“Superb tits” ... “about time they changed the camera angle to show some leg,” This is the kind of lewd comment posted on this Australian site by its more than 80,000 members. Administered from the Czech Republic, it has thousands of photos of several hundred women journalists, some of them screenshots taken from video and some hacked from the victims’ own social media accounts.
It was journalist Lily Cardis who reported on Twitter on 29 May that she had spotted an Instagram account whose sole activity consisted of gathering photos and video of women journalists for posting on this forum. Other reporters, including members of the Guardian’s Australia bureau, quickly identified around 15 accounts on social media and YouTube with the same purpose.
When Lily Mayers, a reporter for the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), looked at the site she discovered photos of herself in a bikini on a beach. Network 10 journalist Antoinette Lattouf found a private video taken in her home and a photo of herself covering the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis on which the only comments were smutty ones about her physical appearance.
“It is extremely shocking to learn of the existence of a forum that reduces women journalists to the level of sexual objects and displays an appalling disregard for their professional qualities,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on Australia’s minister for women, Marise Payne, to examine this disgraceful matter and initiate a debate about the way women journalists are treated in her country.”
In September 2019, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEEA), the leading organization defending journalists’ rights in Australia, published a survey on women in media entitled “Mates over Merit” – a title that sums up a situation in which the proportion of women declines very quickly as you go up the hierarchy in the media. Many women also report being the victims of ageism from 40 onwards.
The survey reported that 41% of women journalists said they were harassed online, that 48% said they had been subjected to direct sexual harassment or intimidation in the workplace, that they earn an average of 23.3% less than their male counterparts and that 89% thought that the measures taken to combat gender discrimination were not very effective or not effective at all.
Australia is ranked 26th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index, five places lower than in 2019.