GRC report: Not Just Words

The Global Reporting Centre has just released a new report, Not Just Words: How Reputational Attacks Harm Journalists and Undermine Press Freedom. This report follows the launch of a website summarizing its findings with text, data visualization, and original illustrations published for World Press Freedom Day.

Not Just Words is based on research conducted in 2022 when the Global Reporting Centre led an ambitious survey studying the effects of disinformation and harassment targeting journalists. The report is co-published by the Global Reporting Centre and the University of British Columbia’s School of Journalism, Writing and Media, and produced in partnership with the Committee to Protect Journalists, PEN Canada, and the Disinformation Project at Simon Fraser University.

Now, the findings are in — and they tell a stark story. Efforts to discredit journalists are widespread. Of the 645 journalists surveyed from around the world, 63% reported attacks on their reputations every month, 54% said they suffered harm to their mental health, and 40% said they changed or reduced their reporting on certain issues to avoid further attacks. Journalists’ personal identities, and the level of press freedom in the countries where they work, shape the forms and consequences of reputational attacks against them.

Press freedom advocates know that efforts to smear and discredit journalists have serious consequences. But while there has been extensive research focusing on politicians’ efforts to delegitimize journalism, few have investigated how reputational attacks affect journalists’ safety and professional autonomy. Our report found journalists facing frequent reputational attacks also reported experiencing more physical or legal attacks, mental health strain, and other harms. This has a chilling effect on journalism, as fear of reprisal or escalation undermines journalists’ ability to promote accountability, truth-telling, and democracy.

Please share this project widely amongst your network. Not Just Words: How Reputational Attacks Harm Journalists and Undermine Press Freedom offers a roadmap for better understanding reputational attacks with the goal of safeguarding journalism.

Report summary (English)
Report summary (French)
Report summary (Spanish)

Text credit: Michelle Meiklejohn, Global Reporting Centre
Image credit: Kathleen Fu