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When Hate replaces Criticism

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on October 28, 2021 with No Comments

The findings of a latest survey conducted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Center for Journalists about online violence against women journalists has alarming results.  As many as 73 per cent of women respondents said they had experienced online violence; 20 per cent said they had been attacked or abused offline in incidents seeded online; and 41 per cent said they had been the targets of online attacks that appeared to be linked to orchestrated disinformation campaigns.

The findings have gone even further in revealing the impact of violence. 38 per cent missed work; 11 per cent quit their jobs; and two per cent abandoned journalism altogether. It also impacts journalistic practices and audience engagement: 30 per cent self-censor on social media; 20 per cent only ‘broadcast’ and avoid all interaction; and 10 per cent avoid pursuing particular stories.

The survey basically indicates that across the globe,  journalists face physical and online harm. In addition to harassment from individuals, journalists face sophisticated and well arranged defamation campaigns to discredit them. These are the ways to deter them carrying out their task with sincerity and this in turn results impacts on journalistic freedom of expression and also effects the society at large.

The situation is peculiar in India. Where most of the media house are biased and working in the interest of the current ruling government. Anchor at NDTV Ravish Kumar coined a term “Godi Media” (the media that operates from the lap of the government). Political Spokesperson (News Debate Host Including) provoke the audience by saying that their religion is in danger because the number of members of their community is dwindling and they need to wake up and they point out that other religions twist their faith and claim that this belief is against them. The same happens of the social networking sites, what’s app; Facebook; Instagram etc..

The New York Times has cited Facebook’s internal documents and said they show “a struggle with misinformation, hate speech and celebrations of violence” in India. Researchers at the social media giant pointed out that there are groups and pages “replete with inflammatory and misleading anti-Muslim content” on its platform. In February 2019, a Facebook researcher created an account to look into what the social media website will look like for a person living in Kerala, the New York Times reported. “For the next three weeks, the account operated by a simple rule: Follow all the recommendations generated by Facebook’s algorithms to join groups, watch videos and explore new pages on the site. The result was an inundation of hate speech, misinformation, and celebrations of violence, which were documented in an internal Facebook report published later that month.”

The news publishing industry not only in India but in many other counties remains under threat from unregulated and unchecked social media and online communication service providers. Ask any journalist, and they’ll tell you that criticism comes with the job. And rightly so. But hate, harassment, and online and physical harm shouldn’t. It comes from the right, the left, and everywhere in between. 

Hope that  parliamentarians will come together and take meaningful action to combat hate speech and other kinds of harmful content online, while ensuring that freedom of expression and free debate are recognized, preserved, and protected. At the same time, online platforms should act responsibly. First, they should act upon reports of harassment from news publishers and journalists within a short stipulated time. Second, they should invest in technology to detect online hate against journalists. Third, they should detail online harm against journalists in their transparency reports. Fourth, they should be held accountable through anti defamation, and anti hate laws.


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