For years, the MENA region has been witnessing a never-ending cycle of violence and armed conflict, the consequences of which have impacted the entire population, particularly journalists. Journalists have been affected the most as they are frequently present in conflict areas, thereby becoming more susceptible to tensions with the parties involved.
In addition to the violations and hardships as a result of working in journalism, female journalists face additional harassment which often hinders their work and prevents them from doing their jobs. This unfortunately pushes many female journalists to abandon the field entirely. The harassment faced by many female journalists for one particular reason: they are women.
The frequency and severity of violations and challenges faced by female journalists in Yemen, Tunisia, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory have increased over the last decade. Most of these journalists face prosecution, arbitrary detention, direct targeting, and other violations that male journalists also face. However, the most difficult aspect of the violations are the ones that only female journalists encounter, such as societal pressures, family rejection of their journalistic work, stigma, threats, and limited opportunities.
To further the challenges that female journalists encounter, they have difficulty obtaining statements or conducting interviews with various parties as they are not always recognised as journalists. In addition, they are also subject to pay cuts, expulsion, discrimination, and disputes related to the male-dominated media and press sector.
This report focuses on the most prominent challenges, obstacles, and harassment faced by female journalists in Yemen, Tunisia, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It examines the most common forms of discrimination and assault against them through testimonies and personal interviews conducted by the Euro-Med Monitor team.
Female Journalists in Yemen
In Yemen, press freedom is almost non-existent, as journalists face numerous violations from various parties, most notably the internationally recognised Yemeni government, the Houthi group, and armed militias.
Journalists in Yemen are frequently caught up in the ongoing conflict and targeted by conflicting parties, facing a variety of assaults, including direct targeting, detention, enforced disappearance, prosecution, the death penalty, and financial fines. To avoid these violations, journalists in Yemen practice self-censorship over their work and opinions.
While the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate and human rights organisations have different data on the number of journalists who have been subjected to violations in Yemen, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor field follow-ups reveal that all journalists in Yemen are subjected to at least one form of violation accomplished by the conflicting parties.
Yemen ranked third, after Syria and Iraq, in terms of the number of journalists killed over the last decade, with no less than 43 journalists killed at a rate of more than 5 per year.
Over the last decade, the frequency and severity of violations and challenges confronted by female journalists, in particular, have increased as most of them face prosecution, arbitrary detention, direct targeting, and other violations that also male journalists face.
However, the most difficult aspect was the violations that only female journalists face, such as societal pressures, family rejection of their journalistic work, stigma, threats, and limited opportunities.
Furthermore, female journalists have difficulty obtaining statements or conducting interviews with various parties as a result of not always being recognised as journalists. They are also subject to pay cuts, expulsion, discrimination, and challenges related to the media and press sector being male-dominated.
Most prominent violations only female journalists face in Yemen
In Yemen, female journalists regularly face a variety of violations and challenges, including arbitrary detention and judicial prosecution.
According to Euro-Med Monitor, one out of every ten journalists arrested in Yemen over the last two years was a woman. According to Reporters Without Borders, the number of journalists arbitrarily detained in Yemen increased by 20% in 2021, reaching 488 journalists, including 60 female journalists, making it the largest number of female detainees in Yemen’s history.
Despite a lower number of female journalists arrested as compared to male journalists, the number of registered female journalists in Yemen is much lower than that of male journalists. Female journalists account for approximately 170 of the 1,500 journalists registered and affiliated with the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate, making up only 11% of the total number of Syndicate-affiliated journalists. Furthermore, female journalists face several constraints, including limited opportunities and routine self-censorship as a result of cultural and social pressures.
In addition to the violations and risks associated with journalism in general, female journalists face additional challenges that limit their work and reduce their participation in journalistic and media work.
Discrimination and other societal challenges
Male journalists account for the vast majority of Yemen’s working and registered journalists. Patriarchy clearly dominates media and press institutions, particularly local ones, due to a variety of social, cultural, and political factors.
