Arab women war reporters: Who cares about them?
By Iqbal Tamimi - a ( female ) Arab journalist
I worked at AlArabiya TV station based in Dubai Media City where women happen to be 50% of the total number of reporters, and 50% of almost every department except sound engineering. AlArabiyah is one of two competing News channels in the Arab world. The other one is Aljazera based in Doha - Qatar.
Although Arab women started working as war reporters some time ago, their presence was most obvious during the Israeli attacks on Lebanon last July 2006. During the coverage female reporters proved to be daring, and professionally competitive compared with their male colleagues, besides working under extremely difficult conditions.
The assassination of 26 years old female colleague Atwar Bahjat 22d on February 2006, during reporting from Iraq seemed not to discourage them from going to the front lines. Atwar was kidnapped by anonymous armed people in Samarra, and assassinated brutally afterwards.
A 23 years old female free lancer photographer has been killed during the shelling of Lebanon too. Layal Najeeb was killed when the car driving her was hit by an Israeli rocket while filming the wreckage of a Lebanese village.
None of the Arab female reporters were trained ahead of such missions; Katia Nasser from Aljazeera TV started reporting from the heights on the borders between Lebanon and Israel for the first time in her life, immediately after volunteering to do so; she was shifted there from her office at Doha in Qatar.
Bushra Abdelsammad from Aljazeera TV was the first female reporter to appear on TV wearing a crash helmet, and bullet proof jacket. On the other side of the border from the Palestinian side, two female colleagues from Aljazeera TV Shirin Abu Aqleh, and Jivara Al Budairy were reporting wearing their usual outfits.
From AlArabiya channel Najwa Alqasim left the newsroom too, to join the reporters in the south of Lebanon, followed by the young female reporter Rima Maktabi. There was a female Reporter from LBC channel too, and Nancy AlSabei from NTV. Nancy was the second reporter to wear a bullet proof jacket; this was the maximum protection they have been offered before going on a trip to one of the districts of hell. Strange enough women appeared to be more professional than their male colleagues sometimes in terms of reporting interesting news, sharing their military analytical views, or explaining tactics and military techniques.
Arab women as war reporters are looked at with great pride by the public, but looking at the professional part of the story, they were not offered training as war reporters, or equipped with protective gear, except pullet proof jackets worn by only two of them. None of them have been trained to report from conflict areas. Any of them could have ended up badly injured, kidnapped, or even dead. What leads them to such areas is their enthusiasm, and hopes to secure a better position in their careers in a male dominated society.
It is clear that when a woman is injured, or loses her life, she and her family should harvest the consequences, unless her story happens to be a good source of advertising for the company, then her loss becomes a gain, not for her loved ones, but for the media machine which knows how to benefit from hard working women either way..Alive or dead, since such machine is oiled by feeds of stories made by hard working female, or by women who happen to be its victims.