Seek truth without abuse

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, who has been subjected to abuse online for her reporting. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/CC)

Over the last couple of days, Laura Kuenssberg has received attention for something that should not be a norm.

Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor who is the primary point person for the organization when it comes to British politics, was reported to be accompanied by a security guard as she covered the conference for the Labour Party, the opposition in Britain’s House of Commons.

Kuenssberg had been subjected to abuse online for her reporting, and prominent names in the Labour Party have called on its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to condemn it.

While the report of Kuenssberg being accompanied by a security guard has not officially been confirmed, it is not the first notable instance of security being needed for attacks against female journalists. When she covered President Trump’s campaign, NBC News reporter Katy Tur had received protection from the US Secret Service during a series of personal attacks. Trump has continued to criticize journalists, notably saying recently that journalists do not “like our country.”

Journalism is a fundamental part of the principles of democracy, and the ability for journalists to hold those in power to account without restrictions or repercussions is quintessential to upholding those principles. Any attack against a journalist, irrespective of medium, impedes their ability to serve the public. Further, an attack on journalists is not just an attack on the profession itself, but an attack on democracy.

Women’s contributions to journalism are essential for the profession to survive, and they are contributions that should not be taken for granted. This egregious abuse directed at Kuenssberg and other journalists, be it covering politics, culture, sports, economics, or other beats, should not be tolerated. No journalist should be subjected to it, and as Gaby Hinsliff, a former political editor of the British newspaper The Observer put it, it has no place in a democracy.

The ideas of women in journalism is something that should be championed, not criticized. I support Kuenssberg and the work of female journalists around the world who inform, engage and educate. They must be able to serve the public without restrictions or abuse, and do what is at the core of SPJ’s Code of Ethics – seek truth and report it.

I support them, and quite frankly, so should you.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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