On World Press Freedom Day, UNESCO, in partnership with the International Center for Journalists, published the results of a survey on Internet violence against female journalists and effective measures to combat it. The study shows that 3 out of 4 female journalists exhibit some form of “virtual violence.”
In an article published by the newspaper “The Washington Post” ( Washingtonpost ) US, see Alkatebtan Maria Risa and Julie Bosetti that violence against journalists on the Internet global scourge overlap where hatred of women with racism and religious and political intolerance and other forms of discrimination, and may reach those practices to the threat of sexual and murder violence It includes the families of women journalists, including children. Read also The year of women’s losses … How did Corona lose the gains of past decades?A Moroccan program for sponsors of women victims of violence .. Does it contribute to curbing the phenomenon?In light of Corona, another rampant epidemic … domestic violence against women, and governments must prioritize their safety Google celebrates International Women’s Day under the slogan “Choose a challenge”
Threats and lawsuits
The two writers review, from their journalistic experiences, in the Philippines and England, some of the hate and violence faced by female journalists online.
Maria Resa, a Filipina journalist based in the capital, Manila, says she has lived since 2016 against threats of rape and murder.
Risa asserts that she is constantly exposed to abusive, racist and defamatory comments, and is accused of promoting false news, and the matter does not depend on harming her dignity and questioning her credibility, but rather to real dangers she faces in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, according to press freedom indicators.
Risa adds that these attacks and abusive online comments paved the way for her prosecution and conviction last June for “electronic defamation.”
10 arrest warrants were issued against Risa in less than two years, and she was detained twice in a period of 6 weeks. She is currently facing 9 separate cases. If she is convicted of all charges, she may spend the rest of her life in prison.
In light of the challenges she is experiencing, a few days ago, Risa won the 2021 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize.
Systematic campaigns of violence
The new UNESCO report on online violence against women journalists includes an analysis of nearly 2.5 million publications on social media, a survey of 900 female journalists in 125 countries, and more than 170 interviews.
More than 40% of the women journalists surveyed confirmed that they had been exposed to organized online targeting campaigns, just like what happened to Risa.
According to the poll, one in 5 female journalists have been subjected to real-world attacks and abuse related to previous threats on the Internet, and more than a quarter of female journalists have suffered serious health and psychological effects.
The study also concluded that Arab and black female journalists and other journalists of color and indigenous people who are at risk of religious and sectarian intolerance have suffered more than others from disproportionate violence via the Internet.
The two authors believe that ignoring these practices through bans, reporting, deletions and other options offered by social media sites and advised by them in light of the inability to address the problem radically, is not the best solution in order to stop violence against women journalists.
According to their opinion, monitoring and restricting the work of female journalists, and punishing them when they openly talk about their attacks on the Internet and defame their assailants, is like blaming the victims of sexual and domestic violence, rather than punishing the perpetrators.
The two writers assert that the current situation will not change if those responsible for technology companies, politicians who incite hatred and violence, and owners of media institutions remain unaccountable in cases of virtual violence.
Since 2016, Risa has demanded that Facebook be held accountable due to the negative impact of its algorithms on democracy in the Philippines and the world, but things have gotten worse after 5 years, according to the authors.
The time has come – according to the authors – to enact new laws that balance the right to freedom of expression, especially for female journalists who are constantly exposed to danger and threats due to their work, and between accountability and transparency measures to ensure that the protection measures provided by international law are applied to journalists while they carry out their work online, as well as outside. Digital space.
This may primarily mean asking social media platforms to delete or restrict content that incites violence and attacks on journalists, and arresting users responsible for such attacks.
But the unfortunate thing – according to the authors – is that “technology companies that hide behind freedom of expression still refuse to take more stringent measures to protect women journalists, which contributes to undermining press freedom and democracy around the world.”