Global Research Project Investigates Violence Against Women Journalists

Women journalists during a protest against the Mumbai gang-rape incident, in Hyderabad. File photo: Nagara Gopal

Source- The Hindu- Women journalists during a protest against the Mumbai gang-rape incident, in Hyderabad. File photo: Nagara Gopal

December 2, 2013 – International News Safety Institute and International Women’s Media Foundation global research project investigating harassment and violence against female media workers.The INSI/IWMF global research project investigating harassment and violence to female media workers was launched in July 2013 following a small pilot study. Between its launch and 22nd November 2013, 958 people responded to the survey, 875 of whom were women (1).

The following results refer only to our female respondents given that the study is examining harassment and violence to female media workers.


The respondents’ nationalities covered the globe with responses from women from:

• Africa (12.69% / 111)

• Arab states (5.37% / 47)

• Asia and Pacific (28.69% / 251)

• The Commonwealth of Independent States (1.171% / 15)

• Europe (19.43% / 170)

• Latin / South America (11.20% / 98)

North America (21.60% / 189)

Only 8 women (0.91%) did not respond to this question (2).


The 875 respondents who completed our questionnaire were from the whole age range of 18 years to 75 years or older and comprised:

• 18 to 24 years – 112 / 12.80%

• 25 to 34 years – 361 / 41.26%

• 35 to 44 years – 209 / 23.89%

• 45 to 54 years – 116 / 13.26%

• 55 to 64 years – 62 / 7.09%

• 65 to 74 years – 10 / 1.14%

• 75 years or older – 5 / 0.57%

Job Role

We asked respondents for information regarding their current job role. 875 respondents answered this question as follows (3):

Job Role


% of Respondents

Journalists / reporters















Media support workers



Camera / sound people



In addition to these categories, 18 women describe themselves as educators and trainers, 6 work in PR, 2 are Researchers, 3 are students, 18 are bloggers/writers or columnists and 65 described roles not falling within any of these above-mentioned categories.

Areas of Media

We wanted to know in what areas of the media our female respondents worked. The 875 respondents answered as follows:

• Newspaper – 429 / 49.03%

• Internet – 369 / 42.17%

• Magazine – 209 / 23.89%

• TV – 184 / 21.03%

• Radio – 144 / 16.46%

• All of the above – 66 / 7.54%

76 respondents answered ‘other’ as they did not consider that they work within the aforementioned areas of media but 35 of these 76 said they work in a news agency.

Type of Employment

The respondents were asked how they were employed and asked to select all that applied to them. Their answers provided the following figures:

• employees (456 / 52.11%),

• freelancers (245 / 28%) and

• working both as a freelancer and an employee (148 / 16.91%) and

• ‘other’ (47 / 5.37%) which included 14 who are self-employed and 14 who work on a pro bono/voluntary basis.

Intimidation, Threats or Abuse

We asked our respondents whether they had experienced ‘intimidation, threats or abuse’ in relation to their work. Of the 822 respondents who answered this question, 530 / 64.48% of women said ‘yes’.

The most commonly experienced types of intimidation threats or abuse were:

1. abuse of power or authority (185 / 22.5%);

2. verbal, written and/or physical intimidation including personal threats (173 / 21.04%) and

3. attempts or threats to damage reputation or honour (154 / 18.73%).

In most cases the abuse was perpetrated by a:

1. Boss (458 out of 1603 types of incidents reported – 28.57%)

2. Other (444 out of 1603 types of incidents reported – 27.69%)

3. Supervisor (219 out of 1603 types of incidents reported – 13.66%)

4. Co-worker (193 out of 1603 types of incidents reported – 12.04%) or

5. Interviewee (116 out of 1603 types of incidents reported – 7.23%)

There were also instances where the perpetrator(s) were Government Officials (108 out of 1603 types of incidents reported – 6.74%), Police (48 out of 1603 types of incidents reported – 2.99%) or subordinates (17 out of 1603 incidents reported – 1.06%).

Most of the abuse lasted:

• one month or less (499 types of incidents out of the 1646 reported {30.31%}) or

• 2 years or more (452 types of incidents out of the 1646 reported {27.46%}).

The main perpetrators were usually male (1029 types of incident out of the 1617 reported {63.64%}). Over half of the respondents who responded to the question (137 out of 250/ 51.31%) who had experienced the intimidation, threats or abuse confirmed that the experience had a psychological impact on them.

Sexual Harassment

We asked the respondents if any of them had experienced sexual harassment in relation to their work. Of the 605 women who answered this question, 279 (46.12%) said yes, they had experienced sexual harassment.

