Escalating threats and intimidation of female journalists online must be addressed, Mijatović says; calls on OSCE participating States for swift action
VIENNA, 6 February 2015 – Swift action is needed in order to deal with the growing number of attacks on female journalists online, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović said today as she presented a set of recommendations to address the problem.
“Today’s digital environment has made journalists more exposed and vulnerable than ever before,” Mijatović said. “During the past year I have become alarmed by the growing number of reports from across the OSCE region and beyond, about female journalists and bloggers being singled out and fiercely attacked in social media”.
Research on violence and harassment of women in the news media shows that more than 25 percent happens in an online environment. Studies also show that female journalists experience approximately three times as many abusive comments as their male counterparts on Twitter. For some female journalists, online threats of rape and sexual violence have become part of everyday life; others experience severe sexual harassment and intimidation.
“The female journalists targeted mostly report on crime, politics and sensitive – and sometimes painful – issues, including taboos and dogmas in our societies. These online attacks tend to degrade the journalist as a woman”,rather than address the content of the articles, Mijatović said.
“Journalists’ safety is a precondition for free expression and free media. As the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media I view this targeted online abuse as a dangerous trend that needs to be addressed now.”
In a communiqué issued today, the Representative demanded swift action to tackle the growing problem of online threats to female journalists online. She called on the OSCE participating States to:
- Acknowledge the gravity of the problem and put it on the agenda now;
- Give priority to improving the conduct of law enforcement agencies;
- When new laws are drafted, be aware of the chilling effects that laws aimed at restricting speech may have;
- Invest in media and Internet literacy to improve people’s ability to contribute to healthy and constructive media environments;
- Encourage more data and research, and support non-governmental organizations that address the issue.
“My office will keep the issue of online threats to female journalists high on the agenda going forward,” Mijatović said. “Among other initiatives, we plan to host a series of expert meetings to further elaborate on the implications of this issue and how it can be tackled.”
The Representative’s communiqué on the growing safety threat to female journalists online is available at www.osce.org/fom/139186.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.