The speakers called upon the journalists' organizations and the government to play a strong role in protecting their rights as women journalists
Speakers at a webinar have urged the women journalists to organize themselves to overcome the job insecurity and financial uncertainty triggered by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Many journalists lost their jobs, due to the implementation of the journalist retrenchment policy to fight the financial impact of Covid-19, as well as stopped getting their salaries and allowances which affected the women workers the most, speakers said.
The issues were discussed at the webinar hosted by ARTICLE 19 titled “Suffering of Women Journalists in Corona Disaster: Survival of Women in Journalism in Bangladesh” on Thursday, according to a media release.
Around 100 dismissed journalists working at national, district, and upazila levels participated in the webinar.
The panellists at the webinar spoke of their subjugation, deprivation, and frustration in their profession.
Speaking on the occasion, the journalists said that women in this profession have overcome many obstacles ranging from gender inequality in recruitment to promotion, unfavourable working environment, and sexual harassment.
During the pandemic, these obstacles have added new problems and challenges. Women journalists feel that it is important to organize themselves first to overcome the situation and have proposed the establishment of an alternative media, the statement said.
The participants at the webinar called upon the journalists' organizations and the government to play a strong role in protecting their rights as women journalists.
Nasimun Ara Haque Minu, president of the Bangladesh Women Journalists' Centre said: "Journalism is challenging for women because journalism is basically considered a male profession. So, women have to face many unwanted obstacles in society, family, and the workplace.”
She demanded that a Sexual Harassment Prevention Cell should be set up in every media house to fully implement the High Court's order to stop sexual harassment in the workplace.
Journalist Mausumi Acharya who was recently fired from a private television station, said: “Compared to the growth of the television industry in the last two decades, the standard of professionalism in its management is zero. Channel owners are not held accountable for violating workers' rights.”
She further added that while the pioneers of journalism in Bangladesh have been able to incite the love of the youth towards this profession, they failed to establish job security and protection in this profession, especially journalist organizations who failed to take effective initiatives in this regard.
Despite being attacked and threatened more than once for professional reasons, editor of online portal Jaleshwari.com Lily Begum was dismissed from her job during the pandemic.
"Being a woman has made me more vulnerable to harassment," she said. “With permission from the office, I went abroad for treatment after the incident. I was fired while I was there."
Journalist Farhana Sapphire was fired without notice after protesting various harassment at work. "I did not give up and filed a case. But it resulted in media houses not wanting to give me a job now,” she said.
Maria Salam has long been in charge of the English online edition of a national daily. On the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the media house shut down its online version and sent Maria on unpaid leave, the statement read.
Maria said: "Despite women’s qualifications, many women journalists are discriminated against when it comes to recruitment and promotions. This negative social perception of women has to be changed in all professions.”