Since the beginning of the Yemen war, restrictions and obstacles limiting women’s freedom have increased, including the denial of women’s right to movement and work. For instance, the Houthi group–which rules nearly 70% of Yemen’s regions–issued an official decision banning women’s movement without a male escort (mahram), adopted by all parties to the conflict, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the Southern Transitional Council.
As a result, the vast majority of press institutions in Yemen refrain from hiring or working with female journalists and instead rely solely on male journalists, due to women’s inability to travel or work without escorts or obtain official work permits. This ban on movement has had an impact not only on women and their work, but also on journalism in Yemen as a whole.
“Although parties to the conflict disagree on all matters, they [are all in agreement] against women and their freedom,” Yemeni journalist Wedad al-Badawi said in an interview with the Euro-Med Monitor team. “The restrictions placed on women’s movement and female journalists’ work influences the accuracy of the testimonies gathered, as some women in conservative communities prefer to give testimony and be interviewed comfortably by female journalists rather than men.”
Within the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate Council, there is only one woman who is a member, and she was not appointed a captain despite receiving the same number of votes as the captain.
In general, societal masculine culture has a significant impact on the opportunities for women to be trained and empowered in the journalism field, as well as the opportunities for them to be appointed and promoted to senior and leadership positions. As a result, women account for around only 20% of media workers compared to 80% of males, despite statistics from Yemeni universities indicating that females account for half of all media graduates each year.
Stigma and defamation
The most significant challenges that Yemeni female journalists face are stigma and defamation on social media platforms These platforms are often used as weapons by members of the majority of the parties to the conflict, who will combat journalists online when their actions are criticised.
Numerous campaigns of defamation against female journalists in recent years have included insults and manipulated photos, forcing those targeted to face additional uphill battles. According to female journalists interviewed by Euro-Med Monitor, society views them negatively, ostracising them socially and telling them that “journalism is not your profession”; interviewees also spoke of the family pressures that come with the profession. Many targeted journalists have had to deactivate their social media accounts and remain silent to avoid harassment or assault, and some have even abandoned journalism to pursue other work or interests, while others have fled the country to protect themselves and their families.
Journalist Wedad al-Badawi told the Euro-Med Monitor team that “women’s withdrawal and submission to these pressures reinforce the gender gap in journalism, further limiting women’s ability to compete with men and demonstrate their presence in the media field.”
“The Yemeni female journalist must demonstrate patience and perseverance by empowering herself twice as much to keep up with everything new, as well as to stay informed of all data, training, and technology to overcome the obstacles she faces,” al-Badawi added.
Nabiha al-Haidari, Ibtihal al-Salhi, Wafaa al-Walidi, and Lamia al-Sharabi were among the female journalists who faced online harassment and assault.
Female Journalists in Tunisia
Tunisia’s press freedom has been steadily declining since Tunisian President Kais Saied announced the exceptional measures on 25th July 2021. Since then, violations of the rights of journalists and press institutions have escalated and taken various forms, including the prevention of media coverage, defamation, the closure of press institutions, arbitrary detention, information withholding, prosecution, and judicial trials marred by major legal irregularities.
Despite President Said’s assurance that the exceptional measures will have no impact on rights and freedoms, particularly press freedom, ongoing violations on the ground from the time they were announced until the time this report was published indicate the opposite.
Tunisian authorities have put tremendous pressure on the press, including closing press institutions and assaulting journalists. These violations were committed within a comprehensive procedural framework designed to silence criticism of the presidential measures and prevent dissenting voices from influencing public opinion.
However, since the announcement of the exceptional measures, violations of press freedom have become commonplace within a legal framework that purports to regulate the media, press, and publishing, as well as the state of public liberties.
Thus, the exceptional presidential measures plunged Tunisia’s press sector into an unnecessary conflict arena. This occurred especially after suspending a large portion of the constitution’s provisions that protect freedoms and rights and replacing them with exceptional measures in the form of presidential orders with a legislative character, the provisions of which prevail over the constitution. The exceptional measures are misapplied and enforced until the end of the emergency state, which has been in place since 25th July 2021, on an irrelevant basis of Article 80 of the 2014 Tunisian Constitution.
