Women Journalists Facing Growing Online Attacks: UNESCO | News on press freedom

Almost three quarters of the women journalists interviewed have been victims of online abuse and a quarter have been victims of physical threats.

Online violence against women journalists has increased “significantly” as a large majority have experienced harassment, threats and abuse in the line of duty, according to the latest UNESCO findings.

In a report released on Friday, the United Nations agency interviewed more than 900 female journalists from 125 countries and found that nearly three-quarters of them had been abused online.

The study also analyzed 2.5 million social media posts aimed at two prominent women journalists; Maria Ressa from the Philippines and Carole Cadwalladr from the UK.

“Online attacks against women journalists appear to be increasing significantly, as this study shows, especially in the context of the ‘shadow pandemic’ of violence against women during COVID-19,” the report said. report (PDF).

A quarter of those questioned said they had been physically threatened. The report also found that there is growing evidence that online violence against women journalists is correlated with increased violence offline.

“This includes physical attacks and offline abuse and harassment that are sown online, as well as legal harassment activated and reinforced by online violence,” he said.

“Unfortunately, what we are seeing here is that this is a global phenomenon,” Guilherme Canela, head of UNESCO for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, told Al Jazeera.

“Some journalists have reported threats because they were covering elections or conflicts, or because they were covering stories related to women’s rights, or because they were reporting issues that are wrongly identified as’ coverage. masculine, ”like sports,” Canela said.

The report found that black, indigenous, Jewish and Arab women journalists experience the highest rates of online violence and the most severe effects that result from it.

Al Jazeera correspondent Hiba Morgan, who has covered conflicts across Africa, said she regularly faces threats and abuse online as a result of her reporting and intimidation can have an impact. on self-esteem.

“They seem to be aimed at getting you dirty and shaking your confidence and that affects the way you interview people, the way you listen to their stories and the way you describe them,” Morgan said.

“I see an increase in threats of sexual violence or comments from misogynists, sometimes it even reaches the level of racial comments where they say that because I am African, I don’t know how to relate a specific story,” he said. she declared.

“And when you come home and tend to think about these stories, you wonder if you could have done better,” Morgan added.

The growing level of online violence is also linked to the rise of viral disinformation, according to the report, with dire consequences for journalists’ mental health and freedom of expression.

Almost a third of the women surveyed said their mental health had been affected as a result of threats, and some reported suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. A third of female reporters also said they decided to censor themselves after the attacks.

“These attacks have a dual impact: on individual freedom of expression, but also on the collective freedom of expression of all readers and listeners,” Canela said.

“The consequences for the public sphere can therefore be very damaging,” he added.

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