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RTÉ journalist experienced racist abuse online for over two years

Zainab Boladale said she has been dealing with much of the abuse since 2017.

RTÉ presenter Zainab Boladale.
RTÉ presenter Zainab Boladale.
Image: RTÉ

AN RTÉ JOURNALIST has been subject to racist abuse online for over two years, mainly through a YouTube channel featuring comments saying she “looks like a monkey”. 

Journalist Zainab Boladale said the channel targeted her and her work in a racist manner since she began working at RTÉ in 2017 as a presenter on children’s news show news2day.  

She said the abuse has increased over the past couple of months and she decided to speak publicly about it this weekend out of “frustration” about media discussions of racism. 

“I think I was just really fed up, and there was just a lot out there in the media about the questions about racism, whether or not Ireland was racist, whether or not this comment is racist or that comment is racist and I just kind of felt really, really fed up and irritated that were still having this conversation,” she said on RTÉ’s News at One. 

The 23-year-old was born in Nigeria before moving to Ennis, Co Clare when she was four. 

She tweeted about the incident on Saturday, showing examples of some of the comments calling her a “n****r” and saying she “looks like a monkey”. 

Tweet by @Zainab Boladale 🏳️‍🌈 Source: Zainab Boladale 🏳️‍🌈/Twitter

The journalist said she first became aware of the YouTube channel featuring videos of her and other people in the public eye in March 2018. At this time, she said the account had 6,000 subscribers. 

“I could see really bad comments underneath and I reported it in here [within RTÉ] and that was dealt with. The account was taken down, but two weeks later it went back up,” she said. 

She said the account would upload presenter blooper videos from her Instagram page and use them to call her a terrible presenter. The YouTube channel has since been removed again after more people reported it in recent months, the journalist said. 

“Whenever people of colour or people from minority backgrounds are in the public eye, they undeniably get a lot of racism,” Boladale said. 

Offline abuse

The abuse was not just online as the journalist described a recent incident in the Midlands while filming at her current job with Nationwide. A man allegedly repeatedly asked where she was from, asked to buy her hair and said she had good English for “a little Nigerian girl”. 

“It’s tough when you’re trying to just do your job and you have these things being thrown at you and you have to kind of manage that while trying to maintain your positivity,” she said.  

Jon Williams, managing director at RTÉ News, said that members of the organisation are “disgusted that anyone should have to put up with such vile behaviour”. 

“Sadly harassment of journalists is nothing new. But we expect the social media companies to act quickly and decisively to protect the victims,” said Williams in a statement.

He added that those at RTÉ “abhor” any kind of racist abuse. 

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