The number of violations committed by Tunisian authorities against journalists in general, and female journalists in particular, has increased in recent years.
Female journalists account for a sizable proportion of the total number of journalists working in Tunisia. With over 1,860 registered journalists in 2022, approximately 1,000 are female, accounting for approximately 53.7%. The Tunisian Journalists’ Syndicate documented 132 violations against female journalists between 25th October 2022 and 1st February 2023.
In a statement to the Euro-Med Monitor team, journalist Zeina al-Majri said, “During the celebration of the revolution’s anniversary on 14 January 2022, which the president unilaterally changed to 17 December, Tunisian security-affiliated media reported vandalism by participants. As part of my job as an information auditor, I went down to check it out and take pictures, and I started filming on Avenue Mohammed V near Avenue Habib Bourguiba, where the main event was taking place.”
“A small group of Ennahda supporters, no more than 30 people, were surrounded by a large number of security forces in cars and security men dressed in civilian clothes, as well as a drone filming the event,” she added. “They began beating the event participants, so I went live on Facebook to document it. However, one of the security personnel surprised me by forcefully taking my phone and telling me that I was filming illegally, even though I am a journalist affiliated with the Journalists’ Syndicate and enjoy the protection afforded to journalists.”
She continued, “After that, they returned my phone and told me not to film anymore, but I resumed filming as part of my job responsibilities. Then six security men and a policewoman arrived and beat me before transporting me to a security vehicle and then to a security facility in the capital’s centre, where I saw more than 50 detainees apprehended for taking part in the event. The way I was treated was very bad. I was subjected to physical abuse by the security personnel, and verbal abuse, as were the other detainees.”
Most prominent violations only female journalists face in Tunisia
In recent years, Euro-Med Monitor has received dozens of complaints from Tunisian journalists, including female journalists, who have received information about the possibility of being targeted by security forces as a result of their coverage or work in media outlets covering the country’s political crisis, particularly those dealing with views opposing President Kais Saied’s policies.
Journalist Wejdene Bouabdallah told the Euro-Med Monitor team, “We have received explicit threats since July 25, 2021, whether on our personal accounts on social media platforms or threats received by our staff while in the field, despite clearly wearing a press badge and covering gatherings of the Tunisian president’s supporters. Nonetheless, our staff members are constantly harassed.”
“Without exaggeration, the press sector in Tunisia has been the most affected in recent months,” she added. “All of our post-revolutionary gains, the fruits of generations of struggle, have vanished. The country’s environment has become unsuitable for journalistic work, particularly after the president’s warning to the media yesterday.”
In addition to the systematic attacks on journalists in Tunisia, female journalists face additional complications that affect both their personal and professional lives. In recent years, Tunisian authorities and their affiliated agencies have worked to intimidate and silence female journalists, forcing them to abandon journalism to protect themselves from consequences that affect not only their professional life but also their social and personal lives.
Defamation and ill repute
The difficult environment created by the exceptional measures imposed psychological and social pressures on female journalists in Tunisia. This negatively impacts their work and prompts fear of being labelled as biased, unprofessional, or working for foreign agendas.
These accusations have the potential to end any journalist’s career, especially given the arbitrary application of military and anti-terrorism laws when dealing with journalists, implying that the matter affects Tunisian national security. As a result, female journalists have had to work under the threat of defamation, which – can affect even their families.
Female journalists’ work has been hampered by numerous difficulties since the announcement of the Tunisian president’s exceptional measures, including the deliberate smearing of their personal and professional reputations, as well as stigmatisation through horrific insults that incite social exclusion.
