at work. We will not hear how understaffing and doing more work with fewer people results in more illness, injury and repetitive-use injuries. We will not hear critiques of the repeal of the Illinois Scaffolding Act; we will not get answers to our question on why Illinois still does not have an Electrical Licensing Act. We may be informed that we have a new OSHA director and a new MSHA director, yet we won’t hear about their backgrounds or why they were chosen to lead these critical agencies. New OSHA director Edwin G. Foulke made his bones being the OSHA expert at Jackson Lewis, a huge law firm specializing in union busting. Richard Stickler, our new MSHA director, was the head of mine safety in Pennsylvania during the time of teh Quecreek mine near-disaster, where fortunately nine trapped miners were rescued. He was notable for presiding over mines wih an injury rate double the national average. Every year, we celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a giant who lived among us—and every year, during the retelling of the story of his assassination, the mass media neglects to mention that the sanitation workers’ strike that Dr. King went to Memphis to support, was in response to the deaths of two workers. Even here in Springfield, with the plethora of historical information offered to tourists, there is no mention of John L. Lewis, or that his house still stands near Washington Park. There is no plaque to identify it; it remains an unacknowleged part of our past.

– La Lubu, A Worker’s Memorial

Goddamn.  La Lubu really, really needs to post more often.

Related: if you haven’t already, make sure to bookmark and/or subscribe to LabourStart, a pro-labour global media hub definitely worthy of attention, support, solidarity.

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