Thursday, May 10, 2012

A face of Patriarchy in the Arab media

We were shocked after reading the news. Al-Hayat newspaper which is known of its journalism professionalism, showed its real face in supporting and enhancing the patriarchy when it comes to womes issues.

It's shocking or as what others say it is a stab in the back.

They stabbed in a back of each person who trusts them, and gave statements or interview with this newspaper, then they betray this trust. They stabbed in a back of each person who believes that streets sexual harassment is a social phenomenon that must be faced at all levels, and unfortunately you find an attempt by the media to conceal the facts or manipulate information  to prove the point of view one single category of people who deny the existence of street sexual harassment in Yemen.

Al-Hayat Daily newspaper, the one that based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia carried out to conceal the truth upon a request from a small group of men in Twitter who believe that sexual harassment in Yemen does not exist or is not a dangerous phenomenon.

The story started when a journalist from Alhayat newspaper contacted me on February 2012 to tell him about Safe Streets campaign, and its mission in fighting streets’ sexual harassment in Yemen. In his report, he mentioned that 90% of Yemeni women are facing streets’ sexual harassment. This statistics is based on the outputs of a regional conference organized by the National Center for Women's Rights and the United Nations Fund for population (UNFPA) on sexual harassment in the 16 Arab countries including Yemen, so this information was posted in many international and local websites including in the campaign's facebook page. Thus, the journalist quoted this statistics from those websites to his report for Alhayat newspaper. The title of the report was " 90% of Yemeni women are victims of Sexual Harassment and Internet is their haven)
(This is the report after deleting the statistics)

After almost three months of publishing that report, Alhayat newspaper deleted the statistics from its report on the website, and apologized in their newspaper and Twitter claiming that this number 90% is over exaggerated. They published this apology after few men in Twitter asked the newspaper to delete it because they believe this statistics is wrong and showing that Yemeni men are harassers!!! Now the new title for the report " victims of Harassment, and Internet is their Haven" They did not only delete the statistics, but also the word "women"

We hoped this behavior from the newspaper came after doing some research or investigations, and proving this number is not true, may be less or may be more than 90% of Yemeni women are facing streets sexual harassment. We hoped these people just did a survy or study, and discover the right percentage of streets sexual harassment. However, this unprofessional behavior came upon a request of few men in Twitter, who did not like this statistics. They just did not like or believe it, and the newspaper just responded to them ; delete the statistics fro the report.!!!

The matter now is not about publishing a statistics on the newspaper or not, the matter now is about how and why this newspaper promptly responded to this few men in Twitter.

What happened with Alhayat newspaper, which is considered a very well known newspaper in the Middle East. It is just showed one face of many faces of strong patriarchy especially when it comes to issues related to women's rights. A patriarchy blinds the eyes of the society on critical issues especially for women's rights. A patriarchy when it tries to blind men and women in particular from seeing the reality. A patriarchy when a group of men putting a lot of effort to hide the truth that is related to women issues.

There is wrong perception in the Yemeni society that streets sexual harassment rarely happen and it is not a phenomenon, and the media enhancing this wrong perception.  I am not exaggerating if I am saying that 90% of Yemeni women are facing street sexual harassment for two main reasons. First of all, I and my friends are facing harassment down the streets more than once daily. The second reason, a local organization published a study about this issues, and stated that 98.9% of Yemeni women are facing sexual harassment in Sana'a (the capital of Yemen.
Finally, Media has a duty to reveal the truth not hide for the sake of a group of people. If Alhayat newspaper was professional, should have asked these people to approve their claims not just asking th newspaper to delete a statistics. The newspaper should have approved that the satatistcs are incorrect through survey and studies, not because some tweets from small group of people.