Digital Violence: Imminent Risk For Women Journalists

Digital Violence: Imminent Risk For Women Journalists

Social networks are a space in which women journalists are victims of digital violence. How to protect yourself from these types of threats?

In the world, the disappearance, murder, and violence directed toward journalists is a fact. It is a matter of concern and importance to address it from an investigative, governmental, political, and especially legal perspective, focusing on human and labor rights. Social networks are a space in which women journalists are victims of digital violence.

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According to the report conducted by The Chilling: the ICFJ and UNESCO global study, 73% of women journalists have faced online violence while carrying out their reports. Within this percentage, 18% of women have received direct threats of sexual violence and 25% have experienced physical violence. This indicates that harassment, aggression, targeting, and threats are not limited to social networks, virtual platforms, and journalism outlets. Digital violence transcends and, in the worst-case scenario, can result in rape or the loss of life for women who work as journalists.

Digital violence against journalists has become a daily occurrence worldwide, which is deeply concerning. Women, in particular, receive the most threats and insults on their personal and "private" accounts. These acts of hate not only remain confined to online attacks but also spill over into offline violence. In 2017, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that at least 40% of the journalists who were murdered that year had previously received online threats.

During that same year, journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia and Gauri Lankesh were murdered, both of whom had faced online attacks from different parts of the world. Investigations linked Lankesh's death in India to far-right politics in her country.

You can also read Harassment In Social Media: Is Regulation Necessary?

In addition to the political aspect that has historically been associated with the disappearance and death of countless journalists, as a global society, we must acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic not only brought pain, anguish, and death to our lives but also acted as a smokescreen, concealing incidents of violence, suicides, and murders. This was the case for journalists and women who, both in their professional and personal lives, experienced heightened exploitation during and after the pandemic.

In 2020, a survey conducted by ICFJ and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University as part of the Journalism and Pandemic project revealed that 16% of the women who participated in the survey stated that harassment and abuse on social media had increased since the start of the pandemic. This led some journalists to retreat from online opinion spaces when they found themselves under attack, and on some occasions, even threatened with death.

All of this underscores the need to provide support and attention to digital violence targeting women and men journalists. This phenomenon not only violates the principle and right to life but also reinforces the ideological objective of silencing voices and homogenizing thoughts, opinions, and information. Without a doubt, safeguarding press freedom and protecting the human rights of journalists and all individuals is an essential responsibility that should not be disregarded by any country or government under any circumstances.

It is crucial to be aware that there are mechanisms and tools available to report journalistic violence. The International Center for Journalists, for instance, founded by Tom Winship, Jim Ewing, and George Krimsky, operates an early warning system in collaboration with the University of Sheffield's computer system. This allows relevant news organizations and civil society to proactively prevent and address the systematic violence perpetrated against journalists worldwide.


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