Online hate is damaging journalists, democracy: report

2022.02.11

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and the Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) have released Poisoned Well, the troubling findings of an industry roundtable on journalists and online hate.

 “Freedom of the press is integral to a healthy democracy,” says Natalie Turvey, CJF President and Executive Director. “The online abuse suffered by too many journalists today goes well beyond critical discourse and, in many cases, harms their safety and well-being in the workplace. This report is a call to action to our industry, government officials and the broader Canadian public.” 

The CAJ and Carleton University held the roundtable on Oct. 21 in response to repeated instances of Canadian journalists, particularly women and racialized media, being targeted with online hate and harassment.

Freedom to Report

As the so-called truckers’ convoy drags on and disrupts, journalists and crews are once again being subjected to abusive treatment by those who now feel emboldened and entitled  to break free of the restrictive measures which have ensnared all of us for the past two years.  

Commentary by Kim Trynacity, CBC Branch President, Canadian Media Guild (CWA Canada Local 30213)

Commissioned by the CJF, the report shares the findings of that roundtable with the broader public.

The four-hour roundtable featured four sessions with 21 speakers. In addition to hearing from journalists recounting their first-hand experiences with online hate and harassment, the roundtable also addressed workplace responses, the role of law enforcement, as well as discussions about security and self-care.

The event concluded with a brainstorming session led by Irene Gentle, the Toronto Star’s VP, Inclusion and Strategic Partnerships, and Steph Wechsler, managing editor of J-Source and co-lead on the Canada Press Freedom Project, to identify calls to action. More than 90 journalists across Canada took part in the roundtable.

“We’ve heard the ground truth about the multi-faceted professional and psychological impacts online harassment has on journalists and how it negatively affects their ability to do their jobs properly,” says CAJ president Brent Jolly.

“It is crystal clear that finding productive ways to combat online harassment of journalists will require an unprecedented amount of cross-industry collaboration and long-term commitments from multiple stakeholders — including government, law enforcement and Big Tech. All are vitally important because the health and safety of our democracy is at stake.”

The 11-page report, written by freelance journalist Kat Eschner, details key findings, discussion topics, calls to action and a full list of speakers and facilitators.

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