UNESCO-ICFJ report: three quarters of women journalists experience online violence


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Three quarters of women journalists said they had experienced some form of violence online, in a global survey conducted by UNESCO and the International Center of Journalists (ICFJ).

The report, The Chilling: Global Trends in Online Violence Against Women Journalists, indicates that threats of physical and sexual violence were the most common forms of abuse. Although more than half of these attacks came from anonymous users, more than a third came from political actors.

“We had 901 people in 125 countries who responded to the survey. Next, we interviewed 176 journalists, editors and experts, produced 15 in-depth country case studies, and analyzed 2.5 million social media posts to two prominent women journalists (Maria Ressa in the Philippines and Carole Cadwalladr in the UK). Uni) to produce this report, ”says Nabeelah Shabbir, report co-author and ICFJ freelance journalist.

She added that Arab women around the world are significantly more prone to physical assault, harassment and abuse related to online violence (53% vs. 20% overall).

Despite this, 95 percent of the women surveyed agreed to make their names public, which Shabbir said was both a mark of their courage and a “very encouraging sign” that this issue is starting to gain attention. requires.

Among those interviewed was Lebanese journalist Ghada Oueiss who works for Al-Jazeera television. She was the target of an intense campaign of online violence focused on her gender, religion (Christianity) and age. She was described as a prostitute and received death threats. This sustained pressure led her to take legal action against a number of officials and individuals she suspected of participating in the coordinated online attack, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Cultural, political and social context

“We must support [women journalists] to take legal action, ”said Kiran Nazish, founding director of the Coalition for Women in Journalism, a global organization supporting women journalists.

Almost half (41%) of those polled said that the online attacks they were targeting appeared to be linked to orchestrated disinformation campaigns and political extremism. Most women journalists have suffered attacks based on disinformation aimed at damaging their reputations.

… they use very vulgar words that you can never use to describe a human being.Reem Abdellatif

“In Arab countries, you cannot watch online violence without considering cultural, political and social contexts,” Shabbir explains.

Misogyny thrives in the Middle East due to ineffective public authorities and weak laws, which gives bad actors the freedom and space to commit acts of violence against women.

“It has to do with the infrastructure and the culture of this region,” Nazish acknowledges.

Another female journalist in the Middle East recounts her experience with online violence. Reem Abdellatif, an Egyptian-American journalist who worked in the Middle East for 12 years, says: “It has been impossible to report anything against governments or even dare to criticize the government. In the Middle East, if the government allows women to express themselves, it means that others will start asking for freedom.

“The attacks are always gender attacks; they use very vulgar words that you can never use to describe a human being.”

Attacks from individual accounts make the identification process faster and easier. However, anonymous accounts and cross-platform attacks raise questions about how to handle orchestrated campaigns to silence female journalists.

According to the report, 20% of female journalists said they self-censor on social media or completely withdraw from online interactions. Many have also seen their productivity take a hit or have had a job lacking to recover from the impact of online abuse. Some female journalists have even quit their jobs (4%) or the media industry (2%).

This was the case with Liliane Daoud, an Egyptian-Lebanese TV presenter, after being abused on the Clubhouse audio app, which led to anxiety and mental health issues. She has since left the platform.

I decided to give up journalism. Is it worth it?Lilian dawood

In 2015, she was also the subject of a campaign of online violence calling for her extradition from Egypt to Lebanon.

“The same tweet was repeated several times with the same wording on several platforms. I think this is an orchestrated campaign, ”she said, criticizing NGOs and Middle Eastern media for the lack of support at the time.

“I decided to give up journalism. Is it worth it ? she asks.

Many female journalists suffer from post-traumatic stress from online violence and seek medical or psychological help as a result. In the survey, mental health problems were the most cited consequence (26%) of online violence.

Other resources

In most countries, women journalists who are victims of online violence cannot trust their employer or the authorities alone. Here are some resources to help you:

Online Harassment Manual (PEN)

Measures for editorial staff and journalists to tackle online harassment (IPI)

Online Abuse Support for Freelance Journalists (IPI)

Safety of Women Journalists Online (OSCE)

JSafe App for Reporting Online Abuse Against Women Journalists

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