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Legal guidance on online abuse for journalists published

New guidance commissioned by the Media Lawyers’ Association (MLA) has been published to help journalists understand the law, and help them recognise abuse that may be illegal.

Legal guidance on online abuse for journalists published
Beth Grossman: “Ultimately, online harassment and abuse is a threat to freedom of expression.” Photograph: Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash.

As reported on the Society of Editors website:

The independent guide will provide practical assistance to journalists in combating online threats and abuse, and was released as part of commitments by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to a National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists.

The launch follows an online event held by ITN which saw Media Minister John Whittingdale MP discuss the issue alongside a media panel.

In the UK, 92% of MLA members have reported that the abuse of journalists has increased, with the report outlining how women and minority groups in particular are adversely affected.

The guide includes topics such as how to keep an evidence log of abuse, reporting complaints to online platforms, and also outlines the advantages and disadvantages of the ways in which legal action might be taken.

In an introduction, the guide’s author Beth Grossman, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, wrote: “Ultimately, online harassment and abuse is a threat to freedom of expression. It obstructs and hinders journalists, by making them fear for their safety, and directly interfering in their use of online forums for newsgathering and reporting.”

She added, “Our aim is to provide a practical guide for journalists, and those who support them, so that they can understand the different options they have for combatting online harassment and abuse, develop a strategy for doing so, and take immediate steps in highly stressful situations.”

The full guide can be read here.

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