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Female journalists disciplined for confronting abusers, report claims

Michelle Stanistreet 1Publishers have been urged to do more to protect female staff from violence amid claims British journalists are being disciplined for confronting their abusers themselves.

The plea has been made in a new report which says women journalists in the United Kingdom have found themselves “in hot water” with their employers “when they snap or retort back on social media” after being attacked online.

The report by the International Center for Journalists has revealed the scale of threats and abuse facing women in journalism, warning those in the UK are “sitting ducks” due to the “toxicity of the online environments” in which they work.

In-depth interviews with 22 journalists and experts were conducted for the UK portion of the study, leading researchers Julie Posetti and Nabeelah Shabbir to urge all news publishers to recruit digital safety editors to “oversee preventive and responsive measures” when their staff are targeted.

Such a move would follow the example of Reach plc, which recruited Rebecca Whittington as its online safety editor last year.

Among those interviewed was National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, pictured.

The report stated: “[Michelle] said that too many employers were ignoring gendered online violence as an aspect of their duty of care for their employees, while taking punitive action against women under attack.

“The pendulum needs resetting, she said, relaying instances where being abused and harassed had landed journalists ‘in hot water when they snap or retort back on social media’. This involved employers stepping in ‘from the perspective of: you’re somehow damaging our reputation and we’ll resort to disciplinary processes.'”

Northern Ireland-based journalist Patricia Devlin, a former Regional Press Awards winner, was also interviewed for the study.

She said: “I do believe that the online violence against me has created real-life threats that are inciting criminals and very dangerous loyalist paramilitaries to issue threats against me. And that’s put my life in grave danger. ”

As well as the implementation of digital safety editors in news organisations, the researchers recommended all women journalists have dedicated work devices to ensure they are able to minimise the impacts of doxxing, the practice of publishing private information with malicious intent.

They also urged the UK Government to appoint a high-level official to have responsibility for media freedom, including implementation of the National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists.