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'I will rape you': female journalists face 'relentless' abuse

by Sonia Elks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 13 September 2018 19:55 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Andalusia's regional government president Susana Diaz speaks with journalists after her investiture in the Andalusian capital of Seville, southern Spain, June 11, 2015. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo

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More than half of women in media have suffered work-related abuse, threats or physical attacks in the past year

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, Sept 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Female journalists are facing a "relentless" barrage of attacks and harassment, with nearly a third considering leaving the profession as a result, media support organisations have warned.

More than half of women in media have suffered work-related abuse, threats or physical attacks in the past year, found a survey by the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and TrollBusters, which supports reporters being harassed.

"Female journalists are dealing with harassment on a daily basis," said Elisa Lees Munoz, executive director of the US-based IWMF, which promotes women journalists.

"It is almost generally accepted as part of their everyday work environment."

The majority of women said their gender was a key reason they had been targeted, in a survey of nearly 600 female journalists in the United States and around the world.

More than half reported they had been threatened or abused in a face-to-face encounter in the course of their work, with over a quarter saying they had been physically attacked.

Nearly two-thirds said they had suffered online harassment or threats, with more than one in ten reporting it happened often or daily.

"We believe this is a concerted effort to discredit women's voices in the media and to intimidate them into leaving the profession," TrollBusters founder Michelle Ferrier, a former journalist, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

She added that women's "tenuous position" in male-dominated newsrooms meant they were often wary of complaining due to a fear they might suffer professionally as a result.

Online harassment was particularly concerning, said the report's authors, with female journalists now facing an endless stream of abuse in real time, which in some cases was deliberately co-ordinated by hate groups.

One former female journalist in the United States quoted in the report said she left her job after receiving a stream of online abuse, including a message with a racial slur saying "I will rape you and throw you in the gutter".

Female journalists also said they felt abuse was increasing, with nine in ten saying they had seen a rise in both physical and online threats over the past five years.

Most said they feared for their safety, with more than a third saying they avoided covering certain stories as a result and a similar percentage saying they were considering leaving the profession altogether.

"Such on and offline attacks against women journalists are an attempt to silence women working in the media and deter others from doing their jobs," said Michelle Stanistreet, head of Britain's National Union of Journalists.

"Inaction risks further undermining press freedom and much-needed diversity in journalism."

(Reporting by Sonia Elks; Editing by Katy Migiro; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, resilience and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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