Online abuse of women journalists must stop: IJU

NEW DELHI, 8 Mar: On International Women’s Day, the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) joined the International Federation of Journalists to demand urgent action to tackle the widespread online abuse and harassment faced by women journalists around the world.

The call comes following the results of two global surveys which exposed a serious lack of action among media companies.

The IJU has appealed to all its affiliates across the country, as well as media houses, to adopt strict protocols and strong collective agreements to combat online abuse. This after the IFJ survey carried out in 56 countries revealed that 79 percent of unions and associations said they were aware of cases of online abuse among their members; just 16 percent have collective agreements covering online abuse; 75 percent of unions and associations have made online abuse a priority issue, and 63 percent of unions backed a call to adopt and ratify ILO Convention 190 on violence and harassment in the world of work.

The IJU has urged its state unions to take up specific measures to fight online violence, including adoption of protection codes, setting up of national committees for safety of journalists, mapping of cases, development of an index of physical security of members, and platforms to report attacks or free legal helplines.

In a statement, IJU President Geetartha Pathak and Secretary-General Sabina Inderjit said the union was distressed to note that there a lack of action on part of media organisations to incorporate the initiatives suggested.

As per the survey, two-thirds of respondents claimed that online harassment was not a priority for their media company, and 44 percent said the issue was not even discussed; only a fifth of the respondents said their media adopted a protocol or mechanism that allows women journalists and media workers to report online abuse and be supported and protected in such cases.

The IJU said that the issue at hand requires that much more should be done by media houses to provide safer newsrooms and concrete protocols to eradicate the phenomenon. In India, it said, online abuse of women journalists is shockingly on the rise, and that the authorities dealing with the issue must become proactive.

“There must be zero tolerance against online abuse,” they said.