iWatch Africa unveil measure to equip 20 newsrooms tackle online abuse & harassment of journalists in West Africa

Protecting journalists online

iWatch Africa, a not-for-profit media and policy organization dedicated to promoting transparency and accountability has unveiled its new initiative to equip news organisations deal with online abuse and harassment of journalists, particularly women journalists in Ghana and Nigeria.

Online harassment of journalists in Ghana and Nigeria is a phenomenon that has prompted growing concern in recent years. Journalists who report on contested social and political issues increasingly find themselves the target of abuse through social media and other online means, in some cases including violent threats of death and rape.

Women journalists and right activists face an additional burden in that they are also attacked purely on the basis of their gender.

The initiative which is the second phase of iWatch’s digital rights initiative will assist twenty newsrooms in Ghana and Nigeria develop online safety units to tackle the evolving threat against journalists within the online ecosystem.

Gideon Sarpong, project lead for the initiative and co-founder of iWatch Africa, indicated that in 2020 alone, iWatch Africa “tracked over 5000 instances of online abuse” directed towards journalists and rights activists in Ghana.

“A 2021 UNESCO survey of 714 journalists also revealed that 73% of women journalists have experienced online violence, with chilling psychological effect and self-censorship” he added.

“The initiative will include designing reporting protocols for the participating news organisations and a digital campaign to deal with the real threat facing journalism today, which has the potential to erode press freedom in West Africa if it goes unchecked,” he stated.

Expected to last until the end of the year, the initiative will leverage on work (Guideline to protect journalists online) produced by Gideon Sarpong as a Reuters Fellow at University of Oxford.

The project is supported by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), through the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF).

Interested media representatives can send an email to info@iwatchafrica.org.

Credit: iWatch Africa

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Gideon Sarpong

Gideon Sarpong is a policy analyst and media practitioner with close to a decade of experience in policy, data and investigative journalism. Gideon is currently the Policy and News Director at iWatch Africa. He is an author; a fellow of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Thomson Reuters Foundation, Commonwealth Youth Program ,Free Press Unlimited and Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative. Gideon is the Ghana Hub Lead of Sustainable Ocean Alliance. He is a 2020/21 Policy Leader Fellow at the European University Institute, School of Trans-national Governance in Florence, Italy and 2020/21 Open Internet For Democracy Leader. Gideon is also currently a Visiting Scholar/Reuters Fellow at the University of Oxford, UK.

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