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SPJ stands with women journalists; amplifies call to end harassment


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3/31/2021


CONTACT:
Matthew T. Hall, SPJ National President, 619-987-7786, mhall@spj.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists urges newsrooms to take seriously the harassment and abuse that women journalists, journalists of color and others endure, and to provide support for anyone who might need it.

“On the last day of Women’s History Month, we want to thank women members of SPJ — and all women journalists past and present — for their bravery, their persistence and their work, today and every day,” said SPJ National President Matthew T. Hall. “Women journalists are frequently targeted with harassment and threats and far too often do not receive the support they need and deserve. This is a perfect time for newsrooms — and all of us — to commit to doing much more to stand up for these journalists and to send the message that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Examples of harassment and hatred abound, from what’s been directed at Azadeh Namdari, a popular Iranian TV host who was found dead in her Tehran apartment on Friday, to Brenna Smith, an investigations intern who was targeted by internet trolls this week for her first story for USA Today.

Countless women journalists have been forced to deal with harassment online and offline, including Maria Ressa of Rappler, Taylor Lorenz of The New York Times and Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post. Farnaz Fassihi of The New York Times recently tweeted about death threats she has received. Ghada Ouiess of Al Jazeera Arabic wrote a commentary last year to say she will not be silenced by online attacks.

“Journalism is a tough job no matter who you are,” Hall said. “But for women journalists it far too often comes with the added stressors of misogynistic comments, sexual harassment, intimidation and threats of violence. SPJ stands with and supports all women journalists. We need to listen to those pushing against a system that allows abusive behavior within our industry. We need to change the system.”

There are many resources for journalists and newsrooms, including SPJ’s Resources for Combatting Sexual Harassment in the Newsroom.

Former SPJ Ethics Committee Chair Andrew Seaman wrote that online harassment is an ethics issue for journalists and suggested some good first steps newsrooms can take in combatting it:
• Journalists who see their colleagues and peers being harassed online should reach out to the affected person to offer support.
• News organizations should develop protocols and resources to support journalists experiencing online harassment. If news organizations don’t have protocols in place, journalists should take up the tasks of identifying resources and creating support groups for their affected colleagues.
• Journalists and news organizations should identify point people within social media companies trained to deal with online harassment.
• Journalists and news organizations should immediately contact law enforcement about any credible threats to the health and safety of journalists.
• News organizations should also offer legal assistance to address harassment.

The International Women’s Media Foundation has also launched a Coalition Against Online Violence which offers support and resources for targeted journalists.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.

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