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Foul play: Women reporting at World Cup confront harassment on air

France 24 | Screen grab

A FRANCE 24 journalist on Monday became at least the third woman sexually harassed during a live report from the World Cup in Russia, a phenomenon all too familiar to women reporting on sport.


On Monday in Saint-Petersburg, FRANCE 24 Sports Editor Kethevane Gorjestani had to push away a persistent interloper as he leaned into the frame over her shoulder, talking loudly over her post-match analysis of Russia v. Uruguay before kissing the journalist on the neck.

“Sadly this (and worse) happens to us female sports reporters regularly, especially when covering football,” Gorjestani tweeted after the incident. “By all means sing, dance and celebrate your team, but don’t kiss me, don’t grope me and let me do my job,” she added, appending the hashtag #Deixa ElaTrabalhar (“Let her do her job”) in reference to the campaign Brazilian women sports journalists launched in March to highlight the issue.

After Monday’s incident -- at least the third time that a woman reporting live from the 2018 World Cup has had to swat away a stranger’s advances live on air -- FRANCE 24 English chief Gallagher Fenwick praised Gorjestani’s composure. “But next time, give him a taste of that FRANCE 24 mic or just leave the liveshot position,” Fenwick counseled.

Gorjestani’s encounter with a loutish fan echoes that of Brazilian journalist Julia Guimaraes, who was similarly approached in Yekaterinberg on Sunday before Japan v. Senegal. The TV Globo sports journalist fought back, telling her harasser, “Don’t do this. I don’t allow you to do this…. This is not right. Never do this to a woman.” The offender is heard apologizing off-camera.

Guimaraes later tweeted that it was “hard to find the words” after the “shameful” incident, saying it marked the second time she had endured such treatment while reporting in Russia.

Just days earlier, during a live report from Moscow for Deutsche Welle in Spanish, a large bearded man grabbed Colombian reporter Julieth Gonzalez Theran by both arms, brushing a hand against her chest in the process, before planting a hard kiss on her cheek. The reporter continued her liveshot undaunted.

“Sexual harassment is not okay. It needs to stop. In football, and elsewhere.”, DW Sports, Gonzalez Theran’s employer, tweeted. Responding to a critic contesting the harassment claim, the channel wrote, “Sorry, no. Kissing someone against their will is sexual harassment. Groping a woman’s breast while she’s busy doing her job is sexual harassment. This behaviour is unacceptable, and it needs to be treated as such.”

The offending fan in Moscow, identified only as Ruslan, later apologized to Gonzalez Theran in a Skype conversation broadcast by the Germany-based channel.

The reporter accepted the offender’s apology and later expressed “total solidarity” with Guimaraes’s after her Brazilian counterpart’s subsequent on-air attack, tweeting her thoughts on the behaviour and a lingering tolerance for it.

“The fan’s violent act is appalling, but the reaction of many men and women who don’t recognize that as harassment is even more so,” Gonzalez Theran tweeted after the second such incident of the tournament cast a new spotlight on the phenomenon. “If, while you are doing your work conscientiously, someone throws himself at you and kisses you, it’s really not disrespectful, it’s harassment,” she wrote.

The Colombian reporter also slammed “false feminists” who “want to dictate how others should behave and dress”. She wrote, “They are the first to doubt the victims, saying they are seeking celebrity or being provocative.” She concluded with the ominous prediction that Guimaraes would “not be the last” reporter harassed by a fan, a prediction borne out on FRANCE 24 on Monday in Saint-Petersburg.

Reporting from Kaliningrad on Thursday, Gorjestani told FRANCE 24 viewers that the harassment was “not specific to Russia”. It is so common that she had come to see it as “unfortunately part of the job”.

“Seeing the reaction of my colleagues and of some of the other female reporters here [after Monday’s incident], I realize that, no, it is not part of the job, it is not normal, and I shouldn’t have to put up with that,” Gorjestani said. “We’re trying to do our jobs… Yes, come and sing with us, come and chant, show your appreciation for your team, but the message is let us do our work.”

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