They've been beaten, trolled, threatened with sexual violence but refuse to be silenced
Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT) May 6, 2021
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Abuja, Nigeria -- On September 22, 2020 while out filming, Indigenous Guatemalan journalist Andrea Ixchíu Hernández was attacked shortly after she had reported illegal loggers operating in the Totonicapán forest.
"One of them hit me on the head, the other one on my chest and on my knee," she tells CNN, recounting the incident from her home in Totonicapán in Guatemala's western highlands.
"Luckily, as one of these attackers was trying to hit me with her machete, one of the rangers managed to push her away and that was how I escaped. Basically, he saved my life."
Ixchíu Hernández's ribs were broken and she was bed bound for two months. She also sustained injuries to her spine. "I am still recovering from that. It was really awful and really violent," she says, her voice strained as she recounts the incident. "As I am speaking about it, I am realising again how dangerous it was."
The physical attack she suffered that day may have not been premeditated but it was also not unimaginable. Ixchíu Hernández had already been the victim of years of online threats -- attempts to humiliate and silence her.
"I have been facing this since 2012. I have a long record of different ways and different times in Guatemala where I have faced digital threats," she says before explaining further: "I faced situations where people were attacking me on Twitter and Facebook, [and sharing] misinformation [about me] on Whatsapp. Once, in my hometown, one of these men printed a meme with rumours against me and my family and propagated it in the public square and in the local market."
Ixchíu Hernández is one of the lucky ones, shaken by the violence but still alive. Daphne Caruana Galizia wasn't so lucky.
The Maltese investigative journalist had risen to international prominence for her reporting that revealed her island's elites were benefiting from offshore tax havens as part of the Panama Papers leaks.
On October 17, 2017 just half an hour after she'd published a blogpost about alleging corruption at the core of the Maltese government, the 53-year-old was killed by a car bomb in a small town called Bidnija.
The year after she died, Caruana Galizia's son, Andrew Caruana Galizia, addressed the UN Human Rights Council saying: "Because of her work exposing corruption at the highest levels, my mother was dehumanized in the media and by politicians and branded a witch."
"In the early years, she received threats by phone; later this became a concerted campaign of offline and online harassment. My father and my brothers and I were targeted in an attempt to silence her. Our pet dogs were killed, our home was set alight ... Unprotected by Malta's institutions, including the police force and the courts, killing her was not only desirable but it became conceivable."
Unfortunately, both women's stories -- of online harassment that culminates in offline violence -- are not exceptional.
In fact, as a new report published in April by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the United Nations' agency UNESCO reveals: "Online attacks on women journalists appear to be increasing significantly, as this study demonstrates, particularly in the context of the 'shadow pandemic' of violence against women during COVID-19. The pandemic has changed journalists' working conditions, making them yet more dependent on digital communications services and social media channels."
The report which is based on a global survey of 901 journalists in 125 countries, a further 173 interviews and two big data case studies that analyse 2.5 million Facebook and Twitter posts, concludes that "women journalists are both the primary targets of online violence and the first responders to it." In addition, a journalist's race, sexual orientation and religion, exposes her to "even more frequent and vitriolic attacks".