Global study analyzing sexual harassment in newsrooms published by WAN-Ifra Women in News


Image from WAN-Ifra website

NEW data from a global study analyzing sexual harassment in 20 countries reveals that on average 40% of female media professionals have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Women and gender-nonconforming media professionals are nearly three and a half times more likely to experience harassment than men.

The international study documenting the extent of sexual harassment in newsrooms was published by WAN-IFRA Women in News in partnership with City, University of London. The study is the largest of its kind to focus on men, women and gender-nonconforming media professionals in 20 countries across Africa, Southeast Asia, Eurasia (Russia), the Arab region and some Central American countries.

The study, which was conducted from November 2020 to September 2021, surveyed more than 2,000 people and included interviews with 85 senior executives.

Overall results

The results show that on average, 41% of female media professionals have experienced verbal and/or physical sexual harassment in the workplace. Yet only 1 in 5 reported the incident. Although less prevalent, men were not spared, with an average of 12% experiencing verbal and/or physical harassment. Thirty percent of all media workers surveyed had experienced verbal and/or physical harassment.

“Women and gender non-conforming people are disproportionately affected by sexual harassment in the media sector. Although we know it anecdotally, the results of this research show that sexual harassment is an endemic problem in the industry – regardless of geography,” says Melanie Walker, Executive Director of Women in News at WAN-Ifra . “It is up to the industry to address this issue by taking an unequivocal stance against sexual harassment and putting in place policies and tools to handle incidents when they do occur to protect their staff and create an environment safe for everything.”

Majority not reported

Eighty percent of sexual harassment cases go unreported. Much of this is due to fear – fear of negative effects, fear of losing one’s job, fear of not being believed, and fear of retaliation. Additionally, on average, one in four respondents said they did not report their harassment experience because their organization did not have the mechanism to do so and/or they did not know how. Only 11% of respondents said they knew if their organization even had a sexual harassment policy.

Steering response is poor

Among the few cases reported, the action is taken by the organization in only half of the cases and is most often limited to notifying the perpetrator (41%).

The research figures also show that experiences of sexual harassment were overwhelmingly perpetrated by colleagues (39%) or managers (19% direct supervisors and 18.9% senior managers).

Gap between perception and reality

Eighty-five executives, including 51 women, of media organizations in the five regions were interviewed as part of the qualitative research. About 43.5% admitted to having experienced sexual harassment themselves, which is similar to the findings reported by female media professionals. Yet only 27% of those same executives think it’s still a problem in the industry.

“It was remarkable to see the difference in perspective between the journalists who took part in the investigation and the management of the media organisations. It shows that in the absence of clear and effective reporting mechanisms, management is unaware of the problem of sexual harassment in their organisations,” said Lindsey Brumell, Senior Researcher and Lecturer at City University London .

This research is the first of its kind to be conducted. It builds on research conducted by Women in News in 2018, which identified a lack of data available on sexual harassment in the media specifically from countries in these regions. This research is needed to gauge the magnitude of the problem and design responses to end it.

The research is now available online via an interactive site that allows users to disaggregate the data by region, country, gender, type of harassment as well as management response. Additional datasets, including media type, respondent seniority, and third-party harassment observation, will be added over the coming weeks. The website is available in nine languages ​​and is the first of its kind to present data on sexual harassment in this way.

“Our goal is to make data on sexual harassment trends more accessible and better educate our media partners on the very real issue of sexual harassment in their newsrooms. For many years, we have provided the tools and resources to our partners as part of our training and awareness efforts. We believe this data will help our collective effort to establish the mechanisms and bring about the culture change needed to eradicate sexual harassment for good,” Walker said.

An overview of the results in the Arab region, South East Asia, Central America, Africa and Russia is available on

Visit for more details. (RP)


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