A new report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Representative on Freedom of the Media details the threat online abuse of female journalists poses to freedom of the media. Founder of Trollbusters Michelle Ferrier authored the report, part of the 2017 relaunch of OSCE’s Safety of Female Journalists online campaign (#SOFJO). This installment of the report focuses on recommendations for civil society and policymakers.
The #SOFJO campaign sought to spread awareness of online abuse and its impacts on female journalists as well as provide tools, resources and other support to those who have been targeted.
Online harassment can have a silencing effect, particularly on female journalists, who, the report states, are trolled more often than their male counterparts. These threats, which can include rape, assault, exile and death, can lead to emotional distress, physical ailments and physical attack. In addition, the attacks can have devastating effects on female journalists’ career trajectories: they may stop writing, no longer report on important topics, use a pen name or have their job advancement opportunities diminished by the tarnishing of their reputations and journalistic credibility online. They fear for their safety and that of their families, and experience invasions into their privacy and prolonged stress.
Beyond the effects on individual journalists, online harassment, the OSCE report says, poses a threat to the press as a whole. OSCE, which conducted targeted research, surveys and workshops between 2015 and 2017, presented some key recommendations for taking action in the report. These recommendations were directed to policymakers and civil society, media organizations and individual journalists.
The report made these recommendations for policymakers and civil society:
• Consider providing physical and online support to targets of online abuse.
• Develop better education and training of journalists, management and information technology specialists about workflow protections and data management.
• Examine how social media policies may affect private and off-line time of journalists.
• Provide training to law enforcement to better investigate and prosecute online abuses.
• Work with technology partners to develop better reporting practices.
• Enforce existing legal frameworks and find new technological remedies to counter attacks by bots and smart mobs.
Read the full, final reports, including the latest Communiqué on the growing safety threat to female journalists online on the RFoM website at http://www.osce.org/representative-on-freedom-of-media
Follow the campaign on Twitter at @osce_rfom and the hashtag #SOFJO to keep up with the latest developments.