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IFJ fight back against online trolling of women journalists

22 November 2019

Online trolling on social media and websites targets women journalists from all political, religious and ethnic backgrounds.

One of the main aspects of these attacks is that they are gendered and sexualized.

Yet, many women targeted online receive little support from their media employers and, so far, many unions have developed limited tools to eradicate this plague.

Ahead of International day for the elimination of violence against women, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has launched new guidelines to support media and unions in providing a collective answer to online trolling.

An IFJ survey in 2017 showed that 43 per cent of the female respondents had been subjected to online trolling.

According to a 2018 IFJ survey, only half the victims of online abuse (53 per cent) reported the attacks to their media management, union or the police, and in two-thirds of cases nothing was done.

In its guidelines the IFJ provides support to both media organisations and unions to take action against online abuse.

Media employers have a duty to ensure a safe workplace and provide a mechanism for women to come forward and be protected when subject to online abuse.

The IFJ is calling for increased awareness and training of staff, insists on the importance of defining misogyny, for more action to improve online moderation of hateful comments, for the training of journalists on digital security and holding online platform intermediaries accountable for hosting abusive comments.

The Federation also recommends sending collective public messages to women who have been abused to offer solidarity and challenge the perception those affected are isolated.

Media organisations must also reflect on their own gender equality policies and practices, and also look at inequalities within their own structures and gender bias in reporting. 

Maria Angeles Samperio, the IFJ's gender council chair, said:

"One of the main aspects of online trolling is that the person targeted feels isolated and powerless. A collective response is needed via internal policies, legislation and external signs of support.
"We wish to give women colleagues who are abused a clear message that online trolling is not tolerable and that they are not alone.
"As employers, the media have a duty to ensure safety at work and online abuse can be considered as a safety and health issue."

The IFJ has also called on trade unions to adopt mechanisms to support their female members.

The importance of getting to know the legislation in place and campaign for legislative change is key, as well as providing a web page with all necessary contacts and steps that women can take in case of abuse. Unions should also offer women members a space to speak up and train their members to counter online trolling and identify trolls.

The NUJ has already engaged with the UK government about new legislation relating to online harm.

The IFJ is encouraging unions to campaign nationally for the ratification of the ILO convention 190 on violence and harassment adopted in June 2019. The instrument recognises gender-based violence, including online, as a health and safety issue. 

Anthony Bellanger, IFJ general secretary, said:

"We have joined the Global Unions Federation to call on world governments to ratify the ILO convention. This is the sole convention that tackles gender-based violence, including online and it is of utmost importance in our industry.
"Gender-based violence, as well as online trolling, must be considered as a health and safety issue and media workers must be legally protected when their working environment is unsafe. Media employers have a duty to ensure a safe workplace and this convention will enable this."

For more information you can access the IFJ campaign about online trolling.

Download the IFJ's new guidelines.

Tags: , women, online abuse, online harassment, guidelines, violence against women, ifj, gender, health and safety