RIYADH: Ways of overcoming some of the challenges and prejudices faced by female Arab journalists topped the agenda at a Saudi conference on Wednesday.
Women writers from throughout the Middle East and North Africa region gathered at the headquarters of the Saudi Press Agency in Riyadh for the third session of the Arab Female Journalists seminar.
Shoura Council member and honorary guest, Nora Al-Shaaban, joined delegates in hailing the increased presence of women in the media sector, but said: “Female journalists have ambitions and it’s their right to achieve them.”
Yemeni journalist Ahlam Abdul Raqeeb participated in a panel — moderated by secretary-general of the Federation of Arab News Agencies (FANA), Dr. Fareed Ayar — which looked at the professional obstacles that Arab women journalists were sometimes confronted with and how to address them.
Conference delegates were told that Abdul Raqeeb was arrested in Yemen for six days because of her work and was constantly threatened. She escaped her home country with her children after contacting Saudi authorities a few years ago.
In Sudan, more women were being hired into leading roles, said Saeeda Hamat, a Sudanese journalist with the Sudan News Agency.
“Sudanese women hold executive positions in ministries as deputy ministerial advisers, and with the December revolution in Sudan, we now have female ministers. We are progressing. We do not have any obstacles in front of us. Do not cry over spilled milk and stop looking to the past but toward the future,” she told the gathering.
Samiya Al-Saayda from the Jordan News Agency (Petra) suggested that new reporters should be trained for a full year before starting work in order to give them a better understanding of the job. “You wouldn’t let a doctor perform surgery without training and the same goes with ethical journalism.”
Mothers in newsrooms was another issue raised in the same session, with employers often reluctant to hire them.