Block, mute, report: Fighting back against online harassment

Last week, we took our online harassment training to Kenya and Uganda, speaking to just over 40 journalists from a cross-section of media houses in the two countries.

Online harassment covers the whole gamut of insults, threats and demeaning comments posted on various social media platforms, messaging apps and sites. It includes creating false personas to bully someone, making false allegations and sharing manipulated images with the intention of damaging reputations. 

The Women in News training, which runs for about two hours, highlights the challenges journalists face in digital spaces as a result of the work they do. It equips participants with the tools, tips and best practices they need to navigate the landmines that exist online.

Here are some of the ideas shared:

“When we put out stories concerning men, they get less engagement. In fact, men are sometimes blamed for opening up on social media about the abuse or harassment they have faced. You’ll find that a story about a man harassing a woman will get a lot of engagement and the public will largely rally for action to be taken against him. However, a story about a woman beating up a man will be turned into fodder for insulting the man for ‘allowing’ himself to be attacked. We must fight against these kinds of double standards. No one enjoys being harassed.” Noel

 “Newsrooms need to offer online harassment training for their reporters and anchors prior to putting them to work. With this, they will be aware of the types of harassment and will be psychologically prepared to face the abuse and know how to handle such situations.” Christine

“I want to know how to avoid using language that makes others uncomfortable when covering the news. Body shaming has become such an issue, and sometimes as journalists, we participate in this harassment unintentionally. I want to be sure that my reporting and my language don’t add to the abuse. I also want to know how to help my followers, especially women, deal with online harassment.” Brenda

“I’m so bad with passwords – I never remember to log out. Thank you for pointing out the risks of leaving devices logged into personal accounts and unattended. I am committed to being more cautious about my personal information.” Ivan

“When is the next meeting? This was a very insightful session, but we needed to discuss some of these issues in greater detail. Online harassment is becoming a big challenge for journalists, and as we head into high-pressure situations like elections, we need to be fully aware of the pitfalls that could make things worse, and how to silence trolls and other abusers.” Tony

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