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ABC and eSafety Commissioner release online safety guidelines for journalists

A ground-breaking collaboration between the ABC and Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has seen the release of best practice guidelines designed to help protect journalists and newsrooms from online abuse.

Launched on UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, the guidelines align with this year’s theme of “Journalism under digital siege”.

The resources include tips for media organisations in supporting staff to manage and mitigate the risk of social media abuse. They include some of the practical steps the ABC is taking to prepare for and respond to social media abuse and continue the national broadcaster’s leadership on the issue.

The ABC’s Managing Director, David Anderson, said the online abuse of journalists was a trend connected to the rise of disinformation, conspiracy theories and extremism.

“We have all felt and observed a rise in online hate and abuse directed at our media professionals, and we have seen the devastating cumulative impact of this daily bullying,” he said.

“The ABC has made a significant investment in the structures and policies and processes to support journalists and staff. But all journalists need to know they’re not alone and that there are resources they can use for their protection.”

He pointed out that the growing incidence of abuse of journalists online is not equally distributed. Female journalists, Indigenous journalists, LGBTQIA+ journalists and culturally and linguistically diverse journalists are more likely to experience online abuse.

Research conducted by the eSafety Office – the world’s first government regulatory agency committed to keeping its citizens safer online – has found that women with a media presence were 56 percent more likely to receive online abuse, and for those with a public profile the threat was even higher.

“It has been so rewarding to work closely with the ABC on this important issue because we know more and more journalists, particularly female journalists and those from diverse backgrounds, are becoming the targets of abuse online as part of their daily work,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.

“It is important to remember to #ReportandSupport, including reporting serious adult cyber abuse to eSafety if the social media site refuses to comply.”

The ABC has also recently become a signatory to the Brussels declaration, a new global initiative in support of media professionals’ safety.

The online safety resources can be found here.