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Law Library Report Addresses Laws Protecting Journalists from Online Harassment

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Staff in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress have recently given attention to several media-related topics. These include Initiatives to Counter Fake News in Selected Countries (April 2019) and Limits on Freedom of Expression (June 2019). A newly-published report, Laws Protecting Journalists from Online Harassment (September 2019), addresses another aspect of the misuse of social media, specifically targeting journalists.

The widespread use of social media appears to have facilitated the harassment of journalists in online settings. This has reportedly been done by a variety of means, including by disseminating threats and disinformation, stalking, and broadcasting private or personally identifiable information about targeted journalists (doxing). While a significant number of journalists have reportedly faced online abuse and harassment, female journalists have been disproportionately affected. Concerns about the impact of the online harassment of journalists on freedom of expression and the free flow of information have been expressed by international, regional, and national institutions as well as by civil societies around the globe.

The recent Law Library report on Laws Protecting Journalists from Online Harassment examines incidents of online harassment of journalists in selected countries and highlights legal measures available in those countries to address the problem. The report is composed of a comparative summary, a survey of relevant international law instruments and activities directed at protecting against online threats and harassment of journalists, and individual surveys for the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, England and Wales, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Spain, and Turkey. These countries were selected based on their relevant developments in this area, as well as on staff expertise currently available at the Law Library. The country surveys report on legal measures taken by individual countries related to protecting journalists from online harassment. The surveys indicate the existence of specific online and/or general offenses against harassment in the countries reviewed, the availability of procedures for the removal of offensive posts, as well as other measures.

We invite you to review the information provided in our report. You can also browse the Current Legal Topics or Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports pages for additional reports from the Law Library. To receive alerts when new reports are published, you can subscribe to email updates and the RSS feed for Law Library Reports (click the “subscribe” button on the Law Library’s website).

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