Hands off female football reporters!


by Jane Whyatt

Media freedom campaigners are urging newsrooms to show ’zero tolerance’ to football hooligans who grope, harass or insult female reporters during the World Cup in Russia

Hands off female football reporters 'Show a red card to men who grope female football reporters'

It follows at least three incidents shown live on camera. In one, Deutsche Welle journalist Julieth Gonzalez Therán was kissed by a fan who put his hand on her breast. He later went to the DW studio to apologise, and said he had done it “to win a bet“.

Fighting back, Brazilian Julia Gurmarāes shouted at the man who tried to kiss her during her live report, telling him  “Never do that! Show respect!“ 

Swedish correspondent Malin Wahlberg was reporting for Sport Bladet in Russia when several fans grabbed her, ruffled her hair and interrupted her interview. Female reporters are not only targeted with physical molestation but also with verbal gender-based insults, in life and in Twitter, Facebook and other online social networks. German sports presenter Katrin Müller Hohenstein has received many such offensive comments.

At the European Federation of Journalists HQ in Brussels, Pamela Morinière leads the EFJ’s campaign for journalists to be allowed to do their jobs without sexual harassment, gender based violence or online trolling. She says: Sexual harassment is an attack on women’s journalists’ integrity and dignity. People don’t realise what is wrong with kissing a women journalist reporting live. One just has to see their reaction afterwards, including on social media to see that they have been duly offended.. 

The journalists' unions that make up the membership of the European Federation of Journalists have Codes of Conduct on sexual harassment at work, and some have also been active in the #MeToo campaign which started in the Hollywood film industry. Morinière says:

Newsrooms must hold a zero tolerance policy on these sexual attacks against women journalists. It should be the media’s responsibility to do all they can to prevent such attacks and condemn them out loud. The public needs to know that it is not ok to behave in this way and sexually harass women,  either when they are covering sporting events or in any other circumstances.

On the pitch so far in the World Cup, three red cards have been issued resulting in players being sent off, and 171 yellow cards or warnings. The sport’s governing body FIFA has a Code of Ethics which includes an anti-discrimination clause. But it does not seem to extend to the journalists who give the sport its global reputation and supply the fans with updates.

ECPMF has requested a comment from FIFA on the sexual harassment of female journalists but so far they have not responded with any statement..

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom has a dedicated Women’s Reporting Point where female media workers can get free confidtenital help from a female member of ECPMF staff. ECPMF also offers funding and expertise for fighting legal cases in support of women’s right to do their jobs without discrimination or harassment. And for women in extreme danger, ECPMF offers refuge through the ECPMF Journalists in Residence programme.

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