Media research by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has showed that 73 percent of women journalists globally have experienced online abuse.
Presenting and analysing the results Wednesday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, during trainer-of-trainers training in gender equity and media safety, Kristin Orgeret, who is a professor at Oslo Metropolitan University in Norway, said virtual threats and violence against women have over time become so real that two out of five female media personalities have made themselves less visible online.
One out of four women journalists have experienced mental health impacts due to bullying on the internet while one percent have at least missed work, she said.
“Internet use has changed over time among female media practitioners due to the various bad experiences emanating from the violence they suffer in connection to their work. In that regard, we are talking of well over 76 percent of them.
32 percent of female journalists have stopped expressing themselves online,” Orgeret said.
She said the digital age poses safety threats to all journalists but cases of threats which manifest in form of harassment, abuse and disinformation targeting a victim, among others, are more common among women than men.
The professor lamented the development, saying it undermines media freedom and the public’s right to know.
“Female journalists are faced with pressure from their editors to be visible and active on social media platforms. This may be a double-edged sword; on one hand, it represents an effective way of reaching out directly to the audience to promote the stories but it is also problematic as a lot of harassment occurs through these channels,” Orgeret said.
Tanzanian media expert Eva Solomon echoed Orgeret’s sentiments, saying 20 percent of women in the media have been targeted with offline abuse and attacks connected with online violence.
She added that the situation worsened at the peak of the Covid pandemic in most countries since a lot of work activities went virtual.
Meanwhile, IFJ and the Norwegian Union of Journalists have called for concerted efforts among media players across Africa to ensure that the working environment is safe for women.