Most women journalists are attacked online due to their physical appearance, material possessions, their professionalism and their personal relationships.
This is according to studies by the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) collaborated with World Association of Christian Communicators (WACC) titled Coverage on Online Violence against Women journalists: A Media monitoring report on dominant topics .
Despite the internet offering great solutions and innovations to how people access information, including journalists, online violence has been on the rise especially against women journalists but remains a silent epidemic in Kenya. The expansion of the technological sector has increasingly made the online environment for women particularly journalists hostile.
It is against this background that AMWIK collaborated with World Association of Christian Communicators (WACC) to interrogate further the current trends of online violence against women journalists through an updated baseline survey.
The other study is Online Safety for Women Journalists: An update of the survey on women journalists in Kenya affirms that women journalists because of their public profession and as public figures become easy targets of online violence. The updated baseline survey which looked at various case studies on women journalists including columnists, broadcast journalists and social media managers found out that online violence took the form of trolling, cyber stalking, online harassment, insults, sex and death threats among others.
The survey showed that women journalists are vulnerable to online violence because of their prominence in the public sphere and that they face unique challenges in being on the online space because of their gender.
The media monitoring report looked at how online violence against women journalists is covered in mainstream and online media. The report found out that majority of the news items featured these prominent women in a negative light citing their personal life more than their professionalism as journalists. Other stories were about their physical appearance, material possessions and their personal relationships as main topics of discussion.
The report found that prominence attributed to women journalists is not necessarily due to their professional prowess but other factors such as appearance, possessions, character and personality related attributes. Questions of how women journalists acquire their wealth, possessions and achieve their success were often put to question and attributed to relationships with men.
These forms of attacks usually are carried out anonymously though in some cases, attackers had made themselves known to the journalists before launching their attacks.
The survey highlighted several ways of dealing with online violence for different women journalists where some turned the attacks round to their advantage, dealing with the attackers online and exposing the perpetrators online other than the usual withdrawal from the online space due to malicious attacks.
The publication highlighted the role of media houses in supporting the women journalists who are employees by limiting the level of audience engagement and deleting abusive posts targeting one of their employees while also creating an environment conducive for women journalists to report online attacks to their employers.
Some of the recommendations include providing women journalists with personal security training so that they can be aware of the risks of the internet as well as women journalists acting as agents of bringing down/de-emphasizing the glorification of social evils, warlike activities, ethnic, racial or religious hostilities on online platforms among other recommendations.
Women journalists should receive training on professional branding to de-emphasizing their personal appearance and emphasize their professional life were one of the recommendations from the media monitoring report.
The need to form a social media consortium of women journalists to empower women in general to change the narrative of online violence and speak out against online attackers was also recommended.
The two reports are accessible online: