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The great wall of America?

"The truth is, our immigration system is worse than anyone realizes. But the facts aren’t known because the media won’t report on them, the politicians won’t talk about them, and the special interests spend a lot of money trying to cover them up.

Today you will get the truth….

We also have to be honest about the fact that not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate. It is our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish here.

Then there is the issue of security. Countless innocent American lives have been stolen because our politicians have failed in their duty to secure our borders and enforce our laws. Countless Americans who have died in recent years would be alive today if not for the open border policies of this Administration. This includes incredible Americans like 21-year-old Sarah Root. The man who killed her arrived at the border, entered federal custody, and then was released into a U.S. community under the policies of this White House. He was released again after the crime, and is now at large…

Hillary Clinton, for instance, talks constantly about her fears that families will be separated. But she’s not talking about the American families who have been permanently separated from their loved ones because of a preventable death. No, she’s only talking about families who came here in violation of the law…
We will treat everyone living or residing in our country with dignity. We will be fair, just and compassionate to all. But our greatest compassion must be for American citizens.

Now that you’ve heard about Hillary Clinton’s plan – about which she has not answered a single substantive question – let me tell you about my plan.
While Hillary Clinton meets only with donors and lobbyists, my plan was crafted with the input from federal immigration officers, along with top immigration experts who represent workers, not corporations. I also worked with lawmakers who’ve led on this issue on behalf of American citizens for many years, and most importantly, I’ve met with the people directly impacted by these policies.

Number One: We will build a wall along the Southern Border

On day one, we will begin working on an impenetrable physical wall on the southern border. We will use the best technology, including above-and below-ground sensors, towers, aerial surveillance and manpower to supplement the wall, find and dislocate tunnels, and keep out the criminal cartels, and Mexico will pay for the wall.

Number Two: End Catch-And-Release

Under my Administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country.
Number Three: Zero tolerance for criminal aliens

According to federal data, there are at least 2 million criminal aliens now inside the country. We will begin moving them out day one, in joint operations with local, state and federal law enforcement.

Beyond the 2 million, there are a vast number of additional criminal illegal immigrants who have fled or evaded justice. But their days on the run will soon be over. They go out, and they go out fast.

Moving forward, we will issue detainers for all illegal immigrants who are arrested for any crime whatsoever, and they will be placed into immediate removal proceedings. We will terminate the Obama Administration’s deadly non-enforcement policies that allow thousands of criminal aliens to freely roam our streets.

Since 2013 alone, the Obama Administration has allowed 300,000 criminal aliens to return back into U.S. communities – these are individuals encountered or identified by ICE but who not detained or processed for deportation.

My plan also includes cooperating closely with local jurisdictions to remove criminal aliens.

We’ve admitted 59 million immigrants to the United States between 1965 and 2015.

Many of these arrivals have greatly enriched our country. But we now have an obligation to them, and to their children, to control future immigration – as we have following previous immigration waves – to ensure assimilation, integration and upward mobility.

Within just a few years immigration as a share of national population is set to break all historical records.

The time has come for a new immigration commission to develop a new set of reforms to our legal immigration system in order to achieve the following goals:

To keep immigration levels, measured by population share, within historical norms

To select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in U.S. society, and their ability to be financially self-sufficient. We need a system that serves our needs – remember, it’s America First.

To choose immigrants based on merit, skill and proficiency

And to establish new immigration controls to boost wages and to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first.

We want people to come into our country, but they have to come in legally and properly-vetted, and in a manner that serves the national interest…" – Donal J. Trump, Immigration Speech, Phoenix, Arizona (August 31, 2016).

I've just given you an excerpt from the speech given by the Republican Presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump last week in Phoenix, Arizona, hot on the heels of his much vaunted meeting with the President of Mexico. It was a much anticipated speech, for many reasons. Once and for all, the American electorate wanted to hear in clear and concise terms exactly what Donald Trump's policies were.

Most importantly, uncomfortable Republicans were waiting with bated breath to see if Trump's divisive, hardline, and even racist politics were going to be finally toned down in order to persuade the minorities whom he had consistently insulted since announcing his candidacy in June 2015. And, if his meeting with the Mexican President was anything to go by, hopes were high that Trump would finally play by the rules if he had any serious hopes of making 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue his home from January 2017. Alas! How wrong everybody was!

The subdued, cordial and affable Trump of a few hours earlier in Mexico City was nowhere to be found that evening in Phoenix. It was a classic case of Jekyll and Hyde! Instead of following the advice even if those within his inner circle to deliver a speech that would not aggravate and bastardize immigrants, Trump chose to double down on his rhetoric that saw him bulldoze 15 other candidates in the Republican race. He came with all guns blazing. I was watching the speech. I'm not an American. I'm not a Republican.