Smear campaigns in Tunisia have targeted female journalists who deal with local political events in a way that differs from the official point of view, with authorities using abusive language on social media against female journalists who were arbitrarily arrested. Although Tunisia is one of the Arab and Muslim countries that maintains a set of regulations prohibiting the stigmatisation of women in a way that affects their professional or social standing, these situations become nightmares for arrested female journalists, who suffer ramifications personally that in turn affect the reputation of their families.
These measures may cause a significant decrease in the professional activity of female journalists due to their fear of being exposed to situations that are inconsistent with ethics relevant to dealing with the press. -Moreover, they may - push the families of female journalists to put pressure on the journalists to stop or suspend their work until the country’s political crisis is resolved.
The closure of press institutions and TV channels instilled fear among female journalists, particularly those working in these institutions, of losing their sources of income in light of the tense conditions and the absence of an entity capable of redressing the victims under the provisions of the Tunisian constitution and the laws governing the work of the press.
The sense of job insecurity among female journalists stems from the campaign’s expansion, which began with the dismissal of directors of official media outlets and has since expanded to include local and international press institutions. After forming the verdict that journalism goes against the trend of the presidency, and the government will be subject to violation or closure, this generated concern about job insecurity-- among female journalists who work remotely or manage the content of digital platforms.
As a result, many journalists, including female journalists, self-censor their work and avoid expressing their personal opinions publicly or through social media for fear of losing their jobs or being held accountable and prosecuted.
In a statement to the Euro-Med Monitor team, journalist Wejdene Bouabdallah said, “Unfortunately, the public environment in Tunisia today is not conducive to journalism practice. Journalists are now practising some kind of self-censorship for fear of being subjected to official harassment or prosecution, especially after some of them have already been arrested.”
“As Tunisians and journalists, we tasted freedom after 2011, and despite the successive crises since then, Tunisia has rightfully earned a significant gain, which is freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Today, however, this valuable gain is seriously and directly threatened,” she added.
Female Journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt)
The escalation of violations against press institutions and workers in the press sector, particularly female journalists, resulted in a significant decline in press freedom in the Palestinian Territory in 2022. According to the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, more than 900 violations of press freedom were committed by Israeli forces in 2022, in addition to dozens of other violations committed by the Palestinian Authority against journalists and media institutions.
The escalation of violations was clearly reflected in Palestine’s ranking in RSF’s Press Freedom Index, which fell from 132nd in 2021 to 170th out of 180 countries in 2022.
Journalists in the Palestinian Territory in general face a plethora of complex violations. In most cases, journalists are victims of Israeli army violations, particularly during raids on Palestinian areas in the West Bank and military attacks on the Gaza Strip. Direct killing, arbitrary detention, and restrictions on the freedom to work are only some examples, as are other forms of extortion, bargaining, the closure of media institutions, and the destruction and confiscation of equipment.
In 2022, journalists in the West Bank faced harassment and violations from the Palestinian Authority, including arbitrary detention, beatings, and restrictions on press coverage. Many journalists in the Gaza Strip practice self-censorship, as some avoid covering or supporting activities that might be perceived as opposing to the ruling authorities, ostensibly for fear of being held accountable or prosecuted.
Furthermore, social media platforms impose severe restrictions on Palestinian content, which has resulted in the closure of dozens of journalists’ accounts on those platforms and hampered press institutions’ communication with the public.
In addition to the unjustified restrictions imposed on female journalists in the Arab world, the challenges imposed on Palestinian female journalists are particularly exceptional. On 11th May 2022, the Israeli army killed Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al-Jazeera correspondent in the Palestinian Territory, while she was covering an army raid in Jenin camp in the northern West Bank.
According to Euro-Med Monitor’s investigations, an Israeli sniper fired an explosive bullet at the journalist Abu Akleh’s head despite her wearing ‘PRESS’ clothing and being with a group of journalists in an area far from army forces, at a distance of no less than 150 meters.
- Additionally, the policy of arbitrary detention poses a constant threat to female journalists in the Palestinian Territory, as it not only robs them of their freedoms and disrupts their activities, but also deprives them of their financial independence and may lead to the intimidation of many young women from engaging in journalistic work to avoid exposure to various violations, some of which may directly endanger their lives.
