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Journalists on the Front Lines -Combating Harassment, Hate and Abuse 

Journalists, especially women and racialized women, are being targeted by harassment, hate and abuse.  Most of the abuse is online, but it can come in many forms: Tweets, comments, emails, written letters or abuse in the field. 

Unifor condemns this behaviour. Hate, harassment and abuse have no place in our society.

Not only must we decry this behaviour, we must take action.  

Short/Medium Term

1. Immediately, put out a statement decrying the harassment and outlining the basics of Unifor’s action plan. DONE

2. Meet with media National Representatives (Randy to herd cats) to bring awareness to the issue and provide some tools (Need tools) to immediately address the situation with employers and Health & Safety Committees.  Also, National Representatives will reach out to journalists to establish a working group (All members to give a name of a journalist who wants to be on the advisory group) to liaise with Media Council Executive and Media Action Plan as we move forward.  We will also develop common collective bargaining language (Paul Morse with National Reps)and a bargaining strategy to combat hate and harassment in the workplace.  

Here are some resources for reps to help with this step.

Toronto Star protocols

IFJ Recommendations

3. Create an online campaign that gives voice to journalists and condemns harassment, hate and abuse.

- MAP can create a webpage ie: MediaActionPlan/combatharassment

-Survey our members on their experiences with harassment and on-line harassment and what people want for action.

- We can create an online action with the Newmode tool

4. Media Council and Media Action Plan will reach out to our team and our potential allies to tap into any initiatives that can accessed.  Our team includes Media Council Executive, Media Action Plan, Media Equity Committee, Unifor’s Journalist Advisory Panel, local equity committees, interested journalists selected in the above process, and Unifor’s Communications, Women’s, Research and Human Rights departments.  To better advise our committees and to monitor the progress of the plan a grass roots working group should be created.

  • Potential partners to reach out to are other unions, employers, The Coalition for Women in Journalism, International Federation of Journalists, Canadian Association of Journalists and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.

5. Immediately start planning for Unifor Workshops. These workshops would include the creation of an on-line/in-person training sessions for journalists. These training sessions would include awareness with tools for journalist to activate union and company supports.  Trauma training and using benefits and EFAP to deal with trauma. Possible speaker - Myrna McCallum

And digital security, how do we protect ourselves on-line.

This will also include panel discussions.  Possible discussions could include i) How do we cover hate?  The rise of Trump and giving an unquestioning voice to a hateful minority. Ii) Panel discussion on harassment and abuse. Our stories.

Long Term

6. Lobby law enforcement and government to put resources to ending these illegal behaviours.

7.  Lobby all levels of government to make it a more serious offence to attack a journalist, verbally or physically.

8. Lobby government to pass legislation that makes tech platforms responsible for the content posted on their websites.

  • First, they should act upon reports of harassment from news publishers and journalists within 24 hours. 

  • 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 Canada’s libel, defamation, and hate laws, just as Canada’s news publishers are. 

  • Fifth, they should face economic penalties when they fail to comply with Canadian laws. 

  • Finally, they should make it hard for internet trolls to ‘profit’ from the monetization of content that harms journalists.


9. Call on the federal government to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention 190, which recognizes the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment and provides a common framework for action. 

10. Research! Unifor will write a discussion paper on the problem and potential actions we can take.  

11. Support the J-Source Canadian Press Freedom Tracker.  American version here


Additional ideas

  • Work with the freelance community chapter to provide resources.

  • Legal opinion on a range of what is the legal obligations of employers on Health & Safety in the field.  Range is from ie: a rally where you know there might be issues eg. Bernier, to random acts and continual on-line harassment and violence. [What are our legal options?]



Other Resources:

Emergency Resources

Know Your Trolls Course

Journalism Safety Modules

Journalist Toolkit



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