Around 75% of female journalists in the world are being subjected to online harassment, and 20% of the harassment has been translated into physical attack, says the latest Unesco study. It has revealed that 18% of the journalists, who took part in the survey, experienced sexual assault, with 49% having faced abusive language and 25% threat of physical violence. The report covers 901 journalists from 125 countries. Female journalists are also intimidated with threats to damage their professional reputation and their image in society through morphed pictures and digital security attacks. Such attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated with the advancements in Artificial Intelligence.
Describing their personal experiences, many journalists, who participated in the survey, said they had been targeted under a well-organised digital disinformation campaign. This most abominable form of yellow journalism is being practised in most parts of the world, and we are no exception. In Pakistan, one woman journalist had been killed in 2019 and another in the following year. Female journalists also face sexual harassment at the workplace and are allegedly discriminated against in various ways. All this has fuelled the feeling of insecurity among them. The federal government has prepared the draft of a law to mitigate their harassment. Officials say the bill will soon be presented in parliament. The growing vulnerability of women working in the profession of journalism demands that the law be passed without delay.
There is a need to sensitise society about the role of women in journalism and how they are working for the benefit of society and the country by exposing corruption and social evils like honour killings, underage marriages, marriages in which the poor are forced by their circumstances to give the hand of their daughters to older men, and innumerable other bad practices. Our non-news TV channels and the cinema industry are badly lacking in this. No notable TV plays and movies have been produced on how women journalists expose social evils in the face of dangers.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2021.