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MUN students weigh in on sexual harassment toward reporters

By Chloe Goodyear

Special to The Telegram

NTV reporter Heather Gillis recently lost her fight against Justin Penton, who admitted to yelling a slur — usually abbreviated in media reports as FHRITP — at her while she was on the job last year. A provincial court judge acquitted Penton last week, ruling the incident did not meet the criteria for a charge of disturbing the peace.

On Monday, The Telegram went to Memorial University’s St. John’s campus to see what students thought about the matter.

MUN students gave their opinions about the incident and the topic of sexual harassment vs. freedom of speech. Here’s what some of them had to say.

Renata Lang, Conception Bay South:

“Law is a matter of power and not necessarily justice. Perhaps we’re going to have re-create some of these regulations and laws to be able to protect the people that need to be protected and the people who aren’t being protected. Maybe it’s because the people who see this as a joke aren’t being impacted. If we’re not zoning in on that and we’re saying that that’s permissible, then journalism is not going to be a safe and respectable environment for women to work in.”

Sofia Descalzi, St. John’s:

“I think that just reflects the lack of thought of what consent means and how consent should be a part of our daily lives. Things like inappropriate slurs during the workday would not be a thing in consent culture. Consent should be something that will touch everyone. With consent, things like reporters being harassed on the job should be punishable by the law or just not happen at all. We should pay attention to that.”

Colleen Roach, Riverview, N.B.:

“There should be stricter and more serious talk around things like that. It is obscene and should be considered workplace harassment. It shouldn’t be considered free speech when someone is on the job like that, receiving comments that are unwarranted. That goes for anyone, not just reporters, who are trying to live their lives. People should not be saying these things.”

Hanaa Mekawy, Holyrood:

“Freedom of speech doesn’t exempt you from the consequences of your wrongdoings. Just because he has the right to say it, doesn’t mean he should. It starts off as a little joke and then it’s not. It’s a huge thing that’s affecting us as a society. It’s not a joke anymore.”

Derek Semerad, St. John’s:

“The ‘FHRITP’ slur, originally, was something that had consent on all sides and was a joke. In this case, it’s one guy making a joke without the consent of anyone else involved and it’s a grody joke that makes others uncomfortable. It’s better for people to be comfortable and make sure people are allowed to do their job comfortably. Some people think freedom of speech means they can say whatever they want and not be held accountable, which is just not good.”

Jevon Marsh, Bonavista:

“The fact that some people think that is a socially acceptable thing to do, to make a comment like that, is ridiculous. It’s not acceptable. Comments like that, you don’t have any idea of the magnitude of the impact that could have on somebody. Her feelings on the matter are a huge f

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