Online Violence to Women Journalists

Over the years online, violence toward women journalists has been increasing significantly and uncontrollably in many corners of the globe while producing outlets. One of the reasons is the wide use of internet and the different social platforms.

As a woman and journalist, I have an interest to read and hear about stories that involve colleagues from all around, thus, I follow on social media several journalistic centers, foundations or organizations. The more I read, I realize that online violence has become a major issue in many countries, specially covering the pandemic, social-political manifestation, or corruption of state, etc. 

But what is online violence?

According to a report, A/HRC38/47 from the United National Against Women Violence it “extends to any act of gender-based violence against women that is committed, assisted or aggravated in part or fully by the use of information and communications technology (ICT), such as mobile phones and smartphones, the Internet, social media platforms or email, against a woman because she is a woman, or affects women disproportionately” (p.7).

So how many types of online violence exists? The same report mentioned that the range of violence vary from insults, threats, to death; and it can take one of these forms.

  • Cyberbullying;
  • Trolling: trolls post comments to try to provoke controversy;
  • Doxxing: online researching and publishing of private information about a person in order to cause them harm;
  • Obsessive online stalking (cyberstalking), intrusive and threatening harassment of a person;
  • Cyber-control in relationships;
  • Revenge porn: non-consensual dissemination of intimate images, online public sharing of sexually explicit content without the consent of the person concerned, often for the purposes of revenge.

Women journalists are a target group for these types of violence mentioned above for reasons of simple doing their job. This action, as well, creates consequences for journalism, freedom of press, and freedom of expression

A report conducted in late 2020, by International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reveals that 73% of women journalist who participated in the survey had experienced online violence. In addition, the two highest online are physical threats with 25% and sexual violence with 18%. 13% of the participants mentioned that the threats went beyond themselves, since other individuals closer to them, also were attacked.

A friend and colleague of mine, Ileana Lacayo Ortiz from Bluefields, faced this doxing on social media when the social-political crisis broke out in Nicaragua in April, 2018. She also received threat and her house was burglared; so, months later, she fled the country. She was one of the many journalists who left the country for voicing out the injustice of the Nicaragua government. Ileana was not afraid to denounce the assassination of journalist, Angel Gahona in Bluefields on the 21st, of April 2018. In this video produced by Short Shelter City Utrecht, Ileana explains the repression she lived by the government.

Short Shelter City Utrecht documentary

Online violence has many impacts for journalists. As I read the different stories and reports I found that out that the most common effect is mental health mentioned by Ileana, as well. Another journalist who fled her country for protection is the Finnish journalist, Jessikka Aro.

Jessikka held a deep investigation about the pro-Russian internet trolls, but unfortunately, she was backlashed and became a victim of these same activities. In a debate organized by the International Women Media Foundation, the New York Times, and the Washington Post Jessikka said: “online violence is extreme, you can’t escape it, thus, you need to pay attention of your surrounding”.

One of Jessikka’s advice to women journalists who are living online violence is to get in touch with other colleagues or organizations. She said it’s important to know that “you are not alone”. Here is the complete panel discussion.

Press Freedom is a right, so, newsrooms, editors, colleagues and journalists’ organizations should continue to support women journalists who are being victims of online violence.

Do you know a woman journalist who had been abused online? Share it with us.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

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