OSCE Makes Recommendations for Media Management on Online Abuse

A 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 media organizations.

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, prolonged stress 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, or have their job advancement opportunities diminished by the tarnishing of their reputations and journalistic credibility. They fear for their safety and that of their families, and experience invasions into their privacy.

In addition to the effects on individual journalists, the OSCE report says online harassment 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 media organizations:

  • Respect the needs of individual journalists. Each journalist has her own level of privacy, risk and exposure.
  • Designate a point person who is responsible for collecting reports of online harassment from journalists and engaging other parts of the media organization, such as legal, management and information technology teams.
  • Provide training in supportive and empathetic response and trauma response and effects.
  • Train journalists in where, when and how to report online abuses. Develop various protocols for handling social media accounts in the event of a coordinated attack.
  • Discuss possible strategies with the target of the online abuse and determine how legal and IT teams and colleagues might help.
  • Practice information security techniques throughout the news workflow.
  • Learn how hardware, software, mobile technologies and other workplace platforms leave data and information exposed. Train staff on encryption solutions to workflow.
  • Determine how social media will be used/required for your journalists. Do you have a social media policy? How flexible is it to accommodate different needs of different journalists?

Learn More:

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 @osce_rfom and the hashtag #SOFJO to keep up with the latest developments.

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