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New Report by SKEyes Highlights Myriad of Struggles Facing Lebanese Women Journalists

Last month, the Samir Kassir Foundation’s SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom published a study investigating the professional and personal challenges faced by women journalists in Lebanon.

The study, which was based on a series of 70 interviews with women journalists, revealed a number of institutional and daily challenges. 

Salary Disparities and Promotions

Beginning with salary disparities and promotion barriers, more than a third of interviewees (35.7 percent) claimed that they witnessed a discrepancy between the treatment of men and women in their respective institutions. More specifically, various journalists expressed that their rights would not be acknowledged or fulfilled unless they persistently advocated for them.

Almost two thirds of respondents (64.3 percent) claimed that they haven’t had a salary increase and/or a promotion in the past five years – a period during which the country went through an unprecedented crisis. In one particular case, one journalist stated that she was rewarded a salary increase after she had asked for it, and was specifically told by her superiors that they do not normally award these advancements to women unless they ask for them.

More than two thirds (72.9 percent) considered that there are barriers for women journalists to acquire leadership roles and decision-making positions.

Discrepancies in Days Off and Vacations

Another area where women disproportionately face challenges as per the study is discrepancies between days off and vacations. A large number of journalists expressed that they’re often unable to utilize their leave days due to the heavy workload involved, while one fifth of those interviewed reported never taking time off.

In what is indicative of a lack of gender accommodations, more than two thirds (68.6 percent) reported not being allowed to take a monthly menstrual sick leave, while a whopping majority of respondents (88.6 percent) thought that the Lebanese low does not provide women with a fair maternity leave, which currently stands at 10 weeks.

Experiencing Misconduct

Most notably, the study highlights an abnormal rate of misconduct faced by women journalists, whereby nine out of 10 interviewees reported encountering some form of discomfort in their journalistic work in terms of misconduct.

Among those that reported being subject to misconduct, 70 percent mentioned experiencing sexual harassment. And while 37 percent did not mention being subjected to sexual harassment, an overwhelming 96 percent confirmed that other female colleagues had experienced it.

Other forms of misconduct experienced include verbal abuse (59 percent), hate speech (49 percent), threats (43 percent), physical abuse (30 percent) and cyberbullying and online harassment (19 percent). A majority of respondents thought that such misconduct took place due to the simple fact of being a woman, while some attributed it to what they wrote, work-related matters or political reasons.

Sexual Harassment: Pre, During and Post-Employment

Central to the cases of misconduct were power dynamics, as perpetrators of sexual harassment were directors or owners of media institutions in more than half of the cases (51 percent), with respondents mostly (97.7 percent) reporting that sexual harassment occurred more than once.

Moreover, the study finds that sexual harassment “is normalized within journalism in Lebanon”, and highlights pre-employment, during employment and post-employment dimensions to it.

The study notes that more than a third (37 percent) of women who were subjected to sexual harassment encountered it live on air, with the institution’s reaction to these incidents being negative, mostly with no action taken.

On a structural level, more than two thirds (72.9 percent) of respondents indicated that their institutions don’t have a policy to prevent internal sexual exploitation and assault (PSEA).

The report ends with a conclusion and a series of recommendations on different fronts, including on the institutional front, the educational front and the civil society organizations’ front.

With the country going through a series of crises and an ongoing conflict, different groups have different challenges, and women journalists are subject to a unique set of challenges that remain institutionally unaddressed.

To access the full report: