Media and Agenda Setting

New Survey Highlights Dangers Of Working Online For Women Journalists


Stalking, sexual violence, verbal abuse and death threats are the most common forms of online violence faced by women journalists in their line of duty.

This is according to a new baseline survey, Women Journalist’s Digital Security, which was launched by AMWIK in partnership with Article 19 to mark the World Press Freedom Day.

The report gives an in-depth analysis into the various risks and dangers which women journalists face while working online. Indeed the internet has dramatically evolved in the recent past to become one of the major resources in collecting and disseminating information to the public.  Besides being a global tool of communication, it is also a vital link between journalists, their sources and their audiences.

However, the tech-space has its own disadvantages because it also brings together criminals in the form of cyber-stalkers, bullies and conmen. According to the survey, 75 percent of the journalists interviewed said they have experienced online harassment in the course of their work.

George and Nancy

Academicians Nancy Booker and George Gathigi

Other forms of attacks charted in the survey include hacking, trolling, defamation, public shaming, identity theft and name-calling. Of the four online platforms studied in the survey, Facebook was the most popular for Technology Assisted Violence against Women (TAVAW). It was closely followed by WhatsApp, Blogs and finally Twitter.

Needless to say, this Technology Assisted Violence against Women (TAVAW) causes women journalists to shy away from the internet space, consequently affecting their productivity at work. One journalist in the survey is quoted as saying “I lost my confidence and shied away from the general public.”

The report also brings to light the challenges faced by victims in the pursuit of justice for cyber-crimes. For instance, it mentions that the Police Cyber-crime Unit has not been devolved to other counties despite the high penetration rate of internet in these areas. As such, victims in other counties face a challenge when it comes to accessing justice for these crimes.
KCA Chair William Oloo-Janak
Oloo-JanakWhile launching the research, AMWIK Chairperson Pamela Mburia said the most urgent recommendation as outlined in the report is to invest in social, legal and practical tools which media practitioners, particularly women in the media can use  to protect themselves from attacks.

“The bolder, louder and more visible a woman journalist is, the more the probability of facing technology assisted violence,” she said adding “we feel that we still have a long way to go before media women can  take  their rightful place in newsrooms and in virtual platforms.”

The survey was published in partnership with Article 19 East Africa with support from the Deutsche Welle Akademie. Two separate documents were also launched at the forum including a Baseline Survey on the Safety and Protection of Journalists in South Sudan and Academic Curricula and Training in Journalism and Safety in Kenya.

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(From left) Charles Achaye-Odong and Jutta vom Hofe of DW Akademie,
John Gachie of Article 19 and Pamela Mburia of AMWIK

You can access the Survey report here