UK news group apologises to staff for sexual harassment: report

UK publisher Guardian News & Media apologised to women who said they had been sexually harassed by a columnist – Copyright AFP ANDREW COWIE

UK publisher Guardian News & Media has apologised to women who said a veteran ex-columnist at The Observer newspaper had sexually assaulted or harassed them, US media reported.

GNM chief executive Anna Bateson and Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner have written to several women who accused Nick Cohen of groping them or making unwanted sexual advances, the New York Times reported on Monday.

“We want to apologise for your experience of sexual harassment by an Observer member of staff, and for the way your complaint was handled,” read an email quoted by the US paper.

The media group confirmed to AFP that Bateson and Viner had apologised to the women, and had also pledged to improve procedures regarding sexual misconduct allegations.

Cohen resigned from the group in November 2022, it added.

“We… can confirm our editor-in-chief and CEO have written to all those who have spoken out publicly on this matter or been in touch with GNM,” a spokesman said.

The company has hired Howlett Brown, a consultancy specialising in workplace culture and independent investigations, who found systems and policies to be “strong” but outlined two key changes to implement.

All future sexual harassment allegations will be investigated by independent and external third parties, instead of senior managers.

And related disciplinary hearings will only be heard by independent and external third parties.

Journalist Lucy Siegle tweeted that she had received the GNM apology and was “hugely relieved”.

The New York Times reported that Siegle said Cohen had grabbed her bottom many years earlier when she had a junior role — and accused the UK group of failing to act.

Writer Jean Hannah Edelstein tweeted she was “glad” to receive an apology over her treatment and that GNM realised that “harassment requires external investigation”.

Cohen told the media industry publication Press Gazette that he resigned from the Observer on health grounds.

“I am afraid to say that in the early 2000s, I was an alcoholic. After three years of trying, I went clean in 2016,” he was quoted as saying.

“Today, I look back on my addicted life with deep shame and enormous regret.”

Several prominent British organisations are facing a series of sexual assault and harassment allegations.

The Guardian itself has been at the forefront of media revelations over such claims at Britain’s main UK business lobby group the CBI.

Meanwhile, high-profile hedge fund boss Crispin Odey on Saturday quit the firm he founded after the Financial Times reported sexual assault claims by eight women.

UK news group apologises to staff for sexual harassment: report

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