Women journalists in Kabul, June 2019. Credit: UN Aid Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) / Fardin WaeziUNITED NATIONS, May 2 (IPS) – In today’s world of journalism, women reporters face a twofold threat: they are increasingly becoming both journalists and journalists as journalists addressed as women – especially in repressive regimes and misogynist societies.
As the United Nations intensifies its campaign for women’s rights worldwide – even if it commemorates World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd every year – one of the questions activists are still asking is: Is press freedom incompatible with gender empowerment ?
Marianna Belalba Barreto, head of the Civic Space Cluster at CIVICUS, the global alliance of civil society based in Johannesburg, told IPS that the CIVICUS monitor has documented many cases of female journalists who have been exposed to online harassment and their gender-specific nature.
In its annual report: People Power Under Attack (PPUA) 2020, CIVICUS documented the use of intimidation as a tactic to deter journalists and human rights defenders.
In particular, several cases of intimidation of women journalists have been documented in the Balkans region, with threats often being gender-specific.
In North Macedonia, a journalist received messages of abuse and hate speech on Facebook and Twitter. She received dozens of messages threatening her with rape and death in response to her work.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a journalist was threatened with reporting on an environmental law story.
In Bulgaria, a journalist whose story portrayed a far-right group in a negative light was forced to flee the country with her family after allegedly receiving threats against her and the family from strangers and her personal information leaked online.
The United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) in Paris and the Washington-based International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) conducted a global survey last year to determine the extent and impact of online violence against women journalists evaluate and find solutions to this harmful problem. ”
According to the ICFJ, it is the most comprehensive and geographically diverse survey ever conducted on the subject. It was offered in five languages and received responses from 714 journalists from 113 countries.
Key findings include: Almost three in four respondents (73%) said they had experienced online violence; The journalists surveyed were plagued by threats of physical (25%) and sexual violence (18%); and one in five female respondents (20%) said they had been attacked or abused offline in online incidents.
Credit: UNESCO and the International Center for Journalists Lucy Westcott, James W. Foley, Research Associate on the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), told IPS journalists around the world that they are exposed to a number of security risks while reporting and they run the risk of their voices being silenced for being both journalists and women in public life.
CPJ has spoken to female journalists around the world – including many countries highlighted in the UNESCO-ICFJ report, such as Brazil, South Africa, the UK and the US – detailing how to deal with security threats in reporting and online harassment have misogynist attacks and threats of sexual violence and death.
She said female journalists are at risk of physical attack even while reporting on location, especially when reporting alone. Freelance journalists are at particular risk because they lack the support and support of a traditional newsroom.
“Online harassment remains one of the greatest risks to the safety of journalists around the world, and online threats can and will be carried over into real life. The effects of online harassment are widespread and can also lead to trauma and mental health problems, said Westcott, a former Newsweek employee and UN correspondent for Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency.
She added: “The safety of journalists is a freedom of press issue and women journalists should be able to do their jobs and report the news without fear for their safety or livelihood. Editors need to be aware of the risks their journalists face and help them take steps to mitigate those risks. ”
Photo credit: ICFJTara Carey, Head of Media at Equality Now told IPS journalists around the world their experiences of online violence and harassment, and studies report a worrying increase in misogynist digital abuse against women journalists.
“Online trolling and psychological abuse manifests itself in a number of ways and is carried out to intimidate, stigmatize and silence women. This can range from sexual harassment and threats of sexual and physical violence, including murder, to data breaches such as hacking and non-violence are sufficient: amicable dissemination of intimate images and “doxing” in which personal information and contact details are shared with the public.
“Trolling is sometimes part of an orchestrated campaign involving multiple attackers, and abuse is often worse when it intersects with other forms of discrimination, such as those related to race, nationality, religion, caste, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, “she said.
Online violence and harassment can take a heavy toll, making sufferers feel stressed, scared, depressed, and in some cases, at greater risk.
What is worrying is that digital abuse is closely linked to offline violence. Many female journalists acknowledge that they have experienced threats, abuse or assault in face-to-face meetings while at work, Carey said.
“This onslaught of women in the media is limiting and undermining our ability to freely engage in public debate, report on contentious issues, or challenge discrimination. Some women are being pressured to censor their statements, isolate themselves from online public Withdrawing conversations and reporting to the front lines or even giving up journalism altogether.
“Online abuse of women journalists is an attack on freedom of expression and expression. Reducing the representation of women in reporting undermines gender diversity in public discourse and risks increasing gender coverage of issues affecting women and girls marginalize, “stated Carey.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day last March, UNESCO launched a campaign to highlight the specific risks that women journalists face online.
Guy Berger, Director of Policy and Strategy, Communication and Information at UNESCO, says: “This violence affects women’s right to speak and society’s right to know.”
“To address this growing trend,” he adds, “we need to find collective solutions to protect women journalists from online violence.” This includes strong responses from social media platforms, national authorities and media organizations.
According to Belalba Baretto, CIVICUS continues to document cases in different regions of the world, as the following examples show:
Three journalists in Lebanon, Dima Sadek, Luna Safwan and Mahassen Moursel, were subjected to an intense hate campaign: https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/11/03/year-october-revolution-human- rights-violations- continued-amid-a lack of accountability /
Geri Scott, the Westminster correspondent for the Yorkshire Post, was harassed online after appearing on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show television program. Following her appearance on the show, Scott was targeted by an “online trolling campaign” when she received 52 Instagram follow requests and “abusive messages and even rape threats”: https://monitor.civicus.org/updates / 2020/12/15 / peaceful-gathering-under-threat-raid-environment-and-blm-demonstrators
In Brazil, CIVICUS has documented several cases (https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/03/28/journalists-under-assault-brazil-judicial-harassment-smear-campaigns-and-vilification/). A report on violence against women journalists in Brazil, published by the Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (ABRAJI), identified 20 attacks against Brazilian women journalists between January 2019 and February 2020, including misogynist and sexist crimes, smear campaigns and personal information disclosure. Of the 17 cases recorded in 2019, 13 were carried out by members of the federal and state congresses, ministers and President Bolsonaro himself. 84% of the journalists surveyed in the study stated that they had been exposed to gender-based violence at work.
The Prensa Comunitaria news agency and its journalists were smeared on conservative and social media to cover the March 8, 2020 March in Guatemala City for International Women’s Day: https://monitor.civicus.org/updates / 2020/05/12 / Journalists-Denouncing-Guatemala-Government-Hostility-to-Press /
Carey of Equality Now said, “Dealing with online abuse must not fall on the shoulders of those affected. Media houses must develop and implement gender-specific policies and training that include anti-harassment measures. Women journalists should be comfortable raising concerns about abuse and newsrooms should take responsibility for making them feel safe and supported.
“Laws need to be updated and implemented to address this issue. Criminal justice systems should support and remedy victims and punish perpetrators. Doing justice and being seen as done is important to both individuals and because consequences can act as a deterrent for others.
“There must also be greater awareness and understanding of law enforcement agencies and social media companies, along with the adoption of zero-tolerance policies where the duty bearers act quickly and appropriately against the perpetrators.”
* Thalif Deen, Senior Editor at the UN Bureau of Interpress Services (IPS) News Agency, is the author of a newly published book on the United Nations entitled “Don’t Comment or Quote Me” which is available on Amazon. The link to Amazon via the author’s website is: https://www.rodericgrigson.com/no-comment-by-thalif-deen/
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