Female journalists in Masaka are using today's World Press Freedom event to highlight sexual harassment they face at the hands of public servants while they are doing their work. Matilda Nabukalu of Buddu FM and Margaret Kayondo of Suubi FM say interviewing male public servants is hard because they are constantly harassed. They claim that several politicians and government workers undermine them as professionals and regularly attempt to fondle their bodies or shout sexist comments as them. Nabukalu and Kayondo say this makes performing their duty to inform and educate the public about government policy extremely difficult. Matilda Nabukalu says she has completely stopped going to the Masaka district council chambers because of the harassment. She started her work as a journalist a year ago, but has failed to make a breakthrough with the district administration because of the abuse. Nabukalu declines to name specific officers who have abused her. She says she fears for her life. Despite this she is adamant about her claims about numerous propositions for affairs, inappropriate touching and insults. Margaret Kayondo, a seasoned journalist of seven years, says she has faced sexual abuse at the hands of the police. She says some police officers demand sex in return for information. As a result Kayondo cannot go to a police station for a story alone. She says she has to go with groups of other journalists to ward off the advances of the policemen. Kayondo says she is coming public about the abuse because she wants the police to recognize that she and other journalists are professionals with a key role to play in the country. Like Nabukalu, she is afraid of naming names because of the power the police wield in Masaka. Sexual harassment is not often discussed as an impediment to media freedom in Uganda. However elsewhere in the world, the practice of demanding for sex from female journalists in exchange for information and the acceptance of speaking to female journalists in lewd and sexualized terms is a central issue. The Arab Press Network is at the forefront of highlighting this problem. In 2005 the Arab Press Network launched a campaign against the government of Egypt because the Egyptian Prosecutor General prematurely closed investigations into attacks and sexual harassment by government supporters against female journalists. During the sixth annual conference of the Arab Women Media Center, 60 female journalists signed a petition against sexual harassment against them in their line of work. This year a Facebook page was set up dedicated to the issue of violence against women journalists. The social networking site is intended to record and address violence against female journalists, key among them, physical attacks and sexual harassment.
Updated: 28 Feb, 18:3018:30