Gender Equality in the Media (6th part): Digital Security and Gender-baseg Violence Online

12.07.2023. / 08:34

Reflecting the global trend, women journalists in the Balkans experience more online attacks than their male colleagues. The numbers confirming this statement can be found in many surveys and analyses. Half of the BMAP Forward key media partners said they experienced some form of online violence, most of them aimed at women journalists and staff. In the most recent study conducted in North Macedonia by the Platform for Investigative Journalism and Analysis – PINA with the support of the OSCE Mission in Skopje, as many as 81.6% of 103 women journalists surveyed faced online harassment. According to the women journalists, the motive for the harassment was most often due to the publication of journalistic articles aimed at centers of power, or due to the publication of journalistic articles about social developments that were critical of the authorities. The latter can be applied to many BMAP Forward partners as they, as independent media outlets, serve the public interest that does not always comply with the authorities and/or political parties’ agendas in the Western Balkans. The Internews works with the media whose female team members are more targeted online and primarily based on their gender. In the survey conducted with the purpose of this study, we did get responses stating that almost all female reporters have experienced some sort of digital harassment, online threats, misogynist comments, etc. Those attacks usually happen on social media, but the tabloid publications as well as some representatives of political parties in the Balkans, state institutions and/or public figures also express open threats and abusive comments against women journalists. Smear campaigns, negative portrayal and discriminatory approach against women journalists are witnessed to be perpetuated by some TV stations in the Balkans as well.

In the study, parts of which you can read on Balkansmedia, authors already quoted some findings of a three-year global study on gender-based online violence against women journalists conducted by the ICFJ and supported by UNESCO. In the collaborative research covering 15 countries in different parts of the world, the researchers included Serbia. The authors of the chapter analyzing a case study of Serbia, recommend among other things, what news organizations should do:

  • Address misogynistic newsroom cultures that deepen the impacts of gendered online violence against women journalists.
  • Foster and build a holistic and gender-sensitive safety culture within news organizations (e.g., safety protocols, guidelines, and access to support services) in order to tackle hybrid threats.
  • Work collaboratively to counter smear campaigns against women journalists through investigative journalism and solidarity initiatives.
  • Provide specific resources and mechanisms for inclusion of women journalists in vulnerable positions: freelance, investigative journalists, local reporters, covering sensitive topics, etc.

There are different initiatives to tackle the problem of gender-based violence online – from the UN Action Plan on Journalist Safety and the Directive on Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, to toolkits such as the Safe Sisters Toolkit developed by Internews and Defend Defenders. The BAMP Forward project listed digital security and gender-based violence online among its priorities and it is developing further steps to specifically respond to this problem among its partners.


The “Gender Equality in the Media” study produced within the Balkan Media Assistance Program to Foster Organizational Readiness While Advancing Resilient Development (BMAP Forward) aims at responding to the needs expressed by the key media partners for the improvement of gender equality and inclusion policies and practices. The authors of this Danica Ilić, Vanda Kučera and Armina Mujanović study analyzed the BMAP Forward key media partners’ requirements, as well as their output, offering some solutions and recommendations for the long-term, substantial improvement in the field of gender equality in the media.

Read previous articles:
Gender Equality in the Media: part one

Gender Equality in the Media (part 2): Global goals for gender equality

Gender Equality in the Media (part 3): Gender underrepresentation and stereotyping in the local context
Gender Equality in the Media (4th part): Why Diversity Is Good For Business

Gender Equality in the Media (5th part): BMAP FORWARD media landscape

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