The independent Indian journalist Rana Ayyub has spent her career covering taboo subjects, including violence against lower-caste groups and minorities in India. Because of her work, Ayyub has faced a wave of harassment on social media, including pornographic videos with her face photoshopped in them and she has been doxed, that is her address and personal phone number have been made public, creating the real possibility for her cyber-attacks to become physical attacks. Since 22 April 2018, when a fake tweet that defended child rapists and said that Muslims are not safe in India was falsely attributed to Ayyub, dangerous online attacks against her have escalated. Her face has been morphed in videos and content calling for her to be gang-raped “if she didn’t stop talking against Hindus and [Narendra] Modi,” has been circulating widely. Although the fake tweet and account have since been deleted, other fake tweets have been circulating.
Harassment in journalism and the media industry has risen to the forefront of public attention. The online world is where journalists experience most threats. When journalists are targets of online abuse, the attacks take a toll on freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The chilling effect on individual journalists and journalistic lines of inquiry can lead to the silencing of diverse voices in the media.
The International Women’s Media Foundation has declared their support to Rana Ayyub. They demanded that these attacks be investigated by government authorities and the appropriate online platforms and that every effort is made to stop the attacks and to hold those responsible to account.
The list named ’10 most urgent list’ published monthly by one free press coalition features journalists such as La Jornada correspondent Miroslava Breach Velducea who was murdered in the state of Chihuahua in connection to her reporting on links between politicians and organized crime.