IFJ’s Global Survey Emphasises Impact of Online Abuses on Female Journalists

Jim-Boumelha, President International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Jim-Boumelha, President International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) global survey for 2018 is emphasizing the increase and impact of online abuses on female journalist.

Published ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls on November 25, the preliminary results of IFJ’s global survey on online harassment of women journalists showed that 64% of female journalists have experienced online abuse.

Among those who suffered online harassment, 47% of women said they did not report the abuse and when they did it was mainly to their media management.

The online harassment takes various forms including death or rape threats, insults, the devaluation of work, sexist comments, being sent obscene images, cyberbullying, cyberstalking and account impersonation.

Furthermore, it showed that majority of abused respondents said these attacks had had psychological effects such as anxiety or stress (63 %), while 38 % admitted to self-censorship and 8% lost their jobs.

The IFJ highlights the need for laws to be applied and adapted to online abuse. It points in particular at the lack of police reaction which must be urgently addressed by governments with concrete guidelines on expected responses.

IFJ Gender Council co-chair, Mindy Ran said: “This survey highlights one of the fastest growing forms of gender-based violence (GBV) against women journalists as digital platforms encourage ease, impunity and anonymity of aggression – the bastion of the coward and the bully – hiding in plain sight.”

She said further that the survey, and the previous one published last year also highlight the huge disconnect between experience and action, the lack of support mechanisms, laws and failure to fully implement those international treaties and labour standards that do exist.

She concluded that: “It is clear, we are failing to protect our sisters and the lack of recognition of the serious harm that online violence can cause – both psychological and in its sinister silencing impact – must be addressed at every level now”.

IFJ President Philippe Leruth said: “These results show how badly support is needed. We are particularly concerned that many female colleagues have reported a form of passivity from other colleagues when they faced online abuse. As a union it is our role to support our colleagues in this fight, make sure they are not alone and provide them with all the help and care they deserve”.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Online abuse can have a devastating effect on a female journalist’s career and on democracy. We must show abusers that online abuse is not OK and must not go unpunished. We must expose the abusers and make sure there is no impunity for these attacks”.

In recognition of the wide range of factors cementing GBV in place and the urgent need for action, this year the IFJ and its Gender Council will join their sister union federations in a 16 Days of Action. On the first day, the Survey on Online Violence provides essential data and context, followed by 15 days of short guidelines for actions so that unions and individuals can better tackle this ever-growing and pernicious pandemic of violence.