Women’s Day: New ECPMF-Alarm Centre for Female Journalists under Threat

Faced with growing evidence that more and more women journalists are menaced with gender-based violence and online threats, ECPMF has created a special Women’s Reporting Point to respond to this. It will be officially launched on 8 March 2016, the date that marks the International Women’s Day.

Threats can be reported via encrypted messaging. The secure emails will only be opened by female staff at ECPMF headquarters and their contents will remain confidential. For the Women’s Reporting Point, ECPMF is partnering with the European Federation of Journalists EFJ and its Italian branch FNSI to provide appropriate legal assistance and solidarity to female journalists or media workers who report their cases to the Centre.

ECPMF has already launched an alarm centre for endangered media workers. But: female journalists are not only attacked because of their profession, they are also threatened because they are women. With a reporting point for females, the Centre reacts to these gender-based threats they are experiencing. Especially sexual and abusive comments like threats of rape or publishing pictures and phone numbers on sex and dating websites target women more often than men.

However, in many cases these crimes are not reported: In a global survey by the International News Safety Institute, the researchers found that less than one-third of the attacks, harassment and online threats made against female journalists were reported to employers, police or the authorities.

Almost two-thirds (64.8%/597) of 921 respondents answered “yes” to the question “have you experienced intimidation, threats or abuse in relation to your work?” (Source: InternatIonal womens medIa foundatIon)

Renate Schroeder of the European Federation of Journalists says there is a clear need for anonymised reporting.

When we asked our affiliates for some information, we received very few responses. Probably there is a lot of anxiety, that’s why anonymous monitoring may be useful.”

Therefore, reporting to the ECPMF can also be made anonymously. All cases are handled with greatest care and attention. The reports made to the ECPMF alarm centre will not only be researched, but also collected in a database, with details of the woman’s identity removed in order to protect her. This database will form the basis of an analysis of the scale of the problem across Europe. Its results with be reported to the ECPMF annual media freedom conference taking place in Leipzig, Germany, in October 2016.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, stressed the importance of the topic. Such attacks might cause psychological traumas for the victims – and pose a danger to press freedom.  “Constantly being singled out and targeted with abusive comments, many female journalists may re-evaluate the issues they choose to cover. In this way, such attacks pose a clear and present threat to free media and the society as a whole.”

Meanwhile the OSCE has published a collection of essays about different aspects of gender-based threats and violence, with a list of recommendations.

Source: European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

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