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Female Journalists Face Online, Workplace Harassment

At a recent Global Conference for Media Freedom in London, a panel discussed some of those threats and why it's important to find solutions

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A screen at the Global Conference for Media Freedom shows tweets by female journalists about the dangers they face on the job. VOA

The number of journalists killed in 2018 because of their work nearly doubled compared to 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In all, 88 journalists and media workers died on the job, because they were targeted for their reporting or were working in hazardous environments.

Female journalists face the same dangers as their male counterparts when working on an assignment; but, women journalists face other threats that don’t affect men to nearly the same degree.

At a recent Global Conference for Media Freedom in London, a panel discussed some of those threats and why it’s important to find solutions.

Nadine Hoffman, deputy director of the International Women’s Media Foundation, said that in a survey of 600 female journalists last year, more than two-thirds said they had experienced online harassment. She said those attacks are often sexual and misogynistic in nature.

“If you’re a woman and you assert yourself in the online space, men will attack you,” Hoffman said, noting that female politicians often experience the same kind of harassment.

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FILE – Lebanese protesters carry posters of prominent anti-Syrian news anchor May Chidiac, who was seriously wounded by a car bomb, during a sit-in at Martyrs square in Beirut, Sept. 26, 2005. VOA

‘There must be laws’

May Chidiac, the Lebanese minister of state for administrative development, survived a 2005 car bombing while she worked as a television journalist. The assassination attempt was part of a series of bombings targeting journalists and politicians who were critical of Syria.

Chidiac said that online harassment is a serious threat to women. She said more must be done to protect journalists targeted by those attacks and to prosecute the perpetrators.

“Personally, I never considered myself different from a male journalist,” she said. “But when it comes to online harassment, believe me, there is a big difference between men and women.”

She said in addition to sending vulgar material and comments, critics sometimes publicly post personal details, like a woman’s address or telephone number — an attack called “doxing” — putting her personal safety at risk.

“These are things that must not go unpunished,” she said. “There must be laws to, in one way or another, protect women from such aggression and harassment.”

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Hoffman said that it’s important to not dismiss such harassment as a workplace or human resources issue. Instead, she said it must be treated as a safety issue. Wikimedia Commons

Harassment by colleagues

Hoffman noted that one-third of the 2018 survey respondents said they considered leaving their newsroom because of such harassment. She added that another threat to women comes from within newsrooms: sexual harassment by colleagues.

Hoffman said that it’s important to not dismiss such harassment as a workplace or human resources issue. Instead, she said it must be treated as a safety issue.

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Hoffman said these threats are not taken as seriously as the dangers of reporting from hazardous locations or being targeted because of coverage of an organization or issue. But she warned that if these issues are not addressed, the impact goes beyond the individuals who leave the industry out of frustration or concern for their safety.

“Sexual harassment is a safety issue,” she said. “Online harassment does have offline implications,” she added. “Without women’s voices, we cannot have truly democratic societies and a free press.” (VOA)

Next Story

Real or Fake? Female Influencers Endure Criticism, Harassment on Instagram

According to the researchers, the study calls attention to the lack of safeguards for female Instagram influencers, whose challenges are often disdained by a skeptical public

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Facebook, Messenger and Instagram apps are displayed on an iPhone, March 13, 2019, in New York. VOA

Female Instagram influencers – whose livelihoods depend on their numbers of followers, views and likes – endure criticism and harassment both for being too real and for seeming too fake, says a new study.

Research from Cornell University has found harassment on Instagram can be common, particularly among those with large following. And abuse is more prevalent – and potentially more harmful – for women and people from marginalised communities.

This leaves women on Instagram caught in what researchers have termed an “authenticity bind” – the nature of social media compels them to share details from their personal lives, but these details make them vulnerable to abuse or charges that they have “curated” or faked their online personas.

“People are compelled to be authentic and ‘real’ but in ways that are really narrowly defined,” said study co-author Brooke Erin Duffy, Associate Professor from Cornell University.

“If they’re too real, if they show too much of their inner thoughts or they express too much, they fear criticism. But if they aren’t real enough, if they’re highly curated and very performative, or idealized and aspirational, they fear blowback. So, a woman on social media, especially with a large following, essentially can’t win,” Duffy explained.

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FILE – The Instagram icon is displayed on a mobile screen in Los Angeles. VOA

Yet few controls and restrictions exist on Instagram, leaving harassment victims particularly helpless when the success of their businesses depends on social media prominence, said the researchers.

For the study, the research team interviewed 25 professional or aspiring female Instagrammers in the areas of fashion, beauty and lifestyle.

They found the women tended to censor themselves in anticipation or criticism.

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Women also said they noticed viewers were more engaged with posts confiding personal or private information about their lives, but they also said they felt reluctant to share anything “that’s not elevated and inspirational/aspirational.”

According to the researchers, the study calls attention to the lack of safeguards for female Instagram influencers, whose challenges are often disdained by a skeptical public. (IANS)