“Breaking the Silence: A female Journalist’s Battle Against Cyber Bullying on Facebook and the Fight for Safer Spaces”


It was a phone call from her brother in-law that alerted Perina, a journalist and TV producer, of what was going on with her on Facebook. Her photo had been posted in a Facebook group by an unknown person, and everyone was now hurling insults and mockery on her appearance and looks.

My brother-in-law called me and said, do you know that somebody has actually posted your picture on a facebook page? And I was like, I don’t know anything. So, he said, can you go and check? I’m not too sure of the name of the group.

Perina recalls how devastated she was when she finally browsed through Facebook pages 

and found the page where her photo had been posted.

And when I looked at the insults, Maria, I cried. I cried. And I cried because I felt sorry for myself. I started telling myself that I’m not beautiful, because I was, like, comparing myself to the so-called beauty that people would refer to.

It was the mean comments about her appearance that struck Perina the hardest and for the first time she felt so ugly.

“See how thin she is; does she even eat? She and her fake make-up! She is extremely unattractive.”

Perina went through a period of emotional drain that affected not only her self-esteem but also how she perceived her abilities and what she could accomplish.

“I really lost my self-esteem. I lost my confidence. I was like, I’m just an ugly somebody. There’s nothing that I can achieve.”

This would also affect her work and career dreams.

“I had to stay for a whole week in those without going to work, without going anywhere. I didn’t think I was capable of achieving anything or doing anything. And I actually started drawing back because I was looking at myself and I was like, maybe my face is not for TV Maybe, because our media house has a radio as well as the TV.”

Somebody somewhere, but living in South Africa, had gone through Perina’s Facebook page and selected a random photo of her which she shared in group for comparison.

So, what happened was on that group, people do take pictures, and they, like, compare you with other people and the like. So, somebody went to my page, my Facebook page, and took my picture and then posted it in that group.”

What was even more concerning for the young journalist and TV show producer was that she was not a member of the group where her photo was shared.

“I don’t know if it’s still there or it doesn’t exist anymore. I’m not too sure because I never followed that group. I don’t even know. The very first and last time I went there was when my picture was posted there”

How did Perina cope up?

In her lowest moments, Perina says it’s her husband who guided her through the coping process.

It took me some time to get some courage and start going out again. It actually took my husband to always encourage me, always sharing the word of God with me and always reminding me that the Bible says, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. He kept telling me that what people say about me should be secondary to what God says.

While her husband had been extremely helpful in assisting her in coping with the situation, it was extremely difficult for her to completely let go until she opened up and shared what she was going through with her fellow journalists.

But still there was that little voice in me that was saying, hey, you want to do this? Just know you’re not that beautiful. I think I kept it for too long, because I never went for counselling, and I never opened up to anybody till last year during the Women in news sessions when I opened up in one of the sessions and got completely healed”.

Perina also used her networks to track down the woman who had posted her photo and spoke with her about how she felt about her actions, as well as asking her to remove the photo.

“I knew people in South Africa and told them about what had happened. They looked for the girl and found her. They forced her to call me and apologize and pull down the photo which she did.

From her experience and healing process, Perina has learned that women need to acknowledge their own identity and their own beauty and to resist from self-comparison to others. She also says it crucial to know that not everyone will love you or be positive towards you.

The extent of cyber bullying and harassment

A 2020 study by the International Center of Journalists and UNESCO finds that nearly three-quarters of
women journalists say that they have experienced online abuse, harassment, threats and attacks.

A report by Unwanted Witness of 2020 indicates that over 72% of women using internet in Uganda are.
victims of cyberbullying and harassment.

The report also indicates that Technology-related violence is just as damaging to women and girls as physical violence and it is estimated that 73 per cent of women have endured cyber violence, with women being 27 times more likely than men to be harassed online.

Research on digital harassment and cyberbullying has also found that these experiences can have
severe consequences on mental health, including anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation. It
can also lead to physical health problems, such as headaches, stomachaches, and sleep disturbances.

What is being done?

It’s against this backdrop that organizations such as Women in News, Pollicy, have arisen to equip journalists, activists, and women in the public eye to secure themselves online and stand against cyber harassment.

WAN-IFRA Women in News is an organization that envisions a media industry in which women and men are equal.

Through its WIN Leadership Accelerator program, which is an intensive, nine-month long career and leadership programme for journalists and editors working in Africa, equips media practioners with necessary skills to do their work including digital safety.

It also provides a session and space through which journalists are able to open up about their online experiences. It’s through these Sessions that Perina was able to finally heal completely from her experience.

Pollicy on the other hand, is a feminist collective of technologists, data scientists, creatives and academics working at the intersection of data, design and technology to craft better life experiences by harnessing improved data. Pollicy has collaborated with Uganda Media Women Association (UMWA) to train female journalists and communicators in Africa in digital safety.

On February 20, 2023, over 30 journalists from both rural and urban media outlets attended a two-day digital safety training at J freigh hotel in Kampala.

The overall goal of the training, according to Phillip Ayazika, program manager Research & Programs at Pollicy Uganda, was to equip journalists and communicators with skills to stay safe online and uphold professional standards.

Abalo Irene Otto, a multimedia investigative journalist, was the lead trainer, and she provided media practitioners with the knowledge, skills, and tools they needed to protect themselves, their sources, and their information from digital threats like hacking, surveillance, and cyber-attacks.

Some of the topics covered included physical security risks, practical steps for installing secure browsers such as Incognito browser, Tor Browser, VPNs, use of secure encrypted platforms such as Signal and Telegram and avoiding public Wifi whenever possible.

Brenda Namata, Communications and Advocacy Officer with Uganda Media Women Association (UMWA) and a trainer, reminded Journalists of their ethical obligations in their work, and the legal provisions available to help journalists experiencing online violence including article 29 on freedom of expression and article 31,32 and 33.

She also expounded on misinformation and disinformation, a session through which journalists were able to discuss their understanding of these terms and how both can be avoided.





Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.