On International Women's Day: Female Journalists' Resilience amid Professional Challenges

On International Women's Day: Female Journalists' Resilience amid Professional Challenges

On the occasion of International Women's Day, celebrated annually on March 8 worldwide,

Women Journalists Without Chains extends heartfelt appreciation to all female journalists, media professionals, and dedicated individuals for their unwavering commitment, courage, and invaluable contributions to the field of journalism, despite facing numerous challenges and inherent risks.

In regions such as the Middle East and North Africa, where journalism was traditionally dominated by men and where such preferences persist today, women journalists have emerged as inspirational figures for future generations and beyond their own borders. They have demonstrated remarkable capabilities in handling complex investigative journalism, exposing corruption, and advocating for human rights and democracy despite facing significant challenges. Many have paid a heavy price, enduring threats, intimidation, and harassment from governments, armed groups, and the public due to their courageous coverage of sensitive issues.

In the realm of journalism, female professionals encounter notable obstacles in accessing critical information, particularly concerning security and political matters. These challenges are compounded by gender-based discrimination, encompassing defamation and sexual violence. Moreover, pervasive gender biases persist within media institutions, hindering female journalists from attaining leadership roles and equitable compensation relative to their male counterparts.

Female journalists in the Middle East and North Africa confront online bullying and harassment, significantly impacting their psychological and physical well-being. In certain societies, their very status as journalists challenges prevailing social norms, rendering them susceptible to electronic harassment and persecution. Numerous cases of harassment and cyberbullying were reported last year, primarily stemming from their divergence from societal expectations.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning head of Journalists Without Chains, Tawakkol Karman, has praised the steadfastness of female journalists and media professionals around the world, especially in the Middle East and North Africa region. She has acknowledged their commitment to the profession of journalism and their pioneering role in conveying facts and spreading awareness in their communities, highlighting the challenges they had faced.

Karman emphasized, "Despite the prevalent dangers and obstacles encountered by female journalists in our region, ranging from violence to gender-based discrimination, they persist in their endeavors with unwavering resolve. They champion freedom of expression, advocate for social justice, and actively contribute to the development of prosperous communities."

Women Journalists Without Chains underscores the pivotal role of female journalists in fostering equitable and democratic societies. Stakeholders in the region—including governments, media entities, and civil society—are urged to prioritize the support and protection of female journalists. In this regard, the following concerted efforts are imperative to enhance the working conditions for female journalists in the Middle East and North Africa:

  • Guaranteeing freedom of the press and expression, allowing female journalists to practice their work without fear or intimidation.
  • Holding perpetrators of crimes against female journalists accountable, including political, military, and security leaders, ensuring that justice is served and these violations are not overlooked or treated as secondary offenses.
  • Promoting women's participation in the journalistic and media fields, ensuring equal opportunities for professional development and promotion compared to men.
  • Educating communities about the importance of women in journalism and media, actively combating discrimination, bullying, and online harassment directed towards female journalists.

Women Journalists Without Chains emphasizes the necessity of women's full participation in journalism, along with equal opportunities, to foster prosperous and just democratic societies. To illustrate this, the organization presents examples of eight female journalists from the Middle East and North Africa region who have faced violations in the past year.


Salam Mima from Palestine

Salam Khalil Mohammed Mima, an independent journalist and head of the Women Journalists Committee in the Palestinian Media Gathering, lost her life alongside her family in an Israeli occupation air strike on October 10. The strike, which occurred in the Jabalia camp northeast of Gaza, claimed the lives of Salam, her husband, and three children—Hadi, Ali, and Sham. Their bodies were recovered from the rubble three days later. Salam is among 15 female journalists who have lost their lives in Israeli occupation attacks on the Gaza Strip since October 2023, adding to the tragic toll of 125 Palestinian journalists killed in these assaults. Additionally, Heba Fouad Al-Abadla, a broadcaster on Al-Azhar Radio, perished alongside her daughter and mother in a separate Israeli airstrike on January 9 in Khan Yunis.


Farah Omar from Lebanon

Farah Omar, a correspondent for Al-Mayadeen TV, was killed on November 21, 2023, alongside her colleague, photographer Rabih Al-Maamari, in an Israeli raid targeting the town of Teir Harfa in southern Lebanon. Farah, who was covering events in the region, was bombed along with her crew, with the attack occurring shortly after she appeared on a live broadcast for the channel. Her distinguished reporting, particularly on events in southern Lebanon and Palestinian refugee camps, earned her the Best Arab Reporter Award in 2018."


