Wendy Monterrosa is a journalist with 18 years of experience breaking the mold in Salvadoran television. She was one of the few women to host an interview program, a role traditionally entrusted to men. As such, she faced different types of harassment, the most recent of which was digital harassment, as she analyzed.
“I didn’t think I’d come across all those parts that nobody told us. This is how this network of trolls, or these structures, some of which work anonymously on social networks, is mobilized and how it can attack you,” Monterrosa tells DW.
The reporter said, “The attacks against women journalists have a more brutal, misogynistic, more sexist aspect. I think it’s more complicated. They can attack you differently when you’re a man. There’s a differentiating factor, of course, when you’re a woman journalist”.
DW: What happens when attacks come from anonymous social media accounts?
Monterosa: It’s harder because they’re under the guise of anonymity like “no one knows me and I have an open letter to say no matter what”. I got some very harsh messages that made me believe that I was an incapable person who said ‘yes, it’s beautiful but stupid’. Or sexually explicit messages. Exactly, that’s the effect as a woman gets with this additional machismo ingredient.
I can list so many messages I receive that sometimes I try not to read them. I’m already with a psychologist who said to me ‘better not read them, because what for’. One is too worn out and I prefer to focus on other things and not give too much space. I know I’ll get a lot of offensive messages – for example, if I post something that will cause some controversy or cause some discomfort – and I prefer not to read it.
I mean, he’s impressed…
Of course. In a country where rights are no longer guaranteed; almost zero institutionalization; that the entire State is for one person; There is no guarantee where someone’s right is violated… Adding that you have to do journalism in a difficult environment, with many attacks, with a systematic strategy against the independent press, and you have to be exposed to constant attacks on social networks. , which of course means a great deal of wear.
Sometimes people try to say ‘it’s normal because I’m a journalist and this should happen to me’. No. This doesn’t have to happen to us. We don’t need to get into this stress. This is not fair because we are doing a business where we try to say or disclose something that governments want to hide. After all, we are providing a service to the citizens.
All this is very affecting and I think the main thing right now is to support the mental and emotional health of journalists because what we are going through is not normal and what we are going through is serious.
Do you know of any other cases of female journalists being harassed like this?
“Yes. I have a few female colleagues who have had a hard time. They have suffered too. Some have decided not to be as active on social networks as they used to be, and some are not. It depends heavily on personality and the situation people find themselves in. Then that’s perfectly understandable. .There are also women who have incredible courage, who are still there despite being attacked, who still do their job believing that what they are doing is right.
What advice would you give to a journalist experiencing this?
“First of all, understanding the context and moment in which El Salvador lives in terms of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. I think it is very important for a female journalist starting a job to know what she can do to absorb this panorama.” It is important to understand that a female journalist can find support networks, not just because she is a journalist, but for the fact that she is a woman in a macho and unequal society like ours and many others in Latin America. There are ways to further protect ourselves, and the essential and sometimes forgotten part of mental health should not be forgotten.
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