I'm not a Democrat either. But I was gobsmacked. Trump went on to give what was one of the darkest and most chilling speeches I've ever heard. Don't get me wrong. He scored very well on delivery. It was the contents of his speech that were dark and ominous. I had visions of Hitler's Nuremberg Rallies, whipping crowds into a frenzy with nationalistic propaganda crafted by Josef Goebbels. His phraseology rang eerily close to the language of despots.

Phrases like "Only people who love us" and "ideological tests" are the staple of dictators. Only dictators are obsessed with being loved and ensuring that everybody subscribes to their narrow ideologies. His hardcore base lapped it up. But the discerning, even within his own party, were properly repulsed. In fact, several of his leading Latino supporters resigned immediately after the speech. Even Republicans who were hoping to be persuaded, who had given him the benefit of the doubt for over a year, said he now gave them enough reason to disregard him as worthy of their vote.

In his speech, Trump pretty much outlined a fascist policy that would bastardize and demonize immigrants. His feverish nationalist agenda was no different in passion, conviction, and tone to the preamble leading up to Hitler's ascendancy to being the Fuhrer of the Third Reich. Just like Hitler exaggerated Germany's problems and laid the blame squarely on the Jews, Trump, last Wednesday, blew the American immigration situation way out of proportion, exaggerating and coloring facts, and blaming it all on illegal immigrants.

You'd swear that America is overrun with illegal immigrants on the rampage murdering people! And that's the picture that Trump painted last Tuesday. And, to cap it off, he paraded mothers who had lost their children to murder perpetrated by illegal immigrants. It was a powerful optical message; putting a face to problem his campaign rides on. But that was manipulation and emotional blackmail.

Pure and simple. More people have been murdered by American citizens than by illegal immigrants. Of over the supposed 11 million illegal immigrants in America, less than 3 percent have been convicted of crimes, whether felonies or misdemeanors. But to listen to Trump, you'd think there are 11 million murderers of Latino descent on the loose in America!

Here in Botswana, we have an identical immigration problem with Zimbabwean illegal immigrants. But it will be reckless to exaggerate the situation so much that we blame Botswana's economic performance on Zimbabweans, and claim that there are countless Batswana who would still be alive if it weren't for Zimbabweans! Imagine the clown who can come proposing that the answer lies in building a Great Wall from Kazungula to Martin's Drift to keep Zimbabweans out! It's absurd! I'm not going to question or insult the intelligence of Republican voters, but it beggars belief how Trump is the nominee with his ridiculous promises of a "Great Wall," a wall that would cost in the region of $25,000,000,000 to build! Yes, Trump has won the nominee card by promising to build a wall stretching 3,200 kilometers! To listen to him speak, you'd swear he's running for Emperor! He seems to forget that there is an American Congress and House of Representatives that needs to sign off such a project; and there are many Republicans who neither like him nor his proposed wall. There are so many near insurmountable challenges to building such a wall, not to mention its futility. There are physical and legal hurdles to be overcome before such a wall can become a reality. As things stand, I think that Trump finds his back against the wall, no pun intended.

Most disturbing of all, however, is his promise of mass deportations. I'm not in anyway saying illegal immigrants must be treated with kid gloves and handed citizenship. But Trump's politics fly in the face of the very fabric of American civilization and history. Like it or not, America is a nation of immigrants; immigrants who went there in search of opportunity and a new start. Even the Caucasian majority is not monolithic; there are many subsets that don't even speak English. Trump's wife herself is still not mastering English. Her East European accent is unmistakeable. She's from Slovenia. A lot of Trump's buildings that have made him a multi-billionaire, rose on the backs of illegal immigrants, most of them Latinos whom he has called "thieves, murderers, and rapists." Everybody seems to conveniently forget that the "real" Americans are the Native Americans (Indians), those poor souls who were swept under the rug of history by the "Manifest Destiny" doctrine of White settlers. If everybody is to be sent home because they came illegally, then everybody Caucasian must pack. Only the Indians, who can now only be found in pockets of reservations here and there, banished to a lifetime of drunkenness and gambling, would have the right to remain. Everybody else but them is not "native" to America if we go all the way back to the first arrivals at Plymouth Rock.

Let me close quoting from Chauncey DeVega, a politics staff writer for Salon, "Last week the chattering classes and “smart people” were excited about Trump’s promise to launch an “outreach” campaign to African-Americans and Latinos. On Wednesday Donald Trump travelled to Mexico to meet with President Peña Nieto. Voices in the American corporate news media then fawned over Trump. The trip allowed him to look “presidential.” He was "softening" his position on illegal immigration. The great “pivot” had finally arrived. Trump could now be put into the familiar and comfortable “horse race” model of American campaigns and elections; he was now a “normal” presidential candidate.