Halima Salem from Sudan

Halima Idris Salem, a correspondent for the Sudan Bakra channel, lost her life on October 10 in a hit-and-run accident while preparing a news report in Omdurman, northwest of Khartoum. She was unaware that this report would be her last. The Rapid Support Forces were implicated in the incident. Halima is the second journalist to perish in the Sudanese civil war. In June 2023, journalist Samaher Abdel Shafe’ from Zalingei Radio was killed by a shell in a displacement camp along with three other journalists.


Nilofar Hamedi & Elaheh Mohammadi from Iran

In September 2022, Nilofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, female journalists, were arrested after reporting on the killing of Mahsa Amini by Tehran's morality police. They faced abuse during detention in a notorious prison. In October 2023, Hamidi was sentenced to 13 years and Mohammadi to 12 years in prison. Both were also convicted of cooperating with the United States, resulting in additional sentences of seven and six years, respectively. They were further sentenced to five years for complicity in national security crimes and one year for propaganda against the Iranian establishment. Following their imprisonment, they were prohibited from practicing journalism and using social media. Following their release on bail on January 14, 2024, the two journalists faced new charges for publishing photos without wearing hijab, immediately after their departure from prison. Nilofar and Elaheh were honored with the prestigious United Nations UNESCO/Guillermo-Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 2023.


Marwa Arafa from Egypt

Marwa Arafa, a translator and blogger for the independent website Mada Masr in Egypt, completed her studies in October 2023, focusing on human rights issues. However, she has spent three and a half years in prison since her arrest in April 2020. Following her arrest, she was forcibly disappeared and held incommunicado for two weeks at the National Security Agency headquarters in Nasr City. On May 5, 2020, she was brought before the State Security Prosecution, where she faced charges of "spreading false news" and "joining a terrorist group." Arafa was ordered to be held in pretrial detention and was transferred between police stations before being imprisoned at Qanater Prison in July 2020. Similar to other detained journalists in Egypt, her pretrial detention has been routinely renewed, with her detention extended for another 45 days on February 26, 2024.


Shatha al-Hajj from Tunisia

In 2023, journalist Shatha Al-Hajj Mubarak remained behind bars in Tunisia after her arrest in 2021, along with several other journalists and bloggers. They were accused of collaborating with a digital content production company to disseminate news inciting violence, attacking state security, and insulting the head of state. While released by court order in June 2023, she was rearrested the following month. As investigations into the case continue, no verdict has been reached against her. These accusations against Shatha Al-Hajj Mubarak are not recognized under international law.


Hanan Bakour from Morocco

Hanan Bakour, former director of the Moroccan website "Al-Youm 24," responded assertively to the ruling against her by the Court of First Instance in Salé in February 2024. The court sentenced her to one month of suspended imprisonment and a 500-dirham fine following a case filed by the National Rally of Independents Party. This decision came after a lengthy legal process spanning over two years and around twenty sessions. The complaint was initially filed by the National Rally of Liberals, the party of Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch.

Bakour was accused of disseminating false allegations and facts through information systems with the intention to harm individuals' private lives or defame them, as a result of her criticisms of the party. She criticized the ruling via her official Facebook account, sarcastically referring to the National Rally of Liberals as the "Testahel Hasan" Party. She suggested that journalists see the rulings as "medals on their shoulders" and emphasized their refusal to remain silent, quoting her belief that "there is ample time for silence in the grave."


Samaher Danoun from Syria

Samaher Danoun, a correspondent for Syrian Education TV, was expelled by the Syrian TV media administration in October 2023 due to a Facebook post expressing solidarity with the demands of the people of Suwayda for improved living conditions. Danoun's post urged individuals to awaken from illusions and fear, asserting their deservingness of liberation. Despite her expulsion, Danoun remains hopeful for societal awakening, invoking the metaphor of the butterfly effect. Danoun announced on her Facebook account that, following over six years of service in educational media, her employment was terminated and she was suspended from work due to expressing her personal opinion on her personal page.


Released by:

Women Journalists Without Chains

March 8, 2024





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