Women Journalists And On Ground Harassment. Some #MeToo Stories

Forced hugs

Women journalists do shoulder equal responsibilities as their male counterparts, while reporting from the ground. But it is here that they come face to face with their own unique challenges. Recently, a Colombian journalist covering the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia was groped and kissed by a football fan on live TV. The reporter Julieth Gonzalez Theran was live on camera reporting the game, when, a man from the crowd kissed her on her cheek. Reportedly, he even deliberately touched her breast. The journalist – working for German channel Deutsche Welle – took to Instagram to share the video of the indecent act.


“I was at the spot for almost two hours before the live telecast began – preparing my things but nothing happened. But when we went live, that man took advantage of it,” Theran finished her live telecast and later on tried to find the guy but failed. She was later quoted as saying, by Zee News, “He came at me, gave me a kiss and touched my breast.”

SheThePeople.TV spoke to some women journalists in India to known their stories.

Nirmika SinghExecutive Editor of Rolling Stone India shared with us, “I have been a music journalist for almost 10 years and thankfully, the incidents of molestation I have faced while on the job have been few and far between. However, the one episode that shook me took place when I was covering the Enchanted Valley Carnival at Aamby Valley in 2015. Like everybody, I was enjoying the headlining performance by Fatboy Slim at the main stage when I felt something between my legs from behind, like the feeling of fingers grazing. I turned around and saw an inebriated man smiling at me. For two seconds, I was incredulous and even second-guessed myself thinking maybe it wasn’t what I was thinking and maybe someone just accidentally brushed past me. (It’s funny how we women are conditioned to instinctively reject our own real and lived experiences).”

“But since the nature of the touch was so intrusive, I realised it had to be that man. So, I mustered all my courage and slapped him as hard as I could. I was scared and shaking while I did that. Sadly, there was no security in the vicinity (no guards even near the sound console arena where I was standing); it was packed venue and I couldn’t drag that tall intimidating man out through the thick crowd and look for help. He was pissed drunk, and although slap took him by complete shock, he wasn’t outraged (guilty, I guess) he just rambled incoherently about how it wasn’t him. I had no option than to just leave the spot,” she added.

 When I posted about him on social media and tagged the festival, the organizers and their PR representative called me and requested me to take down my post as apparently, I could “influence a lot of people!” I didn’t.

“For music journalists, even a concert and music venue qualifies as workplace and it is paramount that these spaces be designed/operated keeping safety in mind, especially when it is known that there will be a lot of booze around,” Nirmika argued.

Similarly, a few months ago, a sports reporter Maria Fernanda Mora in Mexico, was reporting a football match while she initiated a live conversation by inviting two fans to join her for a discussion. Soon she was surrounded by many fans and as a result, she had to lash out at a fan on live television after accusing him of groping her.

According to The Sun, Mora was reportedly pinched by a supporter from behind. Later on, she also took to Twitter to explain the incident.

Maria explained the ordeal and wrote that the same in fact happens to thousands of women every day. The difference with her was that it happened during live television and she decided to defend herself.

Closer to home Induja Ragunathan recalls her early days with the Sun TV. “Several of my colleagues and friends at other TV channels, many of them women journalists were deputed to cover the public meeting, like me. The angry mob chased journalists,” claimed Induja Ragunathan, senior journalist about lathi charge, assault and intimidation during her early reporting days. As the News Minute reported, Induja along with many other journalists from Sun TV then faced crisis during Jayalalithaa’s coming back to power. “It was 2000, and the DMK was in power, making it easy for Sun TV, which belongs to the Maran family, to move around the state. We were almost treated like royalty wherever we went. But a year later, power changed hands and Jayalalithaa returned as Chief Minister winning the state elections with a handsome majority. As a reporter with Sun TV, was considered a rival, it became a difficult task for me and for all my colleagues to report from any of AIADMK or Jayalalithaa’s news events,” she recalled.

“Having encountered angry AIADMK cadre, who routinely abused us during coverage, we as reporters of Sun TV were forced to remove the channel’s logo and hold a naked mic whenever we went to the AIADMK party office or to Jayalalithaa’s residence,” Induja added.

Another reporter Vera Papisova who reported for Teen Vogue visited Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival to investigate sexual harassment at the US music festival and ironically ended up being “repeatedly violated by strangers” herself. “During the 10 hours I was reporting on this story, I was groped 22 times,” Vera Papisova, the magazine’s Wellness Editor, wrote in an article published in April this year. Papisova kept on the quest and interviewed 54 women while researching her article, and was told that “all of them had a story of sexual assault or harassment that occurred this year at Coachella.”

“As women reporters, we are often molested, groped and even assaulted. During the election season, the groping becomes an everyday affair as we are required to report from the midst of crowds that are going berserk due to the election fever,” The News Minute Editor Dhanya Rajendran shared.

Most of us become so immune to this physical assault that we seldom react to it. Most of our editors don’t bother to address it as it is considered to be a ‘part of the job’. But it isn’t. Every such incident matters, it scars us each time.

A female TV presenter, Esmeralda Labye, reporting for Belgium’s RTBF, was groped by an unknown assailant live on air during the Cologne carnival. On camera, she was reached out by two or three men while one reportedly grabbed her breast as she was broadcasting. Labye wrote in a piece published on the station’s website that the “wretched and cowardly” men were trying to get attention on live TV with one of them kissing her on the neck.

Anjali Jhangiani, Senior Feature Writer, Sakal Times too shared another horrible incident from the past with SheThePeople. “When I was doing my masters in journalism, we had to do an internship with a newspaper during our first year. I was interning at Indian Express when I had an assignment to interview a politician for a quote for an article. I remember calling him from the landline for a quote, and after dilly-dallying asking me personal questions, he told me to call him from my personal number if I want an input. I politely told him that I’m on a deadline but I can call him back later if he’s busy. He insisted that I call him from my personal number. He also told me that if I can’t “afford” calling him, he will pay my phone bills. I told my editor then what was going on and how he was behaving, she took me off the assignment and told me to shut people down if they cross their lines like this,” she said.

“Since then, I’ve learnt to say no when I’m uncomfortable, even if it means blocking access, not getting my quote and losing a source. When you’re young and a woman journalist, some men tend to want to take advantage of that. They want to flirt, take you out for a drink. etc, call you in the middle of the night, send you ‘naughty’ jokes, and only if you oblige them will they give you what you want for your story. It’s tough, but it’s better to be safe than sorry and nip this behaviour in the bud,” she added.

In another incident, a journalist accused a Delhi Police inspector of molesting and complained of being groped. He reportedly touched her breast even after being told that she was with the media. “Both of us at that point told Mr Singh that we are journalists and he backed off for two minutes. He then proceeded to come towards us again and hooked at my chest and placed his hand on my right breast and pushed me again,” she said in her complaint.

Feature Image Credit: Yahoo Sports

READ: Meet News anchor turned art entrepreneur Sahar Zaman

Read More Stories By Ria Das