95% women journalists say online violence has an impact on professional choices, 77% self censor, study finds

A report
launched by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) shows that all female
journalists within the country face some type of online violence titled
‘Hostile Bytes – a study of online violence against women journalists’. The
report shows that 95 percent of women journalists feel online violence has an
impact on their professional choices, while 77 percent self-censor as a way to
counter online violence.

The report is being launched a day before the international day to end impunity against journalists. While most of the conversation focuses on the violence that journalists face in physical spaces, virtual spaces can also be vicious, especially for women journalists without any real repercussion for those who threaten and make these spaces toxic.

The abuse
female journalists face in online spaces is often not taken seriously, but has
real repercussions for them. The results showed that 105 out of 110 women
believe online violence impacts the mental health of female journalists.

There was also reluctance to report to law enforcement agencies, showing that there is a need to improve the way these agencies handle online violence

“The sexualised
and personal nature of abuse directed towards them not only affects them on a
personal level, but also affects journalism in general that is heavily occupied
by men leaving no room for women’s voices. In times when their voices should be
amplified, hate campaigns against women journalists is a very well-thought out
strategy to ensure systemic oppression of women in professional spaces,” says
Hija Kamran, programs manager at MMfD and the author of the study.

The research
also shows that 3 out of 10 women journalists are victims of serious online
crime such blackmail and incitement to violence against them. The participants were
not satisfied with the response they got from social media platforms and law
enforcement agencies when they reported online violence. There was also
reluctance to report to law enforcement agencies, showing that there is a need
to improve the way these agencies handle online violence.

Online spaces are increasingly becoming important for journalists to not only promote their work but also reach wider audiences. The survey conducted for the research was filled by 110 women journalists, from different parts of the country, in addition to in-depth interviews with prominent journalists like Gharidah Farooqi, Amber Rahim Shamshi and Tanzeela Mazhar. All women agreed that social media and digital spaces are an important online component that impact their professional choices.

The journalists
also spoke of the importance of having networks of women journalists which
could become a vital support system that would help them deal with online
violence. In the in-depth interviews the women journalists said that in
instances where they had been specifically targeted online, speaking to
colleagues who had faced the same, helped them deal with the online violence
they were facing.

The complete report can be accessed here.

View the story on the website here: www.digitalrightsmonitor.pk


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