Most of those who had suffered sexual harassment said that it had lasted one month or less (105 / 42.17%). When asked if the sexual harassment happened ‘rarely’, ‘often’ or ‘most of the time’, 143 respondents (57.43%) stated that it happened ‘rarely’ and 34.94% (87) said it happened ‘often’ and 19 / 7.63% said it happened ‘most of the time’. The most common places for the sexual harassment to occur were in the office (147 / 59.04%) and in the field (122 / 49%). Most perpetrators were:

• work colleagues (114 / 45.78%),

• interviewees (76 / 30.52%) and

• bosses (72 / 28.92%).

The perpetrators were mostly men (229 / 93.09%) of cases. The most common types of sexual harassment experienced by our respondents were:

1. ‘unwanted comments on dress and appearance’ (169 / 67.87%)

2. ‘suggestive remarks or sounds’ (151 / 60.64%) and

3. ‘jokes of a sexual nature’ (143 / 57.43%).

The majority of the sexual harassment experienced was not reported to an employer, the police or any other authority.

Racial Harassment

Respondents were asked whether they had experienced any racial harassment in relation to their work. 89 of the 563 women who responded to this question (15.81%) answered ‘yes’. Most of this harassment occurred either during one month or less (27 / 32.93%) or 2 years or more (26 / 31.71%). The racial harassment usually took place in the office (42 / 51.22%) or in the field (34 / 41.46%) and was usually perpetrated by:

• co-workers (26 / 31.71%)

• ‘other’ (26 / 31.71%) (which usually included members of the general public)

• interviewees (20 / 24.39%) or a

• boss (19 / 23.17%).

Most of the harassment involved derogatory name-calling, insults and racist jokes and verbal threats. Once again, the majority of the harassment was not reported to anyone.

Harassment on the Grounds of Age

We asked our respondents if they had ever experienced harassment on the grounds of age in relation to their work. 552 respondents answered this question and 127 (23.01%) said yes. The main perpetrators were:

• bosses (49 / 41.53%)

• co-workers (47 / 39.83%)

• supervisors (45 / 38.14%) and

• interviewees (40 / 38.14%).

The age harassment normally centred around:

• assumptions about the person’s ability to perform at work (86 / 75.44%)

• exclusions on the basis of age (50 / 43.86%) and

• offensive remarks (39 / 34.21%).

The majority did not report the incident to anyone.

Other Forms of Harassment

We asked if our respondents had ever experienced any harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, religion, political and / or trade union membership, or disability -in relation to their work. Of the 514 who answered this question, 31 (6.03%) confirmed they had experienced harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, 35 out of 515 (6.81%) who answered this question confirmed they had experienced harassment on the basis of religion. 62 out of 520 (11.92%) confirmed they had experienced harassment for political and or trade union membership and 17 out of 501 (3.39%) experienced harassment on the basis of a disability.

Tapping, Hacking and Digital Security Threats

In the light of recent high profile incidents, we asked respondents whether they had ever been the victim of:

• telephone tapping,

• hacking,

• digital/online surveillance or

• digital/online hacking.

The results were:

• Tapping – 106 out of the 472 respondents answering the question (22.46%) stated they had been victims of tapping.

• Hacking – 73 out of 442 (22%) had experienced hacking.

• Digital /online surveillance – 96 out of 442 (21.72%) had been subject to digital online surveillance and

• Email or other digital online account hacking – 99 out of 453 (21.85%) had experienced this.

The mode period of time for this harassment was:

• Tapping – two years or more (21 / 37.50%)

• Hacking – one month or less (19 / 33.93%)

• Digital online surveillance – 2 years or more (21/ 51.22%) and

• Email or other digital online account hacking – one month or less (26 / 64.29%)

Over half of the 161 women who responded to the question revealed their personal email had been affected (84 / 52.17%), 74 / 45.96% said their work email had been affected, 64 / 39.75% reported their personal mobile (cellphone) was affected and 58 / 36.02% their social media account.

40 respondents out of a possible 202 (19.8%) confirmed that they had had source materials stolen through surveillance or hacking. The predominant means of the source theft was through email (28 / 60.87%) and then by telephone (14 / 30.43%). Whilst almost half of 138 respondents (67 / 48.55%) did not know the perpetrators, 58 / 42.03% believed it was either Government officials or the police.

Physical Violence

105 out of 485 (21.65%) of our respondents confirmed that they had experienced physical violence in relation to their work. Asked when this violence had occurred, most of the respondents had experienced the violence:

• two years or more ago (42 / 40.38%) but

• 25 / 24.04% had experienced the violence as recently as a month ago or less.

62 / 59.62% of those who suffered the physical violence stated that it happened in the field and 39 / 37.5% stated it had happened in the street. Over three quarters of the victims stated that the perpetrators were ‘mostly men’ (77 / 76.24%). The violence was perpetrated by:

• ‘Other’ – which included protesters and story subjects (38 / 36.54%)

• Police – (24 / 23.08%) and

• Interviewee – (21 / 20.19%).

