From rape, sexual assault, death and rape threats and sexual harassment to trolling, gendered hate speech, disinformation, smear campaigns and threats to family members – women journalists are subjected to threats and attacks in the course of their work just for being journalists, the UN expert on freedom of opinion and expression said today.

“While both male and female journalists are exposed to violence and threats to their safety in retaliation for their work, attacks on the women are gender-based and highly sexualized online and offline,” said Irene Khan.

The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression noted that the attacks on women journalists are intended to intimidate, silence and drive them out of the public sphere and are a blatant violation of freedom of expression and the right of public participation. 

On the occasion of the 2021 “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence”, with the support of UNESCO, the UN Special Rapporteur launched #JournalistsToo – Women Journalists Speak Out. The publication features the first-hand testimony of 11 female journalists from all over the world, who share their personal experiences with gender-based violence and threats in the exercise of their profession.

The collection of essays highlights how the abuse operates at the intersection of different forms of discrimination, with many women journalists also facing homophobia, racism, or faith-based discrimination, in addition to gender-based violence, thus worsening the impact.

The publication notes that: “The abuse is inescapable and ubiquitous across the continuum of real and virtual worlds. The perpetrators are multiple, from state agents, politicians and non-state actors to sources, interviewees, employers and male journalists with whom the women are obliged to work.

“Urgent action is needed by all actors and at all levels to address the impunity, sexism and misogyny on which violence against women journalists thrives,” said Khan.

The independent expert called on: 

  • Governments to develop effective prevention, protection, monitoring and response mechanisms for online and offline safety of women journalists. 
  • Social media companies to make digital spaces safe for women. 
  • Media companies to ensure zero tolerance of gender violence or harassment in the workplace. 
  • Politicians and community leaders to condemn attacks on female journalists and refrain from making statements that could put the women at risk.

“It is unacceptable that women journalists are attacked and abused for doing their job. It is intolerable that it happens with impunity. It is high time we listen to the voices of the women themselves,” said Khan.