A study of online violence against women journalists

A day before the International day to end impunity for crimes against journalists, Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) published ‘Hostile Bites - a study of online violence against women journalists’. The study aimed to understand the amount of online harassment women journalists in Pakistan face, as well as its impact on their professional and private lives, and their health. The study is based on quantitative data collected through a survey in which 110 Pakistani women journalists participated and qualitative data collected through interviews with nine prominent female journalists. Some of the findings show: 

  • 9 out of 10 respondents said that online violence has a significant impact on their mental health 
  • 9 out of 10 respondents said that online violence or fear of it has an impact on their professional choices 
  • 8 out of 10 respondents said they have self-censored in order to counter online violence
  • 59 out of 110 respondents said that their personal lives and character are targeted frequently and frequently collectively

When it comes to reporting online harassment to social media platforms 41% were ‘somewhat satisfied’, 30% were not satisfied, and 6% were very satisfied with the response. The study also showed very low trust towards law enforcement agencies when it comes to reporting online violence. It has also been noted that Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. According to the World Press Freedom Index 2019, Pakistan has dropped 3 places from the previous year.

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