Written by Drake Hills
“Spend the night with me or there will be no interview,” Darya Komorova recollected from her 2012 run-in with Russian film director, Stanislav Govorukhin.
The ProGorod journalist emerged when she came forth and told her story via Facebook in March, confessing her sexual harassment experience as a reporter in the Chuvashia province of Russia, which is estimated to be 400 mi or 670 km east of Moscow.
Komorova began the post honoring her broadcast colleagues who publically confessed just days prior.
“Today I promised confessions. And I carry out promises 🙂
In this post I would like to intercede for the colleagues of the TV channel “Rain”, who did not hesitate to tell the truth about the harassment of some male individuals from the State Duma. Girls, I’m with you and therefore I tell and write about this.”
The Russian went on to elaborate on what occurred during and post-interview, describing the event as ‘the most disastrous interview’. Darya’s Facebook post resulted in an uproar of slanderous comments. Some called the journalist, “fake.”
One comment read:
“Let’s return to this conversation in a few years, when your daughter or granddaughter is raped by “expensive” connoisseurs of correct spelling.”
Since her confession, more details have risen to the surface, some as recent as May 3 during an interview with Radio Free Europe- Radio Liberty. Komorova added that the famous film icon ‘didn’t even remember my name’ after she phoned Govorukhin for a follow up interview.
The story reached the global level just as World Press Freedom Day in Ghana concluded at the Kempinski Hotel in its capital of Accra.
Not missing a beat, female journalists from around the world spoke on various panels about not only the women who have come forth already, but their own wounds ⸻ fresh and old.
Journalists like Komorva felt handicapped by the misogyny that has and continues to take place, severing their chances to conduct and complete interviews, let alone produce stories.
World Press Freedom Day was hosted by the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization. WPFD 2018 welcomed: Rana Ayyub, Journalist and Writer; Louise Carol Serwaa Donkor, Director of the Aya Institute for Women, Politics and Media; Gwen Lister, Journalist and press freedom activist; Stella Paul, multimedia journalist; Lamia Radi, a war correspondent.
The panel titled, ‘Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment in the Media Industry’, organized by the International Women’s Media Foundation or IWMF, centered their discussion on identifying, analyzing and reforming the sexual harassment-induced climate.
“I believe a key component is how we [journalists] report sexual harassment cases and gender imbalances in the media,” Louise Donkor said. “How we report that is going to tell the readers, viewers or listeners how to imagine or think about gender imbalances that we see.”
Donkor is a long standing media scholar not just in Ghana but in the United Kingdom. Donkor defended her thesis in 2015 at the University of Liverpool regarding Ghanaian gender politics in news discourse.
“The people who actually engage in these inappropriate behaviors are sometimes left out of the reported and we focus on questioning the victim and their integrity,” Donkor said. “I think that how we cover and represent these issues would inform how the silence-breaking and people giving testimonies handle themselves.”
With Aya Institute’s leader providing proper analysis, other participants in the panel followed with personal anecdotes, reminding the audience that the issue was not solely in the past.
Rana Ayyub followed Donkor’s statement by first asserting her experience with sexual harassment was not just of her past but her present as well.
Ayyub began with announcing that she tweeted for the first time in months on the eve of WPFD 2018 due to a hack of her account. The hack ranged from slanderous messages about Indians to hyper sexualized photos with Ayyub photo-shopped in them.
She went on to say that she received many death threats online.
“Right now, I am sitting here but I am worried for my folks back home,” Ayyub said. “Everybody in India wants to know how I’m still alive. I don’t know how I’m still alive.”
Rana is a highly regarded investigative journalist from India who rose to national popularity in after her coverage of the 2002 Gujarat riots. At the time, Ayyub was a sting journalist for Tehelka, a Delhi-based magazine. The prominent journalist resigned in 2013 amid sexual harassment allegations against Tehelka editor-in-chief, Tarun Tejpal.
“In the last three years, I have changed nearly 40 SIM cards, numbers and changed identities. Regardless, I have one identity that I’m proud of,” Ayyub said. “I’m a journalist. I’m a woman⸻ a Muslim woman.”
The Mumbai native underwent sting operations in the early 2010s, disguised as Hindu girl named Maithili Tyagi and an American film student respectively, for a total of eighteen months.
Many thought Ayyub’s findings were false and had no shame in telling how they felt. Some did more than speak.
“It’s only getting worse,” Rana said. “They produced and uploaded and pornographic picture with my face on it and its circulating throughout the world.”
Ayyub went on to say that this incident occurred just ten days prior World Press Freedom Day. Yet, she stood tall and called for solidarity of all journalists for protection and safety of the media.
“How about saving journalists now, when they’re alive,” Rana said. “Why do you wait for a journalist to be killed to be honored?”