This report is based on the findings of a global survey on harassment and violence against female media workers, which was launched in August 2013 and completed by almost 1,000 women from around the world. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said they had experienced some form of intimidation, threats or abuse in relation to their work, ranging in severity from name-calling to death threats.

The survey found that the majority of threats, intimidation and abuse directed toward respondents occurred in the work place and was perpetrated most often by male bosses, supervisors and co-workers.

It also found that most incidents of harassment and violence were never reported, even though a majority of women who experienced them said they were psychologically affected.

In addition, the survey gathered data regarding sexual violence, physical violence, sexual harassment, and information security threats experienced by women journalists as well as what measures have been taken for prevention, protection and preparedness within news organizations.

The survey was conducted jointly by the London-based International News Safety Institute and the Washington, D.C.-based International Women’s Media Foundation.

The survey and this report were carried out with funding from the Government of Austria and supported by UNESCO.

Between August 2013 and January 2014, 1,078 people responded to the survey, 977 of whom self-identified as women. The following results refer only to our female respondents, as the purpose of the study is to observe trends among women media workers.

Percentages in this section and throughout the report have been rounded to the nearest decimal point.

There were 989 responses in this section, with 977 total respondents. The 12 additional responses were cases of dual nationality. Regional breakdown (percentage/number of responses) was as follows:
Chart Region

Job Role
Respondents’ job roles were broken out into the following categories1:
Chart Job Role

Distribution of respondents’ ages was as follows:
Chart Age

Type of Media
Of the 977 respondents, the largest number (49.3%/482) worked for a newspaper. Online media was the second most frequent response, with 43.6% (426). Magazine journalists were 24% (234), television journalists were 20.6% (201), and radio journalists were 15.6% (152). A smaller segment (7.1%/69) said they worked in multiple media. Some respondents (87) left qualitative responses indicating they worked in types outside these options, and nearly half of these worked for news agencies.

Type of Employment
About half of the 977 respondents (52.1%/509) said they were “employees,” while the remainder said they were “freelancers” (27.4%/268), “both employees and freelancers” (17.6%/172) or “other” (6%/59).

Key Findings2

    Intimidation, Threats and Abuse

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64.8.7%/597 of 921) said they had experienced acts of “intimidation, threats and abuse” in relation to their work. Tweet: 2/3 of female journalists surveyed by @IWMF experienced acts of “intimidation, threats, abuse”.
  • The total number of acts reported in this section was 1,954. The most frequently reported acts were classified as “abuse of power or authority” (217), “verbal, written, and/or physical intimidation (including threats) to you” (204), and “attempts to damage your reputation/honour” (181).
  • The most commonly reported perpetrators of “intimidation, threats and abuse” were bosses (31.7%/597 of 1882 incidents where perpetrators were cited). Other perpetrators included supervisors, co-workers, interviewees, government officials, police, subordinates and “other.”
  • The majority of perpetrators were male (63.6%/1029 of 1617) incidents where the perpetrator’s sex was selected).
  • More than half of respondents (44.6%/136 of 305) to a question about the effects of “intimidation, threats and abuse” said they experienced psychological trauma. Around one-third (35.6%/288 of 810) who experienced such acts said they reported the incidents to an employer, police or another authority.

    Physical Violence

  • More than one-fifth (21.6%/118 out of 547) of respondents said they had experienced physical violence in relation to their work. Tweet: 1/5 of IWMF survey respondents experienced physical violence in relation to their work as a journalist
  • Of 310 acts reported in this section, the most frequent were “pushing” (77), “shoving” (52), and “assault with an object or weapon” (21).
  • Nearly half (45.5%/70 of 154) of acts where location was reported occurred “in the field.” Other acts took place “in the street” while covering protests, rallies, or other public events (26%/40 of 154), and “in the office” (18%/21 of 154).
  • The main perpetrators of reported acts of physical violence were “other” (36.8%/43 of 157) – which included strangers in a crowd or public place, politicians and soldiers – “police” (20.5%/24 of 157), and “interviewees” (18%/21 of 157). More than three-quarters (77.2%/88 of 114) of respondents who listed sex of perpetrator said “mostly men” carried out the physical violence.
  • Around one-third (34.9%/88 of 252) of respondents said they reported acts of physical violence against them.

