We Believe The Survivors…Against Harassment And Discrimination In Media

25 August 2020 – Several media outlets and social media accounts have been recently talking about testimonies accusing the Egyptian investigative journalist Hisham Allam of sexual harassment and rape, especially the testimonies published by the blog Daftar Hekayat which has documented 6 cases of harassment and rape of journalists in the region during the past few years. Therefore; SFJN condemns the massive amount of violence that women journalists are subjected to, about which they often remain silent due to fear and the threat of exposure.

What is new about this case is two things, first the questioning of the survivors’ testimonies as documented by Daftar Hekayat which we find a very important platform for believing the survivors and victims and open an alternative space for them to share and document their experiences without judgments or restrictions as a public case that’s not only specific to the survivors. Second, the fact that the aforementioned journalist is denying the accusations and decided to resort to the Egyptian judiciary, which gives the judiciary the opportunity to rule on this case. The judiciary system in most of the region’s countries was never just to victims of sexual harassment and assault neither was state institutions. However, we hope that the judiciary ruling in this case will be just and take into account the the announced and unannounced privileges for all the parties involved and that it will be on the side of the victims.

We would like to emphasize that repressive patriarchal practices can come from women as well, and in this case we find that the attempt to descredit testimonies published on the blog by a woman is just one of those repressive and violent practices that reinforce a culture of oppression and lead to silencing women who try to speak up about the violence they experience and expose the harassers. We do not consider that a woman’s contesting the survivors ’testimonies gives legitimacy to questioning these testimonies, just because she is a woman, hence; we are suspending any cooperation with the journalist Rama Deep, who fabricated one of the testimonies in the video that was published on August 21, until we investigate all aspects of the case.

These practices are historical and contribute to shrinking the safety space in the media sector and create an unsafe work environment for female journalists. Moreover, these violent practices impede our pursuit of social justice for all women and men of different ages and diverse  cultural backgrounds and physical abilities. It is crucial in this statement that we draw the attention of media organizations to the importance of fighting these practices and working towards preventing and punishing these practices in a way that limits and ends them and encourages female journalists to report them.

Accordingly, we wish to alert media organizations to some of the reasons that lead to an increase in harassment against women journalists and that undermine our efforts to confront them, including:

  • Lenient laws at the public level and at the level of institutions that are negligent in dealing with complaints of female journalists with regard to harassment and violence, and do not apply appropriate deterrent penalties against violators
  • The general fear that women live, which prevents them from reporting abusive practices against them within the framework of institutions
  • Fear of scandal, defamation, silencing and objectifying that women journalists are usually subjected to if they report harassment in general and sexual harassment in particular
  • The prevailing and outdated “repressive and violent masculine” culture that blames the survivor of the harassment, instead of punishing the aggressor
  • Lack of policies and cultures that creates awareness and deter harassers and aggressors, as this reassures the harasser who usually gets away and gives him impunity.
  • The legal status of a number of female journalists in countries of asylum, which in many cases prevents them from being able to litigate and prosecute

We also find in this incident an opportunity to call on media organizations in particular and civil society organizations in general in the region to work together to confront and fight these repressive practices, so that we strive together to ensure rights and achieve social justice for all regardless of their gender or identity. Therefore, we demand collective action that seeks to:

  • Amend  legal legislation in a way that centralizes the safety and security of survivors and victims, in their different areas.
  • Adopting clear definitions of harassment and violence in all its forms, whether sexual, physical, psychological or virtual – through electronic means of communication-.
  • Create formal and informal protection mechanisms for survivors and victims of these repressive practices.
  • Create institutional and social cultures that deter the perpetrator and the aggressor, instead of blaming the victims and survivors.
  • Increase social awareness of the social, political and economic harm that these practices cause to victims and survivors.
  • Adopting specific policies and procedures that contribute to creating a safe and supportive work environment at the level of our institutions and partner institutions 

Finally,  we hope that this invitation will be the beginning of cross-border solidarity and serious collective action towards curbing this phenomenon, as it is our responsibility, as media and civil society institutions, to fight and prevent these practices. We are all liable if we remain silent about these practices, regardless of our locations, positions and backgrounds.