The Press Forward Salutes Huang Xueqin and Women Journalists In China For The IWMF’s #Journoheroes Month

Press Forward honors women journalists and leaders of the #MeToo movement in China, including Huang Xueqin, for the IWMF’s #journoheroes month. Many have faced intimidation and threats by the Chinese government for their activism, and been placed under arrest at times over the last few years.

Huang Xueqin, a 30-year-old former journalist, was recently detained by Chinese police in the city of Guangzhou. Police charged her with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

Huang shared her experience of sexual harassment in the workplace in 2017, and last year conducted an online survey of 2,000 women journalists about their experiences of harassment in the workplace. In her survey, 60 percent of respondents said they did not tell people about the harassment they experienced because they feared consequences for speaking publicly about the topic.

“I used to ask people’s opinions about #MeToo on Facebook, and got lots of support for advocating for the movement… However I found in China, under the conservative social climate, Chinese females tend to be less willing to voice their opinions publicly on this issue,” Huang said in an interview on Chinese television about the survey.

Huang’s report found more than 80 percent of female journalists had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

“I think prevention and education is needed… because some things are kind of still a taboo for Chinese people to talk about –  it’s absolutely not the topic you are going to talk about with your parents, so we don’t get the education from family, and even in university there is not that much about sex education,” Huang said, according to The Hong Kong Free Press.

Her report recommended that media companies “take the lead in establishing anti-sexual harassment mechanisms in the workplace, including prevention, education, investigation and confidential counseling,” the HKFP reports.

Huang is one of several women’s rights activists detained by the Chinese government in recent years. Five were detained just before International Women’s Day in 2015, also on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” They had planned demonstrations across the country against sexual harassment, and after their arrest, became known as the “feminist five.”

Press Forward honors Huang, women journalists and activists throughout China who continue to bravely campaign for women’s rights.

Press Forward Salutes Journalist Rana Ayyub for IWMF’s #journoheroes Month

Rana Ayyub, an investigative journalist, experiences threats and intimidation for her work in India – but she continues to press on. In recent months she has spoken out against growing censorship in Indian news organizations and a media crackdown by the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ayyub gained prominence and reknown for her undercover reporting work that culminated in her book, Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Coverup, which investigates mob riots in 2002 that culminated in the deaths of more than 1,000 Muslims in India.

Ayyub posed as an American film student and used secret cameras while meeting with sources and powerful officials, including Modi. Her recorded conversations raised questions about officials’ culpability in the violence.  

Last year, the book earned Ayyub the Most Resilient Global Journalist Award delivered at the Peace Palace in the Hague.

Like many women journalists, Ayyub has been subject to violent threats for her work. For some, those threats have become real. Her friend, Gauri Lankesh, was going to publish Ayyub’s reporting on the Gujarat riots. Lankesh’s newspaper in southwest India often reported on right-wing extremism. On September 5, 2017, gunmen assassinated Lankesh outside her home.

Ayyub says she receives frequent rape and death threats online in response to her reporting. According to the Hindustan Times, in the course of one week, Ayyub had been targeted in more than 2,500 abusive tweets.

In August Ayyub told VOA, “I certainly do feel that the women journalists, should report the threats that they face every day. I do not dismiss them as being harmless because I have seen many colleagues losing their lives by just dismissing the threats that come their way.”

Reporter Shreya Ila Anasuya wrote about the dangers for women journalists in India for GenderIt.org: “Women journalists have faced a range of physical violence while on the job, from being harassed, beaten, and molested, to being driven out of their homes and being killed. From Khabar Lahariya to Malini Subramaniam to Gauri Lankesh, the systematic targeting of women journalists has been severe. There has been some coverage of the disproportionate and gendered nature of this violence, and concerns about the severe way in which it threatens the existence of a free press in India.”

Ayyub says “the dangers she faces will not stop her from continuing to report”, and that “some of the biggest investigations in the country are being done by women.”

 She told VOA, “This is the time to be a journalist. This is the time to shine.”

The Press Forward salutes Ayyub for her bravery and courage in reporting. 

#UsToo: Building Trust in Newsrooms with the Poynter Institute and Press Forward Training Program

By Gloria Riviera, Journalist and Senior Strategist for Training and Development, Press Forward

Two years ago today, two words changed our lives: #MeToo. 

Journalism is not immune to the sexual harassment and abuses of power revealed by #MeToo. Today, October 15th, 2019, The Press Forward in partnership with the Poynter Institute is releasing a new sexual harassment and abuse of power training program, “#UsToo: Building Trust in Newsrooms,” designed specifically for newsrooms to create a safe, civil, and secure workplace for all journalists. 

The hashtag #MeToo, along with the courageous reporting on Harvey Weinstein, cascaded into a barrage of reports about abuses of power across workplaces in America. The journalism industry was very much included in this; powerful figures in newsrooms allegedly harassed and abused their colleagues – sometimes over decades. It changed the directions of careers and harmed newsrooms by depleting diversity and eroding public trust. 

