The International Press Institute (IPI), a Vienna-based global press freedom organization, today launched a new report on online abuse against journalists in Poland, identifying domestic politics, refugees, Polish-Jewish history and gender issues as the topics most likely to attract threatening and hateful messages.
IPI conducted a fact-finding mission to Poland in June 2018 as part of its Ontheline project, which aims to explore and share best practices implemented by newsrooms in Europe to tackle online harassment against their journalists. The project also includes visits to Spain, Finland, Germany, Sweden and the UK.
In visits to newsrooms of various sizes in Warsaw, IPI found that while awareness of online harassment as a serious threat to press freedom is growing, community managers and moderators are frequently overwhelmed by the vastness of the problem and journalists are often forced to rely on informal networks of support. Still, several leading media, including prominent daily Gazeta Wyborcza, are increasingly experimenting with methods of shielding their reporters from abuse. Successful strategies carried out by Polish newsrooms will later be shared together with models from other European news outlets on a new Ontheline web resource platform.
As in other countries analyzed by IPI, female journalists in Poland face particularly vicious attacks. Female journalists who participated in an IPI focus group recounted receiving heinous death and rape threats, with one journalist – mistakenly identified by a reader as Jewish – being told she would leave Poland “through a chimney” in Auschwitz.
Journalists interviewed by IPI also described the toll that online harassment had taken on their work and broader lives. Many said they now chose to keep a lower profile online and some admitted to thinking twice about covering certain topics. One journalist described the experience of harassment as a “feeling of being punched in the stomach”.
The International Press Institute is a global network of editors, publishers and leading journalists dedicated to defending press freedom and promoting quality, independent journalism. Established in 1950, in the aftermath of the Second World War, by 34 leading editors from 15 countries, IPI was founded on the belief that a free press will contribute to the creation of a better world. Today, with members in more than 100 countries, IPI brings together editors and media representatives to discuss and address challenges that the news media faces and to promote independent journalism as a core pillar of democracy.