    Sexual Violence

  • Of 546 respondents, 14.3% (78 of 546) said they had experienced sexual violence in relation to their work.
  • Nearly one half (48.9%/65) of the 133 acts reported were “touching you in a sexual manner against your will (i.e., kissing, grabbing, fondling).”
  • Of the 106 acts in this section where location was provided, 38.7% (41) took place “in the field,” and 24.5% (26) happened “in the office.”
  • Around one half of 111 acts where a perpetrator was classified were committed by a “co-worker,” “boss,” or “supervisor”. “Other” accounted for 22.5% (25) of acts. Respondents included other journalists, fixers and protesters in this category. Almost all (94.6%/70 of 74) respondents who cited the perpetrator’s sex said men committed the acts of sexual violence.
  • Only 19.3% (34 of 176) of respondents said they reported sexual violence to their employer, the police or another authority.

    Sexual Harassment

  • Nearly half (47.9%/327 of 683) of respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment at their jobs.
  • Of 999 total acts reported, the most common were “unwanted comments on dress and appearance” 20.2% (202), “suggestive remarks or sounds” 18.6% (186), “jokes of a sexual nature” 16.9% (169), “invasion of personal space” 15.5% (155) and “unwanted physical contact” 14.7% (147).
  • The most common locations for harassment were “in the office” (42.2%/181 of 429 acts where location was given) and “in the field” (32.4%/139 of 429).
  • Of 512 acts where the perpetrator was classified, the categories of “co-worker,” “boss,” and “supervisor” made up more than half (55.3%/283). “Interviewees” made up 16.4% (84) of the total. Among acts where the sex of the perpetrator was given, 93.8% (270 of 288) were committed by “mostly men.”
  • Less than one-fifth of respondents (16.9%/117 of 693) said they reported incidents of sexual harassment.

    Tapping, Hacking and Digital Security Threats

  • More than one-fifth of respondents (21.1%/106 of 502) said they had experienced “digital/online account surveillance”. About the same number reported “email or other digital/online account hacking” (20.3%/104 of 512), and “phone tapping” (20.9%/111 of 532). A smaller number (17.3%/74 of 428) reported “hacking” (of websites, etc).
  • Some respondents (19.2%/41 of 214) reported they had source material stolen, including the identities of sources, emails and interview content. The most commonly named means of stealing source material was email hacking.
  • The most common targets for breach among 469 reported incidents were personal email accounts (18%/89) and work email accounts (17.3%/81). Other channels included personal mobiles (14.5%/68), social media accounts (12.9%/59), and work mobiles (11.9%/56).

    Preparedness, Prevention and Protection

  • Less than one-third (30.3%/134) of 443 respondents said their organisations take measures to protect their personal security.
  • One-fifth of respondents said their organisations prepare them for work-related harassment (21.3%/103 of 484) or work-related violence (21.8%/102 of 467).
  • A similar number (22.8%/103 of 451) said their organisations provide training and/or resources for digital/online security, and 20.1% (89 of 443) said they were provided training and/or resources for source protection.
  • Among preparedness measures offered, respondents mentioned high-risk environment training, bodyguards, drivers and fixers, chaperones during late hours and check-in protocols.
  • Less than one-third (31.2%/132 of 423) of respondents said they are provided emotional support or professional counselling/therapy in the event of work-related harassment or violence.


1 Respondents were able to select all options that apply.

2 Respondents did not always answer every question in the survey. For this reason, response numbers vary between questions.


<< Introduction

Intimidation, Threats, and Abuse >>





Executive Summary

Intimidation, Threats, and Abuse

Physical Violence

Sexual Violence

Sexual Harassment

Tapping, Hacking, and Digital Security Threats

Preparedness, Prevention, and Protection


Appendix A: Data

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