The five most common types of physical violence reported to us were:

1. Pushing (68 / 65.38%),

2. Shoving (44 / 42.31%),

3. Threats with an object or weapon (20 / 19.23%),

4. Assault with an object or weapon (18 / 17.31%) and

5. Pinning or holding a person down (16 / 15.38%).

Just under 50% of those affected reported it to their employer (42 out of 96 who responded / 49.41%) but about three quarters of women who suffered physical violence did not report it to the police (53 / 76.6%) or an authority (52 / 77.61%).

Sexual Violence

We asked our respondents if they had ever experienced any sexual violence in relation to their work. 484 women responded to this question and 63 (13.02%) responded ‘yes’. 58.06% (36) of the respondents who suffered sexual violence stated that it had happened in the field and the next most likely location for the violence was in the office (22 / 35.48%) and then the street (13 / 20.97%).

33.87% (21) of those who experienced the sexual violence reported that the perpetrators had not fallen within the categories of co-worker, boss, interviewee, supervisor, Government official, don’t know, subordinate or Police but instead classed them as ‘other’. Some examples of ‘other’ were:

• Fellow journalist,

• Fixer

• Protesters.

29.03% (18) of the women said the sexual violence had been committed by their co-workers and over a quarter (25.81% / 16) by their boss.

85.48% (53) of the cases involved the respondents being touched in a sexual manner against their will i.e. kissing, grabbing and fondling.

Preparedness, Prevention and Protection

Finally we asked our respondents if their organisation prepares them in any way for the possibility of work-related harassment or violence and the predominant answer was no (harassment – 338 out of 434 {78.79%}, violence – 323 / 78.21%). Respondents made lots of suggestions as to what preparation they would like their organisation to offer which we will detail in our next report.

We asked whether their organisation provided training and/or resources for digital/online security and 77.53% (314) out of 405 responded ‘no’. 79.85% (317) out of 397 respondents declared that their organisation does not provide training or resources for source protection. 69.02%/274 of respondents (397) also stated that their organisation does not take any measures to protect their personal security. Those whose organisations do take measures had the benefit of security and safety training, bodyguards, police protection, drivers, taxis home after a certain time of night, to name a few. We received 156 suggestions for measures that organisations could adopt and these will be detailed in our later report.

Only 22.44% (212) of 401 respondents stated that their organisation provides specific facilities for women in the workplace and these facilities included things such as female bathrooms, toilets, prayer areas, car drop after certain hours and lactation rooms.

30.97% (118) of 381 respondents confirmed that their organisation provides emotional support or professional counselling and therapy in the case of any work related harassment or violence. This support can vary between an outsourced company providing counselling to informal peer support.

Conversely 69.03% (263) i.e. the majority stated that their organisation does not provide such support.

Finally, we asked our respondents for their opinions and ideas on this subject and we received 263 responses which we will be detailing in our final report.


Notes: This global research project was carried out in English with funding from the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs and we thank UNESCO for their additional support to this project.
The survey remains a live document and it is our hope that more women are able to respond to its questions, allowing us the opportunity to develop a more accurate picture of the prevalence and types of threats and harassments faced by female media workers and work towards a series of recommendations to combat the threats and violence.
It is also our hope that future iterations of this survey will be in multiple languages to allow for a greater number of answers from as wide a constituency as possible.
We will be releasing a more in-depth report detailing the results, providing examples, case studies and analysis to coincide with International Women’s Day in March 2014. At that stage, we will also aim to provide a series of recommendations aimed at helping reduce the prevalence of the types of violence and harassment highlighted by this survey and facing our female colleagues around the world.
The questionnaire was designed and analysed on behalf of INSI by Samantha Scott, AFBPS, Chartered Psychologist and Registered Occupational Psychologist who can be contacted at [email protected].
The survey was carried out joint project between the International News Safety Institute (INSI) and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF).
INSI: Founded in 2003, the International News Safety Institute is the news media’s safety body. Dedicated to ensuring all journalists can prepare for and do their job safely wherever and whenever they work, INSI provides real-time, real-life information and training. Run by journalists and for journalists, our Board comprises the decision makers at some of the world’s leading news organisations. In the decade since our launch, we have provided customised safety training to approximately 2,500 journalists around the world. In the past two years, we have developed an expertise in the safety of women journalists and have published the ground-breaking book ‘No Woman’s Land – On the Frontlines with Female Reporters’ and pioneered female specific safety training by female trainers.
IWMF: Founded in 1990 by a group of prominent U.S. women journalists, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) is a Washington-based organization that is dedicated to strengthening the role of women journalists worldwide. The IWMF believes the news media worldwide are not truly free and representative without the equal voice of women. The IWMF celebrates the courage of women journalists who overcome threats and oppression to speak out on global issues.

(1) Respondents did not necessarily answer every question in the survey.
(2) Some women reported dual nationality and so were categorised into two geographical regions.
(3) Respondents were able to select each category that applies in this and several other questions.

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