Trump, the consummate showman, carnival barker and professional wrestling villain would swerve the American corporate news media once again. Several hours after returning from Mexico to a rabid crowd of supporters in Phoenix, he would give one of the most violent, vicious, vile and repugnant speeches in modern American political history. It was the political equivalent of watching a toilet or cesspool overflow, where instead of running away in disgust, Trump’s supplicants enthusiastically wallowed and frolicked in the waste.

His speech in Phoenix followed the standard script. Trump would speak in a stream of consciousness where one semi-related thought flowed into another. Facts are disregarded. The truth is made malleable. Lies are effortlessly told. The crowd responds with howls about killing Hillary Clinton or in anger at President Barack Obama or in support of the American Il Duce Donald Trump and how he will “make America great again” by not allowing “us” to be “bullied.”

There was an added intensity to Trump’s Phoenix speech. He premiered his ominously named “10-point plan.” His vague promises about how best to punish “illegal immigrants” would now be given a laser focus. Trump will apparently create a Gestapo-like force that on the day he formally becomes president will somehow immediately remove millions of people from the United States. The country’s police will now be turned loose and taken off the chain to purge illegal immigrants from the body politic — a chilling thought given how America’s militarized police already brutalize people of color.

In Trump’s plan, refugees from the Middle East all are terrorists and a potential third column with a knife at the heart of America. “Illegal immigrants” are rapists, gang members, child molesters, thieves and killers who steal jobs from hardworking Americans. These two groups of evildoers will be confronted by Trump’s “great American wall” and a resurgent military and national security state that, under his special leadership, will protect the country.

Trump crescendoed by introducing family members of Americans who have been killed by “illegal aliens.” Now christened the “Angel Moms,” they proceeded to captivate Trump’s audience with horrific stories of murder and mayhem. This was Trump’s “Willie Horton” moment. In 1988, George H.W. Bush featured a notoriously racist campaign ad about a black man who was a convicted rapist and murderer. It was extremely effective in winning over racially resentful and anxious white voters. Almost 30 years later, Trump and his advisers have simply updated the Republican Party’s racist Southern strategy to now include “terrorists” and nebulous brown “illegal immigrants” from Latin and South America.

The "Angel Moms” are the immediate human embodiment of (white) victimhood. Instead of presenting abstract discussions about “illegal immigration” and “crime, the children of the “Angel Moms” must be avenged if justice is to be done. Moreover, if the state and the police have failed the “Angel Moms,” then it is Trump and his supporters who must fill the void of safety and security that has been denied the American people. 

This is a not too subtle appeal to vigilante violence: It is the logical outcome of Trump’s persona, a man who boasted that he can shoot people in the street without consequence, who imagines himself to be Dirty Harry or Charles Bronson in a 1980s action movie and who believes that the United States’ inner cities are dystopic hellholes overrun with illegal immigrants and black criminals.

Many think pieces, articles, “hot takes” and essays have pondered if Trump is a fascist. He satisfies many of the criteria.

Trump does not believe in freedom of the press. He wants to overturn standing political norms, values, traditions and institutions in order to return to a fictive past. Trump is a militant nationalist. Trump’s movement is based on social dominance behavior and authoritarianism. He is a strongman and leader of a cult of personality that emphasizes action, strength and hypermasculine energy. A direct appeal or encouragement to violence against the Other was one of the few remaining criteria for fascism that Donald Trump had not yet fulfilled. His speech in Phoenix has finally checked off that empty box.

The situation is no longer funny, a moment for liberal schadenfreude at the expense of a broken Republican Party and its rubes and bigots or an entertaining political car wreck and spectacle. Matters are deadly serious.

Trump’s rhetoric is eventually going to get someone killed. The mainstream corporate news media that enabled his demagoguery and rise to power will have blood on their hands. The “decent Republicans” who voted for Trump will have blood on their hands. Trump and his minions will most certainly have blood on their hands.

The rise of Trump and the full-on conversation of the Republican Party into the country’s largest white identity organization represent a nadir in contemporary American politics.

I have never before seen a lynch mob on television. That changed after I watched  Trump’s rally in Phoenix on Wednesday night. I was left wondering, Are we not better than this? I have no doubt that our better angels will ultimately prevail. But Donald Trump’s ascendance is a reminder that, to borrow from Sinclair Lewis and Theodor Ardono, “Yes, it can happen here.”"

Asked about his grand plan for this fantasy wall he so feverishly sells like snake oil to the gullible, he simply answered that if the Chinese could build a 13,000-mile long wall 2,000 years ago with far less sophisticated technology and cheap labor, then America can certainly pull it off in the 21st century. And, get this, he says Mexico will pay for the wall. I guess we await to see "The Great Wall of America." But I'm not crossing my fingers.

After all, he first needs to win the elections in November. And, as things presently stand, the only wall he has managed to build so far is a Great Wall between himself and the Black and Latino voters he desperately needs in order to have any shot at beating Secretary Clinton in the race for the White House.

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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