Journalists at risk from sexual violence, gender-based discrimination

April 26, 2016 4:05 PM ET

CPJ releases annual assessment of press freedom worldwide

New York, April 27, 2016--Sexualized violence, online harassment, and gender-based discrimination are undermining the ability of journalists to tell vital stories and report the news. Combining personal accounts with context and analysis, Attacks on the Press, published by the Committee to Protect Journalists today, highlight the challenges as well as the courage of journalists who face such threats, and also makes clear what is being lost.

Attacks on the Press is a collection of essays by CPJ staff and outside experts that examines the challenges journalists face. The 2016 edition looks at the intersection of gender and press freedom from a variety of perspectives.

The book includes a harrowing account by Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima, who was raped 16 years ago by men who sought to punish her for her reporting on arms trafficking. Bedoya, who campaigns for justice for victims of sexual violence, describes the attack as a "crime that destroys our lives," but says she was compelled to keep writing. In an extract from her essay, Bedoya writes, "I still do not know where I found the strength to return to the newsroom, to my notes and to my tape recorder. What I do see clearly is what motivated me. I understand now that my love for this profession and for my work as a reporter was greater than the pain of my body and my soul."

In other essays, Elisabeth Witchel, an expert in journalism and human rights, investigates online harassment by interviewing trolls to examine how they choose their targets, and Michelle Ferrier, a former columnist for Florida's Daytona Beach News-Journal, describes the emotional toll inflicted by relentless denigration and verbal assault. The book also explores the consequences of gender-based discrimination from how opportunities for women in journalism are limited in China, and the conditions for women journalists reporting on post-Qaddafi Libya, which has become less overtly repressive but more violent, and the challenges faced by gay and transgender journalists who must overcome discrimination in and outside of the newsroom.

A number of other essays tackle the difficult question of what can be done--from combatting gender-based online abuse to specialized safety training. Kathleen Carroll, CPJ's vice chair and executive editor of The Associated Press, discusses in her essay how showing a nurturing side can be a valuable tool for news managers in helping staff overcome difficult situations.

Attacks on the Press was first published in 1986. The 2016 print edition is published by Bloomberg Press, an imprint of Wiley, and is available for purchase. Public events to mark its launch on April 27 will be held at the Newseum, in Washington, D.C. at 1:30 p.m. EDT and at Columbia University, in New York City, at 6:30 p.m. EDT. A livestream of the panel discussion at the Newseum will be available here.

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CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.

Note to Editors:

Attacks on the Press is available in English. Select essays are available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.



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