“Journalists are prepared for critical situations … but we are not prepared for this”: empirical and structural dimensions of gendered online harassment

Susana Sampaio-Dias*, Maria João Silveirinha, Bibiana Garcez, Filipa Subtil, João Miranda, Carla Cerqueira

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This article discusses online harassment against women journalists exploring self-reported incidents, effects, and trust in safety mechanisms. Drawing on twenty-five semi-structured interviews of women journalists in Portugal, we use a feminist and critical realist framework to explore the causal structures and generative mechanisms that explain their vulnerability to online abuse. We identify three overarching themes: increasing visibility in a context of higher hostility towards journalism and insufficient safety mechanisms; intersectional gender inequality and cultural mores that foster it; and (individual) responses to harassment. These themes show that women journalists’ actions are both constrained and enabled by existing structures and cultural attitudes. While they tend to deny harassment is caused by their gender, seeing it mainly because of their job, they admit the sexualised and gendered nature of the insults, seeing this as an added offence not experienced by their male counterparts. They also see harassment as a continuation of inequality and prevailing sexism and find the protection mechanisms insufficient and ineffective. As a result, they assume an extra burden of emotional labour to deal with online bullying, admitting self-censoring and the need to develop resilience strategies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournalism Practice
Early online date23 Aug 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 23 Aug 2023


  • women journalists
  • online harassment
  • journalists' safety
  • emotional labour
  • critical realism
  • normalisation

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