The International Press Institute (IPI) and the African Freedom of Expression Centre (AFEX) hosted a side event on October 19, 2023, on the sidelines of the forum for NGOs participating at the 77th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Arusha, Tanzania. The event was themed: Addressing online threats towards female journalists in Africa: Gaps and Opportunities.
This side event was aimed at providing a platform to coordinate advocacy efforts at national, regional, and international levels on threats toward female journalists, and improve monitoring, documentation, and reporting of online threats towards them.
Among the key learnings and takeaways were the following:
- Gender-disaggregated data remains critical to support advocacy for the safety of female journalists
- Editors and newsroom managers should also be included in efforts to protect the online safety of female journalists.
- Media houses should develop policies and procedures for tackling online threats and harassment.
- A methodology should be developed to inform monitoring and documentation of threats to female journalists.
- Civil society should utilize regional and international frameworks for the protection of fundamental rights including Resolution 52 of 2022 on the protection of women against digital violence
- Digital literacy training for journalists is also key to ensure that they safeguard their personal information and minimize sharing it online
- There is a need to engage platforms and secure their commitment to providing information for independent review of cases of online attacks
- It is important to carry out awareness raising and sensitization of members of the public to make clear that the safety of journalists should be an issue of concern not just for the media, but for the wider public, given the media’s role in covering issues of public interest
- Cross-border solidarity among civil society actors across various thematic issues is also critical in advocating for the safety of journalists in general and the online safety of female journalists in particular.
IPI and AFEX continue to be deeply concerned about the growing threats faced by female journalists in Africa. Online threats are particularly harmful, as they can translate to physical harm but also can be used to silence and intimidate journalists and undermine their credibility.
We urge all stakeholders, including governments, media companies, and civil society organizations, to take concrete steps to protect the online safety of female journalists. This includes the following steps:
- Governments should investigate and prosecute all crimes against journalists, including online threats.
- Media companies should develop and implement policies and procedures to protect their journalists from online threats and harassment.
- Civil society organizations should continue to monitor and document online threats against journalists and advocate for their protection.
We also call on the public to support female journalists and speak out against online threats and harassment.