Spain: Increase in online harassment against journalists

August 14, 2018

Press freedom violations in Spain reported to and verified by Mapping Media Freedom since May 2014

The International Press Institute and Spanish Platform for Freedom of Information (PDLI) published a report which warns about the increase in online harassment and threats against journalists in Spain, PDLI reports.

This trend affects specially women journalists, due to the severity of the coercion campaigns and insults they receive. Between 23 and 27 April 2018, representatives from IPI and PDLI met in Madrid and Barcelona with journalists, media and press labourers to assess the prevalence of digital harassment in Spain.

The main findings are:

– Political polarisation and the independence process in Catalonia have generated a state of agitation reflected on the internet. Social networks have become ideological trenches, and are being used by fanatics to intimidate and insult journalists while discrediting their work.

– Digital harassment affects all genders. Nevertheless, attacks against women journalists show a level of severity which is not so usual against men. Online threats and insults against women are mainly disdain, humiliation for their physical appearance, sexist insults, threats of sexual aggression and intimidation towards their children and family.

– These kinds of attacks have an impact on their work, especially among freelancers, who fear being labelled as problematic and losing their commissions.

– Some of the psychological consequences suffered by journalists, especially women, in cases of extreme digital harassment are anxiety attacks, depression or self-censorship.

– An action protocol for newsrooms is necessary in order to respond efficiently to digital harassment, as well as acknowledging this trend as a problem that not only affects journalists, but the entire media.

After four years of analysis and documentation of dozens of cases around the world, IPI conducted a research in six European countries: Poland, United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Spain. Spain has been the pilot country for the ‘On the line’ project, which identifies the best practices implemented by the media to deal with this problem.

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