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Women journalists bear brunt of sexual harassment online

The misogynistic abuse is not only meant to severely and disproportionately harm women in media, but it is also weaponised. [iStockphoto]

Over 70 per cent of women journalists worldwide have faced online harassment, a report shows.

Another 20 per cent have been attacked offline, undermining their work-life, physical safety and jeopardising their health and professional prospects.

These are statistics according to a recent report released by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Victor Bwire, Director of Strategy and Training at the Media Council of Kenya said that the council had received 45 cases of attacks on journalists between January and May this year. 

“The safety and protection of journalists is a critical issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, locally and internationally,” he said. 

Bwire was speaking at a training of journalists from 10 counties under the theme, Enhancing the capacity of community media houses to promote the safety of journalists in the workspace. About 60 journalists attended the training.

The project was supported by UNESCO's Information Programme for Development of Communication (IPDC). 

The report found that the misogynistic abuse is not only meant to severely and disproportionately harm women in media, but it is also weaponised "to undercut public trust in critical journalism and facts in general.”

“Cyber violence against women journalists is designed to belittle, humiliate, and shame; induce fear, silence, and retreat; discredit them professionally, undermining accountability, journalism, and trust in facts,” the report indicated, adding that it is also designed to freeze women out of public debate. “This amounts to an attack on democratic deliberation and media freedom, and it cannot afford to be normalised or tolerated as an inevitable aspect of online discourse.”

A huge percentage of female journalists recorded a negative professional impact from the attacks, with two per cent of the affected abandoning their journalism.