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Concern over cyber-attacks on journalists

Publish date: 13 March 2019
Issue Number: 1772
Diary: Legalbrief eLaw
Category: Media

The EFF’s ‘vicious’ social media attacks on journalist Karima Brown (see Journalist fights back against ‘abusive’ EFF in Legalbrief) are not only painful for her, they are an attack on the news media and our democracy. ‘That a political party and its leadership sees fit to use sexist and derogatory language in their attacks is yet another example of the ingrained patriarchal and sexist attitudes that women in SA face,’ says the University of Johannesburg’s Professor Ylva Rodny-Gumede. ‘Allowing journalists to do their work without fear or intimidation stands at the core of the contract the news media has with society and constitutes one of the central tenets of a democratic society.’ In an analysis on the Mail & Guardian Online site, she notes that instead of engaging in public debates about their grievances or taking cases to the Press Ombud, political parties and public officials are increasingly attacking journalists and editors on social media. She adds that women journalists face what has been labelled ‘double attacks’ – being targeted for being female as well as for being journalists. ‘Cyber-bullying and cyber-misogyny, including threats of physical violence often of a sexual nature, are the ugliest forms of sexism used to try to intimidate and silence female journalists.’ She says it is ‘of utmost importance’ that journalists be able to do their jobs without any impediments to their safety and deliver on their mandate to provide accurate information and coverage of all political parties. If female journalists are being coerced into silence – whether online or offline – it will have serious implications for gender equity. She concludes: ‘Protecting free speech and people’s right to safety and dignity are of equal importance for our democracy and the information we need to share and discuss, particularly in the run-up to the 2019 general elections.’

See Journalist fights back against 'abusive' EFF in Legalbrief Today

Full analysis on the Mail & Guardian Online site