Practical Guide for Women Journalists on How to Respond to Online Harassment


The growth of social media has seen journalists engage in digital public spaces as part of their role, which has provided new opportunities for journalists, including women journalists, such as broader outreach and possibilities to connect with journalists internationally and create specialized outlets. Consequently, these also present several risks. It has led to women journalists sharing, sometimes without realizing it, personal information about themselves, which is used against them. Online abusers browse the internet for information that can be used to intimidate and harass media workers and stop them from doing their job. 

Also, journalists frequently receive death threats, sexual violence, and threats directed at their families and are targeted by disinformation campaigns. Research has shown that these attacks disproportionately affect women journalists.

For this reason, the guide aims to provide some critical steps to help reduce risks faced by women journalists and their sources. It helps to understand what information is acceptable to share, what data is best kept private, and a key to better protection.

The guide also provides measures that can be taken to prosecute perpetrator(s), including:

• Firstly, especially in case of online impersonation and/or doxxing, liaising with sources and contacts to enable them to anticipate further harassment and to protect themselves;

• Secondly, collecting evidence such as testimonies and screenshots of messages and images received or posted online;

• Thirdly, contacting the websites or platforms hosting the pages concerned to ask for the removal of the information and possibly demanding more excellent action in filtering out attacks and deplatforming attackers;

• Then, reporting the attack using the mechanisms set up by the local authorities, and, where appropriate, filing a complaint with the local police, with the assistance of a legal counsel if necessary;

• It is also important to consider the pros and cons of reporting the abuse as a news or feature story to raise the issue on the public agenda.


UNESCO, “Practical Guide for Women Journalists on How to Respond to Online Harassment”, 2022,