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Promoting Online Safety for Female Journalists in Uganda

Globally, there is a surge in the rates of gendered online violence...

Globally, there is a surge in the rates of gendered online violence and harassment against female journalists and media workers that arise in the course or as a result of their work. In many ways, it has become the new epicenter of threats against journalists on the frontline. In a 2020 global survey by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), 73 percent of 1,210 women journalists interviewed noted they had experienced online violence in the course of their work, 20 percent noted they had been attacked offline in connection with online violence targeting them, 25 percent had received threats of physical violence, 18 percent had been threatened with sexual violence while 16 percent of women journalists narrated that online harassment and abuse was “much worse” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The situation is not any better in Africa. In a recent study on women journalists’ digital security in Kenya, for example, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa found that 75 percent of the journalists interviewed had experienced online harassment in the course of their work. This report further noted that 36 percent of the respondents preferred to ignore the attacks and took no action against the abusive posts or the perpetrators. The attacks are having a significant impact on the work of female journalists and media workers. The harassment is leading to women withdrawing from the use of the Internet and in many cases, they have stopped working for some time or stopped engaging in public spaces.

In Uganda, gendered online violence and harassment is on the rise. Female journalists and media workers who embrace digital tools face various forms of online attacks across a variety of online platforms such as social media, websites, search engines, messaging applications, blogs, chat rooms of virtual calls, and comment sections of media and newspapers.4 The media disruptions in the digital age have made it easier for members of the public to directly contact journalists compared to the past.

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