IGF 2020 WS #295 Tackling online harassment of women journalists


Organizer 1: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Organizer 3: Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization

Speaker 1: Julie Posetti, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Guy Berger, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Speaker 3: Rana ayyub Shaikh, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group


Panel - Auditorium - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Which policies should different stakeholders adopt to prevent and tackle online harassment of women journalists?

The multifaceted and penetrative impacts of online violence against female journalists are in evidence globally. The phenomenon manifests in a variety of ways, from gendered verbal abuse to cyber stalking and sexual harassment, threats of sexual violence and murder, along with targeted digital security attacks. It can be prolific and unrelenting, chilling the participation of women in journalism, inflicting psychological injury, and exacerbating offline journalism safety risks. This digitally-fueled violence is often at its most intense and damaging where intersectional factors like race, sexual orientation and religion are in play, or when it is deployed as a tactic in orchestrated disinformation campaigns. However, until now, little empirical evidence has been available to enable assessment of the efficacy of these measures, and there has been very limited research scoping the scale and impact of the problem in the Global South. For these reasons, UNESCO has commissioned a study which looks at the phenomenon in depth and develops recommendations for different stakeholders. To that effect, the proposed session shall: 1. Present results of the UNESCO global study regarding both, the phenomenon of online harassment of women journalists as well as the recommendations of counter measures. 2. Discuss feasibility and implementation of suggested measures from the perspectives of different stakeholders. 3. Debate the way forward for addressing online violence against women journalists. 4. Allow for a multi-stakeholder discussion and exchange on the topic.


GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


This panel discussion will include a presentation of (preliminary) results of the UNESCO global study on effective measures to tackle online violence against women journalists. This study, conducted globally over a 1-year period, provides an in-depth analysis of online targeting of women journalists for harassment and abuse and makes concrete recommendations for implementation by a broad cross-section of stakeholder groups (governments, international organizations, internet companies, media organizations). The lead researcher of the study will introduce key study results before a panel provides feedback and debates ways to implement the study’s recommendations. The proposed panel discussion will use a multistakeholder approach – through the participation of representatives of civil society organizations, media organizations, Internet platforms, intergovernmental organizations, and journalists – in tackling online violence against women journalists. In so doing, the discussions will involve a debate on policies aiming to effectively address and prevent online harassment of women journalists. Agenda outline: • Presentation of study results (15 min): Dr. Julie Posetti, Global Director of Research, International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) • Moderated discussion with panel participants incl, feedback on recommendations made in the study and ways of implementing study results. (45 min) • Open debate with the audience (30min)

Expected Outcomes

Taking into account the aforementioned issues, the session envisions the following expected results: 1. Generate feedback on preliminary study results which can be taken into account for the final draft of the study; 2. Awareness raised by the stakeholders regarding online violence against women journalists and the measures that need to be adopted to counter it; 3. Fostering multistakeholder cooperation and dialogue on online safety and Internet governance issues.

The session first includes a presentation of study results followed by a discussion involving the invited speakers and audience in contributing to the achievement of the key expected outcomes of the session. The discussion includes 45 minutes of exchange between moderators and speakers, followed by a 30 minute discussion with the audience.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Online violence against women journalists has potentially devastating effects on freedom of expression online. This problem can only be tackled when a number of stakeholders are involved and implement policies that prevent and address online attacks against women journalists. Media organizations, internet companies, national authorities, civil society, intergovernmental organizations and journalists have a key role to play in tackling online harassment and abuse of women journalists in order to ensure that the Internet is a free and safe place for all to actively participate.

Relevance to Theme: Online safety of journalists plays an important role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 16.10 on peace, justice and strong institutions as well as Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality. Only when women journalists are safe when doing their job online as well as offline can we can guarantee that a multiplicity of voices is represented in the media sector. Trust in the online world is directly related to feeling safe and secure. Women journalists need to be protected from attacks online in order to be able to have trust in Internet governance. And they need to be safe to engage with their sources and audiences in online communities to help them build trust – an essential ingredient for sustainable journalism.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: If technically possible, the organisers will stream the panel online through zoom or other software. By sharing the meeting link beforehand with potentially interested participants and carefully planning, testing and moderating this online participation, organizers will enable remote participation.