OSCE Media Freedom Representative and Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights urge systematic approach to counter gender-based violence online

Joint Statement
Vienna 12/02/2019
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Dunja Mijatović and Harlem Désir opening the #SOFJO Conference 2019 - ©OSCE/Ghada Hazim

Dunja Mijatović and Harlem Désir opening the #SOFJO Conference 2019 - ©OSCE/Ghada Hazim

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, together with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, today opened the Safety of Female Journalists Online (#SOFJO) conference: Increasing Opportunities for Freedom of Expression and Media Plurality.

“Online harassment of women journalists is escalating in the OSCE region and beyond, and has a significant impact on women’s participation in the field of journalism and ability of society to access information. This type of gender-based violence online targets women journalists with a barrage of sexually-explicit, violent and misogynistic abuse, in order to shrink the space that women are able to access online,” stated Désir in his opening address to conference participants. “I welcome the recent OSCE Ministerial Decision adopted last December, which takes into account the specific safety risks facing female journalists online. I hope this is only a first step, as participating States develop strategies to address this issue and expand upon progress made.”

Conference participants focused on the experiences of women journalists as well as expert insights on a range of topics related to online harassment, from trauma and advocacy to strategic litigation initiatives. Commissioner Mijatović, the previous OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, emphasized the importance of adopting a gender sensitive approach to policy developments and challenges in order to ensure the full participation of women online.

“Our societies cannot tolerate that female journalists are being coerced into silence due to online harassment. States must step up the implementation of the human rights standards they have adopted on the safety of journalists and on combating violence against women. They have the duty to adopt protective measures for female journalists and to encourage the private sector and the media to fight gender-based violence online,” said Commissioner Mijatović.

The conference also included a screening of the recently released SOFJO documentary, “A Dark Place”, and a policy workshop organized by UNESCO and the Global Diplomacy Lab.

The Representative and Commissioner called on participating States to ensure that any meaningful and systematic response is grounded in a holistic approach with significant input from those journalists targeted with online abuse. To assist in this effort, the Representative launched a new Communiqué on Media Pluralism, Safety of Female Journalists and Safeguarding Marginalised Voices Online.

Among other recommendations, the Communiqué calls for media policies and strategies that address multiple layers of discrimination and obstacles to participation to ensure genuine plurality and a diversity of voices online.

“Democracy only thrives when all voices are able to fully participate in the online sphere. This communiqué is an indication of the continued commitment from the OSCE to continue to prioritize equal access, participation and freedom of expression for all,” stressed Désir.

“Today’s Communiqué gives new impetus to the need to counter online harassment of female journalists and calls on States to signal that online abuse of female journalists has no place in a democratic society,” said Commissioner Mijatović.

The Communiqué, recommendations and new research on legal responses to online harassment are available on the #SOFJO project website: https://www.osce.org/representative-on-freedom-of-media/safety-female-journalists-online



The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. He provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.