GENDER INEQUALITY IN THE MEDIA

THE MEDIA MUST CHALLENGE SEXISM AND GENDER DISCRIMINATION IN ITS OWN RANKS.

At the beginning of September, the news website Kallxo published an article titled “Radio Television of Men” that investigated the recruitment process at public broadcaster Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK) for the positions of deputy director, radio director and head of Shared Services — all senior management positions.

According to the article, Ilire Zajmi, journalist and head of the Professional Training Center at RTK, culture editor Flora Durmishi at Radio Kosova and Mihrie Beiqi, manager for legal issues, faced discrimination in their workplace where they have been for more than two decades.

Although they all had the highest scores in the hiring process, none were selected when the voting reached the RTK Board, which the Kosovar Assembly installed at the end of 2021 with the promise of reforming the broadcaster. The board consisted of four women and four men, a fact that was seen as a step towards gender equality.

Despite the board’s equal gender representation, they did not elect the three women to leading positions. The roles for which they scored higher were given to their male colleagues. This was despite the fact the men received lower scores in the evaluations made by the recruitment commissions.

Almost a year later Zajmi, Durmishi and Beiqi decided to talk about their experience publicly.  The three women spoke to Kallxo, which has closely monitored the hiring process, the work of the Evaluation Committee and RTK’s board and management.

While the article tells these three women’s stories and exposes a difficult and discouraging situation, it could have served as an opportunity for reflection and criticism of workplace gender-based discrimination.

Civil society responds — but the media?

Much like in other cases of gender discrimination, civil society organizations reacted within a few hours. The Kosovo Women’s Network, in their public reaction, showed support for Zajmi, Durmishi and Beiqi and said that RTK, as the only public broadcaster, “has an emancipatory responsibility and should be an example of respect for the law and the promotion of the gender equality values in Kosovar society.” 

In response to Kallxo’s article, Edi Gusia, head of the Agency for Gender Equality, an executive agency within the Office of the Prime Minister, said: “With the Law on the Protection from Discrimination, the three candidates have the right to file a lawsuit for discrimination up to five years after the discrimination occurred, and at the moment when they realized that the discrimination happened.” Deputies from the main political parties in Kosovo also reacted.

Eight days after Kallxo published the article, the Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) reacted. “AJK considers that this is a lost chance to promote gender equality in RTK, from the part of the Board of this institution, which in its composition reflects gender equality,” their press release says.

As a media outlet that is financed by citizens’ taxes, RTK has a role to play in promoting gender equality, human rights and the democratization of society. Unfortunately, the public broadcaster has failed to pass the test of equality when it comes to these values within their own organization.  

MEDIA OUTLETS DID NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS MOMENT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO THE ISSUE OF WOMEN’S UNEMPLOYMENT.

Other media outlets have also failed to pass the test. They mainly published the reactions from civil society, politicians, AJK and some individuals involved in the media. But more work is required to achieve accountability and transparency.

Media outlets did not take advantage of this moment and use their media coverage to draw attention to the issue of women’s unemployment. With all these TV debate shows, some of them could have covered women’s employment and the challenges they face on a daily basis in the labor market. They could have invited experts, lawyers, activists to explain why the statistics of the Kosovo Agency of Statistics constantly report low numbers of women in the workforce.

Above all, they had the opportunity to ask the government where they stand on gender justice. They had the chance to remind Kosovo’s institutions, the public and the directors of public and private enterprises that they should adhere to the Law on Gender Equalitythe Labor Law and the Law on the Protection from Discrimination.

There is no right answer as to why the media reacted so mildly to this situation. One of the reasons may be that it did not seem as important to them as political events. Another reason could be that media workers decided that this story should not be further publicized. But what if something similar happened in their workplace?

Perhaps the discussion should begin here, with the premise that gender discrimination is fundamentally a political issue and one of utmost importance. 

Regardless of the reason for this lack of a reaction, one thing it did was make an already uninviting environment for women even more exclusionary. The sector continues to serve the patriarchy, which is also firmly rooted in many other industries and sectors. On a post related to the article someone commented “the whores work at RTK.” This is evidence of a sexist environment and arguably a result of the media’s failure to problematize sexism and discrimination against women.

Perhaps some expect women to “change their gender” to be treated equally, as one social media user wrote in the comment section of one of the few media outlets that covered the case.

Society has always held certain expectations for women, the time has come for gender equality to become an expectation of society. Cases like this can serve as moments to question exclusionary practices and to insist that the media be a supporter in the effort for equality.

Author: Violeta Oroshi Berishaj

Feature Image: Majlinda Hoxha / K2.0.

This article was originally produced for and published by Kosovo 2.0. It has been re-published here with permission.