The conservative country of Benin Republic rarely stirs up any scandals or controversies, until a social media post in early May by Angela Kpeidja, a journalist with Benin’s national television station ORTB, saying that “sexual harassment is still tolerated” in the Beninese media.
Female Journalists in Benin say they are subjected to widespread harassment in the country’s media industry, provoking a lively debate that has reached the notice of high ranking names, spurring action.
Kpeidja quickly went viral, as her post was widely shared and publicly acknowledged by President of Benin, Patrice Talon. President Talon took notice and stepped into the debate, even meeting with Kpeidja.
“I am convinced that many Beninese women in the course of their work may be subjected to these reprehensible practices,” President Talon wrote on his Facebook page.
“The action taken by Angela Kpeidja will trigger a new dawn to ensure that victims of sexual abuse are better protected,” he said.
The 46-year-old journalist deplored the fact that media workers abused in the workplace have become resigned to “silence with frustration”.
After she spoke out, the station’s deputy editor-in-chief was suspended from his post and a legal investigation was launched.
“I was fed up with it. I had had enough. Year after year I was harassed, but this time was too much,” Kpeidja said in an interview with AFP News Agency.
“I looked for help everywhere in my professional environment and I didn’t get any,” she said.
Media professionals across the country praised Kpeidja’s role in shedding light on the issue.
“The head of state’s words are strong words,” said Huguette Bokpe Gnacadja, a lawyer and women’s rights activist.
“The media are supposed to support us in our fight against violence against women,” she said. “If it is still happening in the national media, we are right to ask questions.”
Priscile Kpogbemabou, a former journalist with private television station Etele, posted a video on social media in which she also denounced the attitudes of media bosses towards women.
“It’s rare for women to decide to show their faces while they testify to this,” said Zakiath Latoundji, president of the Union of Benin Media Professionals. “You have to have guts.”
Latoundji, who serves as the President of the Union of Benin Media Professionals, recognises that harassment in the workplace — while not exclusive to the media industry — is a “reality” in newsrooms.
Since last March, the union says it has been working to set up a legal unit to support journalists who are victims of harassment.
The union has not yet received any formal complaints, Latoundji said, though “when you talk to women in the media, it all spills out.”