IFJ launches guidelines to fight back collectively against online trolling of women journalists

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 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.

Credit: IFJ

An IFJ survey conducted in 2017 showed that 43% of the female respondents had been subjected to online trolling. According to a 2018 IFJ survey, only half the victims of online abuse (53%) 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 and unions to take action against online abuse. 

Considering that media employers have a duty to ensure a safe workplace and provide a solid mechanism for women to come forward and be protected when subject to online abuse, the IFJ calls for increased awareness raising 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 eradicate the idea that they are isolated.

Media must also reflect on their own gender equality practices and look at inequalities within their own structure and gender bias in their reporting.

IFJ Gender Council chair Maria Angeles Samperio 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 also called on trade unions to adopt solid 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 IFJ has also called on its affiliates 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.

 IFJ Geneal Secretary Anthony Bellanger 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." 

The IFJ is calling on all its affiliates to join the 16 days of activism by campaigning for the ratification of the ILO Convention

Check IFJ campaign on online trolling. 

Check IFJ affiliates actions to fight back online trolling

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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