BEIRUT: After 55 days of ground coverage, female Lebanese journalists have proven to be relentlessly conducting their job whilst facing a wide range of threats and harassment.
Nation-wide protests erupted on October 17, right after the cabinet approved a tax on WhatsApp calls. This measure was considered the straw that broke the camel’s back which pushed tens of thousands of Lebanese protestors calling for anti-corruption measures and the downfall of the current political elites.
Although journalists in Lebanon have generally enjoyed freedom of speech and protection, during this revolution they have faced a series of unfortunate events. Specifically, female journalists have faced a series physical attacks and threats.
These occurrences targeted women from different TV stations.
Dima Sadek, a former LBCI correspondent, was a target of these negative occurrences. On one night, whilst she was in central Beirut amidst protesters, she was verbally harassed by a group who called Sadek a series of degrading names. That same night, Sadek’s phone was also stolen as a form of revenge for her tweets. Additionally, Sadek and her mother have been receiving non-stop threatening phone calls and messages.
Joyce Akiki, an MTV correspondent, also faced verbal harassment during a Free Patriotic Movement protest from Singer Samir Sfeir who called her and the TV station demeaning titles. Furthermore, various OTV reporters, such as Joelle Bou Younes and Rima Hamdan also faced verbal harassment due to the fact that the station is highly viewed as supporting the government and the president.
Nawal Berry, an MTV reporter, was attacked on two different occasions. She was once attacked by a group that smashed the camera, stole her microphone, and physically attacked her. The second time she was chased by the same supporters into a building as there was a confrontation between anti-government protesters and government supporters.
“These groups considered MTV and me part ans supporters of the revolution. Thus, when there is an anti-revolution protest, or a group of government supporters, we tend to receive aggressive behavior,” she said. “Although I feel with people’s main goals and needs, I constantly conduct my job professionally while maintaining neutrality and objectivity."
Berry added that she heard on several occasions comments from various people on the fact that she was a woman covering late at night among a crowd full of men.
“It was offensive to hear these comments, since I am doing my job and I believe my gender shouldn’t matter,” Berry told Annahar. “Aside from these comments, us female reporters weren’t treated differently on the ground since they eventually people got used to our presence and it was seen that by default we will always be there." Berry has previously covered dangerous places in her career path such as Syria, Indonesia, and Mali so she strongly believes that her gender does not and should play a role on her ability to cover in high-risk places.
Grecia Antoun, an LBCI correspondent, stated that the main problem she faced while covering the protest was making sure she would give live-time coverage to people who were mature and able to portray the image of the events properly, regardless if they were with or against the revolution.
“We bare a big responsibility in front of the entire nation to portray a civilized image,” she said.
Antoun also added that over the 55 days, a connection was built between the media and the revolutionaries because these people were seeing that the media is playing a crucial role in portraying their struggle. She added that as LBCI, they did not feel hostility from the crowd, no matter which areas they were covering.
“In general, I do feel that female journalists are usually treated with more respect and patience because they are seen as the nicer and calmer gender, but in this revolution I felt that people treated us in a proper manner regardless of our gender, just because they knew our professional background,” she said. “It also helped that I was young, since protesters were mostly young and they could relate to me."
Joelle Hajj Moussa, Al-Jadeed correspondent, stated that the hardest times were the first few days whereby she was in Tyre covering the protests.
“Some of the movement’s supporters attacked us the first few days and they had weapons, thus the cameraman and I decided to leave since it was dangerous. Even after we left, some of these supporters created a video threatening us to not come back to Tyre,” she said. “An hour later, we spoke to Intelligence agents to ensure our safety, and we went to Tyre against all odds and covered the protests once again.”
“I felt that although female reporters are usually more welcomed in normal times, during the revolution aggressors saw no difference between female and males. When the Tyre incident happened, they did not care that I was a woman, they verbally attacked me constantly,” she added.
Additionally, she stated that due to the area’s politically inclination, the return of Al-Jadeed helped the protesters feel at ease since they knew the media was covering their movements.
“The protesters were extremely nice and welcoming, they even brought me a cake once and carried me on their shoulders” she added.
Welcome to "NAYA," the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations-NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: [email protected]
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