Comments on sexual harassment: NUJ backtracks

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PETALING JAYA: The national body representing journalists in Peninsular Malaysia today said it regretted the impression given by its president’s remarks which appeared to blame the victims for incidents of sexual harassment.

The National Union of Journalists Peninsular Malaysia (NUJ) president Mohd Taufek Razak had caused an uproar among activists and journalists for telling a news portal that female reporters should not wear “too revealing or sexy” clothing.

“We realise that the dressing and appearance of journalist should not be blamed as a cause of sexual harassment.

“We do not endorse such a stance.

“The union also regrets the impression given by specific remarks that appeared to victim blame,” NUJ said in a statement today.

The statement was signed by Taufek on behalf of the NUJ executive council.

Taufek had made the earlier remarks when responding to Malaysiakini on a report by Asian Correspondent titled “Female journalists, male politicians and the epidemic of sexual harassment in Asean”.

In its reply to the portal, NUJ had said that female journalists should present themselves in an appropriate manner and be firm while on duty.

“For example, do not dress in an overtly sexy outfit, decline interviews at inappropriate places like nightclubs or politicians’ homes.

“Female journalists must have integrity and an appropriate manner to obtain news.”

The statements were condemned by activists and journalists for blaming the victims instead of protecting their rights.

Wanita DAP’s national assistant publicity secretary and Penang city councillor Syerleena Abdul Rashid, in comments published in FMT, said it was not wise to put the blame on women and how they choose to dress.

She said the focus ought to be on how men should exercise common sense and decency to keep their libidos in check.

In its latest statement, NUJ said it acknowledged the presence of sexual harassment faced by media professionals in the course of doing their jobs.

“This is exacerbated by the need to maintain good ties with contacts, who may abuse that relationship.

“We also understand that proving sexual harassment cases is a difficult and often humiliating process for those affected.

“That makes it all the more important for those affected to report these cases, and for media professionals to set clear boundaries with their contacts to reduce the risk of being placed in vulnerable situations,” it said.

NUJ also urged editors and company management to offer support to their staff.

“Harassment cannot be assumed to be part of ‘business as usual’,” it added.

The union said it was its responsibility to look out for the welfare of journalists and to ensure they were able to do their jobs without obstruction.

“This includes supporting and assisting, wherever necessary, media professionals affected by sexual harassment.”

It urged those in a position of power over journalists, including politicians, not to take advantage of journalists.

“Those in power must ensure their interactions with media are done professionally and with integrity.

“Media professionals also need to be bold in stepping forward against their harassers.”

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