A woman uses her mobile phone to take a picture of Prime Minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra as she addresses reporters at her party's headquarters in Bangkok, July 13, 2011.
A woman uses her mobile phone to take a picture of Prime Minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra as she addresses reporters at her party's headquarters in Bangkok, July 13, 2011.

Female journalists feel unsafe working in at least 40 countries, a new report released Monday by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) concluded.

Most of the female journalists listed sexual harassment as the biggest issue they face in their home countries. Nearly 85% of the respondents said the harassment is common; 30% said it often leads to sexual assault.

Almost 80% of the female journalists polled described having developed stress; 65% anxiety; and 30% depression. Nearly half of the journalists interviewed have feared for their lives, and 11% have left their homes as a result.

“We have a pressing obligation to defend journalism with all our strength against the many dangers that threaten it, of which gender-based and sexual bullying and attacks are a part,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said. “It is unthinkable that women journalists should endure twice the danger and have to defend themselves on another front, a many-sided struggle since it exists outside the newsroom as well as inside.”

Internet adds to problem

The report also highlighted the increasing role the internet plays in the spread of violence against female journalists. Nearly three-quarters of the surveyed journalists said most gender violence occurs online, followed by the workplace. As a result, nearly half of the journalists polled said they have censored themselves online, and around 43% of them have closed their social media accounts either temporarily or for good.

Some of these attacks are the direct result of the topics some female journalists cover, the report concluded. Those who cover sports and politics, both male-dominated fields, as well as human rights, have described being attacked.

“The fact that women often write about women and feminism, as well as sensitive subjects such as human rights and minorities, exposes them to a two-fold danger of being bullied, which almost always includes sexual insults,” a polled Spanish journalist said.

The report surveyed 150 journalists in 112 countries.