A man types on a computer keyboard in this illustration picture taken February 28, 2013
A man types on a computer keyboard in this illustration picture taken February 28, 2013.REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/File Phot

Indian journalist Neha Dixit has alleged receiving death and rape threats from an anonymous person who, she said, has been stalking her for quite some time.

Sharing her harrowing experience on social media, Dixit, who is one among the several recipients of the 2019 International Press Freedom Awards, said that someone tried to break into her house on January 25 at around 9 p.m., following which she filed a complaint in a local police station.

Target of web-based threats

Dixit has covered stories related to national politics, gender equality, and social justice in print, television as well as online media for more than a decade.

Narrating the incident, she said she has long been a target of threats and harassment, both online and offline, due to the nature of her investigations, particularly her reportage about extrajudicial killings, illegal detention using draconian laws and trafficking of Assamese girls by a right-wing group to 'inculcate' them with nationalist ideology, many among others.

Dixit, in a tweet on Wednesday, said she has been physically stalked since September 2020.

The stalker, she said, identifies her "exact physical location" through phone calls, threatening her with "rape, acid attack and death, dearly bringing my profession as a journalist into the conversation". Several numbers have been used to make calls through three-four different voices and over two dozen phone numbers, she added.

People's response to death threat appeals

"I have filed a police complaint at the local police station today and the police is investigating," Dixit said.

She said she has shared her story online because each day there are lots of incidents related to online trolling and so it is time, that a sincere effort to tackle the offline, physical threats and attacks needs to be undertaken immediately.

"Looking at the recent precedents where so many journalists, artists, filmmakers, activists, academics have faced violence, some killed, for doing their job, it is imperative that we start paying attention to violence beyond the online world," she added.

Dixit, in the past as well, has revealed numerous times that her blatant reports on extrajudicial killings in Uttar Pradesh have led to high-ranking police officials threaten her as well as her family at the same time. She also reportedly revealed that she faces nearly 300 abusive messages each day.

How women are singled out for vile abuse?

Disinformation about gender and open criticism are the main reasons for affecting the public perception of women who speak out loud. This is why some women at the very beginning of their careers become victims of such abuses and permanently choose not to enter public-facing careers ever again.

Scroll recently cited a study that found that women tend to majorly reduce their engagement online to avoid ongoing or potential harassment. One of the participants in the study said that she had to "wade through all this filth... to just do the basic function of participating" on social media.

These sentiments showcase the harsh realities that women must realize they may face in case they wish to engage online.

The problem is our laws are just not set up for this. They are only based on the idea of having a crime and a perpetrator rather than being oriented around victims or targets. Law enforcers should take note that in abuses like these, there are harassment laws or stalking laws that pertain to a pattern of behavior over time. And they should delay in taking action to tackle the crime any further.