Online Violence Against Women Journalists and Effective Measures to Combat the Problem

Are you a woman journalist who has experienced online violence? Have you been subjected to sexualized abuse and harassment on social media, targeted in digital security attacks that breach your privacy, or even threatened with rape or murder online? Have you witnessed such online violence against a woman journalist? Or are you responsible for managing women in journalism? If you answered yes to any of these questions, we need your help - so that we can help you.

Today, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) launch a global survey to assess the scale of online violence targeting women journalists around the world, and to help identify solutions to the pernicious problem. 

Online violence - which includes threats of sexual assault and murder, harassment, abuse, privacy breaches and digital security attacks - is injuring women journalists, chilling their reporting, and in some cases forcing them out of the profession altogether. The risk of online violence spilling offline is also significant, and there is growing evidence connecting online attacks with offline violence against women journalists.

There is mounting evidence to suggest increasing levels of online violence against women journalists amid the COVID-19 pandemic and rising racial tensions globally.

Our survey - offered in five languages - is a key plank of a UNESCO-commissioned study implemented in partnership with ICFJ, which is examining this major threat to press freedom and journalism safety in 15 countries. With your help, our international consortium of researchers, led by ICFJ Global Director of Research Dr. Julie Posetti, aims to:

  • Map the scale and breadth of the problem internationally - especially in the under-studied Global South.
  • Establish how patterns of online violence against women journalists vary around the world.
  • Examine how women journalists experience online violence in an intersectional way. For example, are the impacts more serious when they are from a specific racial group, or identify as LGBTQI?
  • Assess the effectiveness of attempts to address the crisis.
  • Make recommendations to the UN, governments, industry, civil society organizations and technology companies for more effective ways to counter the problem.

In 2017, the UN General Assembly unequivocally condemned all "specific attacks on women journalists in the exercise of their work, including sexual and gender-based discrimination and violence, intimidation and harassment, online and offline.” While awareness of the problem and efforts to address it have increased since then, there remain large gaps in understanding how to combat online violence - especially in the Global South; in the context of orchestrated disinformation campaigns; and at the intersection of misogyny, racism and bigotry.

Our survey is urgently needed to ensure that women journalists are not muzzled and that they are safe to do their jobs online. The information we will gather from you will be critical to help us identify global impacts, interventions and potential solutions.

For inquiries, and access to the survey, please contact:

ICFJ: Dr. Julie Posetti (jposetti@icfj.org) or Fatima Bahja (fbahja@icfj.org)

UNESCO: Saorla McCabe (s.mccabe@unesco.org) or Theresa Chorbacher (t.chorbacher@unesco.org)

Note: If you've found this content distressing or difficult to discuss, you're not alone. There are resources available to help. Start by exploring the resources from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, and please seek psychological support if needed. Your privacy is of the utmost importance to us and we have worked with the University of Sheffield’s Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) to ensure that this research meets the highest ethical standards.

We are supported in our work by project partners the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), the Dart Center Asia Pacific, and the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT).

Program Type
Research

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Contact Info

ICFJ
Dr. Julie Posetti
Global Director of Research
jposetti@icfj.org

Fatima Bahja
Researcher and Coordinator, New Initiatives
fbahja@icfj.org

UNESCO
Saorla McCabe
s.mccabe@unesco.org

Theresa Chorbacher
t.chorbacher@unesco.org

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