As part of API’s partnership with IWMF, experts share tools and trends in online safety — a constantly-evolving challenge that impacts newsrooms around the world. IWMF Executive Director Elisa Lees Muñoz outlines the challenges journalists face when it comes to online harassment.

Understanding online violence against women and nonbinary journalists

In today’s digital world, journalists’ careers often rely on their online presence. But Photo of Elisa Lees Muñoz, IWMF Executive Director newsrooms must also face the harsh reality that many women journalists endure near constant harassment, abuse and threats online: nearly two thirds of journalists said they’d been threatened or harassed online at least once in their career.

The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) breaks barriers for women and nonbinary journalists — and that includes keeping them safe. Since 2020 we’ve been working full force to change the culture around online violence, asserting that it is real violence with real-world consequences for journalists’ wellbeing as well as press freedom at large.

The IWMF is proud to have worked with more than 40 newsrooms to improve their policies and procedures around online violence (you can learn about that work in our Newsroom Policy Guide!); now, we’re thrilled to be sharing that knowledge with API’s newsrooms.

"Women journalists can't navigate online violence alone, and newsrooms have a duty of care to protect their journalists from online abuse."Our research found that 70% of women journalists experienced more than one type of harassment, threat or attack in the past, and nearly one third have considered leaving the profession due to online threats and attacks. 

Anecdotally, we know these attacks disproportionately impact journalists of color and LGBTQI+ journalists. A 2019 survey of women and gender non-conforming journalists found that less than half had received safety training, and online harassment was cited as the biggest threat by 90% of respondents in the U.S. and 71% in Canada. In order to cultivate diverse news organizations where marginalized groups feel supported and safe, it’s imperative that newsroom leaders proactively protect those most affected by online harassment. 

We are pleased to partner with API to offer resources, tips, research and learning opportunities to improve your digital security and protect your colleagues. Visit IWMF to access more support.

Elisa Lees Muñoz, IWMF Executive Director

Where to start

For journalists:

  • The Coalition Against Online Violence offers an online violence response hub that offers immediate support for a variety of scenarios including doxxing, problems with online accounts and receiving online abuse, as well as ways to prepare for online attacks.
  • IWMF offers multilingual training for journalists, including courses on knowing your trolls and online privacy.

For newsrooms:

  • The IWMF’s News Safety Cohort is a new opportunity to help international newsrooms create policies for protecting journalists online. The IWMF provides safety training for newsrooms and journalism associations that are tailored to journalists’ holistic needs. Building on that existing training model, this new international support network will receive customized training in addition to peer networking, access to new resources and opportunities for 1:1 consultations.
  • This IWMF report examines the professional dangers of being a woman journalist and offers recommendations newsrooms can take to better support freedom of expression and the work of women journalists and media workers worldwide.
  • The Coalition Against Online Violence also has resources for newsroom leaders who need help protecting their journalists or implementing preventative steps against online violence.

What others are doing

About the IWMF: Our work ensures journalists have the support they need to prepare for, navigate and recover from an online attack. Understanding that online abusers disproportionately target journalists from historically marginalized communities, we design identity-conscious, trauma-informed digital safety trainings which have supported more than 1,350 journalists in the past three years. We also convened more than 70 organizations striving to create better solutions for online abuse against women journalists through our Coalition Against Online Violence and subsequently launched the Online Violence Response Hub to aggregate leading resources and aid for journalists, newsrooms and their allies.

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