Female journalists: Workers without trading hours

By: Arijana Saračević Helać

Sarajevo, 09.01.2020. – A month has passed by and I can still hear the voices from the Sarajevo performance and female journalists’ exhibition echoing in my ears. These voices witnessed all horrors that professional female journalists had been facing. They had to endure horrors from their bosses, political party representatives, real, actual and anonymous owners of social media profiles, all the way to real and plain criminals and mafia too. We have been “hopeless, stupid, we have had menstruation and hormonal disorders, we have been tagged as whores, ugly housewives”, Etc. All of us “were” (at least once) women described as ones above, that is, us, female journalists. In fact, most of us have been devoted to our professional occupation, knowledge, love and the truth. On one hand, we are just one of many entities in our society without rights; while on the other hand we clean, wash, cook and most of the time we do this while others sleep. We are literally exhausted, but at the same time ready to work again.

Offences and insults by Dodik and Bakir

I have been working as female TV journalist for over 30 years. My whole professional period I have been working with the same enthusiasm; same motifs and goals required for my stories. I have never taken a single sick leave day off and I am not sure whether that should be considered positive and affirmative. I did not take seriously all my bronchitis and fevers (high body temperatures) seriously thinking that my stories would as a result vanish or fade away. I have had my ups and downs, still I would clean my knees, stand up again and simply carry on. Female journalists are easily recognized, people simply like them or don’t like them; at least they have heard about them and very few people realize that our motifs reflect public interests, including law – based and law – obeying society and state where laws apply equally to everyone.

I recall a dialogue that had taken place during the war, when a respectable member of parliament asked ever lusty and ardor Raska Denjalic (female journalist), why she would always decide to go on the field work at the same time as her husband? They had a five years old daughter and it would have been unfair should she had lost both her parents at the same time. This picture later actually “moved” to my home and I believe, moved to homes of many of my female colleagues. We have been female workers without regular trading hours; women that have courage, not applying any common sense, with tendency to leave their babies home alone; to leave their ill mothers and at the same time, to focus completely and utterly on our work.

In patriarchal society, such as our own, female journalists were “low –ranked” in comparison with their male colleagues. Our society was unable to comprehend that professional journalism is neither trade nor occupation that is for sale. This is what the majority thinks, and it is our task to prove them wrong by working hard and by being utterly devoted to our professional occupation. I am a mother of two grown boys and both of them were growing alongside horrors I had to go through and experienced personally. Most of the time I had to go to work in late night hours and I would always return to kiss them both while they were sleeping.

I also spent most of the time on wheels (car), including weekends where I had to work and have montage for my stories and reports completed before broadcasting. I used to be followed, frightened, scared, verbally massacred and neither of these reflected to my stores as, as far as I have been concerned, they mattered only. Along with journalism, this also has been my personal choice.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to count the number of direct assaults by the governing official authorities or religious organizations directed against me while I was performing my duties. Countless insults and offences imposed by Milorad Dodik who had, during the press conference, in front of my colleagues and entire public audience replied to me with the following words: „I don’t give a fuck”! I do want to emphasize this, since this was the very first insult and offence directed to a female journalist with no one reacting and responding to it.

No long after this case, I received similar replies by the same politician. I had similar experience during the SDA and HDZ sessions. For instance, Bakir Izetbegovic said in public that “I should be cooking and ironing during late hours, instead of “following” and investigating their work”. Also, I even experienced a physical assault by certain member of Brcko District parliament, namely Mr. Sakovic, who was beating me and my cameraman in front of local official authorities and highly ranked OHR representatives, including Mr. Gregorian as well.

Violence against us often emerged in forms of devaluing, degrading, humiliating, sexually – based insults and offence and sick disturbing, interrupting, harassing and even direct death threats and these mostly occur on social media sources and often from real profiles whose owners are apparently “high morale family orientated men” or merely political party plumes or aigrettes, often including woman as well.

After being invited as a guest during the “Interview 20”, hosted by Sanela Prasovic, we both begun “targets” insulted and offended by Dzenan Selimbegovic, highly ranked state presidency official and former counselor of Bakir Izetbegovic, Bosniak member of the Presidency. It was a horrible, weekly – lasting crime conducted against us with the message of the people with the same opinion claiming that “we should have been impaled”, just because we told the truth that during 2 May 1992, the integrity of BiH was saved in RTVBiH studio, instead of being saved in Presidency of BiH building or some military bases. Selimbegovic’s excess was a genuine case of current political elite ruling in our country which clearly displayed irresponsibility, arrogance, haughtiness, primitivism, ignorance, lack of knowledge, non-professionalism and puppets.

Always with firm and personal attitude and dignity

I have managed to hide most assaults on me from the public eyes and even from my own family simply because I did not want to disturb their normal lives and I often failed to succeed in this, including the last case that got the entire community involved. I reckon that we should talk about these things and must encourage our female journalists’ colleagues, in order not to have these anomalies accepted as common and usual occurrences in our society.

During the “We are FEMALE journalists” exhibition, held at the Collegium Artisticum premises, 20 of us gave support and couraged ourselves to speak openly about who we were and what we had been experiencing in the past. Unfortunately, 35 of them changed their minds because they feared that they might lose their jobs and get sacked. I believe today they are less frightened.

My investigative stories often presented me with problems and caused the damage to my personal property, including the threats directed to my family and my sons too to that extent that even the kidnapping of my boys was at certain point of time planned. My dignity was violated countless times with the purpose of creating degradation and humiliation of my status in our society. What I considered important was the fact that I never had any doubts whether I should have continued with my work in different way, even when they threatened to kill me and when they threatened to kidnap my kids, ruin my career, humiliate my friends Etc.

We, as professional journalists do not do business with criminals, mafia and politicians; we work on our own and have our own stands, views and attitudes and we do this in our editing offices, in front of our superiors, bosses and all the way to entire society we live in. This is the only way to encourage female journalists and women from other fields and branches that have been mobbed, sacked from work; women that earn less than their male colleagues. After all, this is our mission.

(The author is a longtime journalist and editor at Federalna televizija (FTV); this article was published in E-journalist bulletin no.70/71)

BHN, Sarajevo, 09/01/2020