Journalists and all people deserve to work in environments with dignity, safety, and equality to do their best work. Period. No one should ever have to choose between dignity and employment. The fact that nearly two-thirds of female journalists will be harassed at some point in their careers (according to IWMF/ISNI) is not just sobering – it is unacceptable. 

That is why I joined The Press Forward as a co-founder during the initial passion powering the #MeToo movement. I was joined by nearly a dozen other courageous women who had told their stories. Together we have worked to advance workplace culture in our newsrooms through training, education, research, and dialogue. 

I am particularly passionate about the need for radically redesigned sexual harassment and abuse of power training. We saw a gap that demanded evidence, data and research-based curriculum tailored to newsrooms. 

In reflecting on my own experience I see that there was a clear power imbalance between myself and my boss during the time I was harassed. I was not alone; of the 11 women reporting directly to him while covering the 2004 Presidential campaign at least four of us experienced direct harassment. We confided in one another and in that confidence understood we were not alone; that was an empowering realization. We did not report the incidences of harassment to Human Resources because we feared for our jobs and, rightly or wrongly, did not believe action would be swiftly taken. Instead, we shared and commiserated in our grievances among ourselves and mutually agreed upon self-protective behavior.

We did not clearly know what our rights were. We did not know what legal protection from our company we deserved. We did not understand what actionable options we had. This is what we seek to change in sexual harassment and abuse training in newsrooms today. 

Our Approach

Three priority goals became clear over the past two years. First and foremost, our new training had to be in person. Journalists are typically those who in some way, shape or form connect with personal stories. Bringing someone with deep experience in media into a newsroom to talk about issues that can be deeply uncomfortable and even shameful would revolutionize training. 

Our country is in the middle of an on-going conversation about sexual harassment and abuses of power. To ask journalists to know what to do when his or her power is being compromised based on digital training alone simply won’t work. A digital platform can and should support training. But employees need a conversation to understand the root issues behind harmful behavior and proceed to grow from that understanding. 

Second, our new training had to have real-life scenarios or examples that journalists would understand and respond to. Those scenarios had to resonate and spark conversation and debate over evaluating the people’s behavior in those scenarios: the perpetrator, the woman or man experiencing the harassment or abuse, the bystander, the manager, and any other relevant participants. We had to connect these issues to the values of journalism. When conversations of substance take place people grow and learn. At its core journalism is about being a voice for the voiceless and preventing abuses of power. When this core belief is compromised, newsrooms can breed harassment and abuse. 

Third, our training must be multi-lateral and include all those from the newest intern to the most senior manager. And no matter what training one takes, it all has to be transparent. An employee must know what the most junior to the most senior employee is receiving in terms of training. We do not clearly see any of the focal points mentioned above offered in current training. 

We are honored that The Wall Street Journal is the first to pilot our new program. We will continue to monitor and measure its effectiveness as we scale our training across newsrooms nationally.

We at Press Forward believe in a radical restructuring of sexual harassment and abuse of power training. This must happen to empower newsrooms and to enable all those in media to succeed. This is a cause I have been eager to directly work on and support, and I look forward to introducing newsrooms across the country to our new training.

Learn more about the training program here or through an article by Press Forward Chief Visionary Officer and Co-Founder, Carolyn McGourty Supple and SVP, Poynter Institute, Kelly McBride: #UsToo: Building Trust in Newsrooms from their newsletter The Cohort.

By Gloria Riviera, Journalist and Senior Strategist for Training and Development, Press Forward

Press Forward Salutes Maria Ressa for the IWMF’s #journoheroes Month

Press Forward celebrates journalist Maria Ressa for the IWMF’s #journoheroes month. Ressa has undertaken great risks to tell the truth and pursue investigative journalism in the Philippines. 

After working as an investigative reporter for CNN and head of news for the Philippine TV station ABS-CBN, Ressa founded Rappler, a digital news media site based in Manila. Her news organization has earned a large audience, and it is growing, but it has also garnered the attention of the government and President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Duterte first singled out Rappler in his in his State of the Nation speech in 2017.  Since January 2018, Ressa says she has had to post bail eight times, and the government has charged her with tax evasion, defamation, and violation of security laws.

She has vowed to press on, and Rappler has led investigations of corruption by the government, and its widespread of use of trolls and disinformation through social media platforms to curry political support and win elections. 

Ressa and her colleagues have also aggressively covered Duterte’s war on drugs, in which thousands of people have been killed. According to The Financial Times, “Duterte has presided over more deaths of his own people than any leader in south-east Asia since Cambodia’s Pol Pot.”

Press Forward salutes Ressa, and her women-led team at Rappler. 

Ressa told the FT, “Maybe they [the Philippine government] don’t know the founders of Rappler. We don’t intimidate easily, the women of Rappler.”

#journoheroes @IWMF