The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) has commenced talks with media owners with a view to improving the remuneration and other rights of journalists, Secretary General Eric Oduor has said.
Mr. Oduor said although journalists were quick at highlighting the plight of other employees suffering at the hands of their employers, no one had come forward to champion the rights of reporters, which include the right to safety at their places of work as well as proper compensation for their labour.
“We have been holding talks with various organizations with a view to coming up with a pay structure that will be used to remunerate journalists so that at the end of the month, journalists go home with their rightful package,” Oduor said.
Mr. Oduor said this at a Malindi hotel Tuesday during a two-day seminar on the rights and safety of journalists where he also urged journalists to join the KUJ in large numbers in order to give them proper bargaining power with media owners.
He said the union had initiated talks with media houses to ensure they have sexual harassment policies in place in the organisations in order to protect female journalists from sexual exploitation by their seniors, their male colleagues and even news sources.
The journalists’ union boss said KUJ would soon start country-wide sensitization workshops on the safety of journalists as the country gears up towards the 2022 General Election, which he said have already ignited political heat that could easily affect journalists as they go about their news gathering business.
He said journalists often find themselves caught up in political fights, and urged media organizations to develop safety measures for their employees in the field.
During the seminar, it emerged that female journalists were suffering in silence as they strive to please their bosses in order to either keep their jobs or secure promotions. This, it was noted, had lowered the dignity of female journalists.
It also emerged that many female journalists were vulnerable to attacks by mobs and other hooligans in the course of their duties, with participants calling on media houses to develop safety policies for all journalists as they go about the business of collecting and disseminating news.
There have also been concerns that although journalists have been championing for better pay for doctors, nurses and teachers among others, they were themselves victims of poor or no pay at all, forcing many to rely on handouts and thus compromise their professionalism.
KUJ Deputy Secretary General Mary Daraja asked female journalists to stand up for their rights and ensure that no one exploits them sexually in order to get favours from their bosses, colleagues or newsmakers.
She urged them to immediately report cases of sexual harassment to the union for redress.
Ms Daraja appreciated the fact that many media houses had employed and promoted female journalists to managerial and editorial positions, with some areas having more females than males.
“Therefore, the places of women in media houses, journalists associations, and other organizations related to media, have increased tremendously in recent years.
She said although harassment of women was still rampant in some areas, the vice has also decreased tremendously in recent times following sensitization workshops on gender rights at the workplace.
“Some media houses have developed policies and strategies to fight sexual harassment of female journalists and we are pushing, and many organizations had put in place policies to ensure there is gender equality in all positions in media organizations.”
Ms Effie Harusi Muramba, a Kilifi-based journalist, lauded the union for its efforts to ensure all journalists know their rights, adding that the workshop had enlightened her greatly.
“As a female journalist, I have learnt a lot of things, among them how to fight for my rights as a journalist because for a long time, many female journalists have been sexually exploited in their respective media houses in order to get employed or the keep their jobs.
She called on fellow female journalists to believe in themselves and refuse to be exploited in order to secure employment or promotions.