According to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), Palestinian female journalists were subjected to 42 different violations while working in 2022.
Most prominent violations only female journalists face in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt)
Female journalists account for a sizable proportion of the total number of registered journalists in the Palestinian Territory, and the vast majority of them face the same violations as their male colleagues, particularly those related to Israeli attacks on free expression, obstruction or prevention of event coverage, arbitrary arrests, extortion, and other violations.
However, several female journalists continue to face violations or harassment that only they face, the majority of which are related to social pressures brought on by the difficulties of the profession. Although female journalists in the Palestinian Territory face fewer social violations and harassment than female journalists in Yemen and Tunisia, many of them, like male journalists, face significant challenges in freely practising their journalistic work.
The Palestinian Territory is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists in general, as they face various forms of violence and intimidation, which a large portion of Palestinian society believes is especially inappropriate when directed at women. Palestinian journalists face violations including beatings, regular arbitrary arrests, interrogations, and extortion (for instance, in exchange for travel and family reunification), which lead a large segment of society—particularly in vulnerable areas—to believe that journalism is a male-only profession.
Many Palestinian families believe that summoning a female journalist for questioning, arresting, and harassing her because of her journalistic work is shameful, and stigmatises not only the female journalist but also her entire family. In other cases, Israeli authorities arrest female journalists or impose travel bans or other movement restrictions on them without informing them of the reason, and their case files are classified as “confidential” by Israeli intelligence. It is common for journalists to face allegations in legal proceedings, but allegations directed at women can result in female journalists’ families pressuring them to abandon their careers or refrain from covering sensitive topics to avoid prosecution; female journalists frequently self-censor their work to avoid social criticism or family pressure.
Although women make up a large proportion of the total number of journalists working in the oPt, this is not indicative of equal opportunities in the journalism sector. The situation on the ground leads some media outlets to believe that working with male journalists in conflict areas is easier and allows for more flexibility, because men’s schedules are less rigid—for example, they can work more hours and later into the night—and they typically have a greater ability than women to run in situations involving clashes and military attacks. Therefore, news and press agencies prefer to work with male journalists during critical times, while assigning less important tasks to female journalists.
M. N., a journalist from the Gaza Strip who spoke to Euro-Med Monitor on the condition of anonymity, said that unlike her male colleagues and despite her repeated requests to management, she was never assigned to cover breaking news on the ground. “I repeatedly expressed to my supervisor my desire to cover more important events by going to targeted locations and conducting interviews, as my male colleagues do,” she said. “However, he always told me that I would not be able to bear the difficulties of covering violent, dangerous events, or that I would be unable to act or flee if my location was targeted, and that he found it difficult to assign me tasks late at night.”
The lack of equal opportunities stems from society’s belief that women are inherently weaker than men and have less experience in jobs requiring significant mental and physical effort. In many cases, female journalists succumb to this reality and tend to work in less troublesome and dangerous areas of journalism.
First: International legislation
International human rights law places a premium on freedom of expression and the right to access information, which is one of the most vulnerable rights in light of the world’s technological revolution and the ease with which people can express themselves and share information in cyberspace. Therefore, the core international instruments have expressly protected this right, as follows:
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirmed the need for states to protect the right to free expression and the free reception and dissemination of information in Article 19, which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Furthermore, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 emphasised the right to free expression, stating, “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
Article 2 of the Declaration on Fundamental Principles concerning the Contribution of the Mass Media to Strengthening Peace and International Understanding, to the Promotion of Human Rights and to Countering Racialism, Apartheid and Incitement to War emphasises the importance of the media’s role in achieving international peace and the need for journalists to be adequately protected in carrying out their duties, as stipulated in the following:
- The exercise of freedom of opinion, expression and information, recognised as an integral part of human rights and fundamental freedoms, is a vital factor in the strengthening of peace and international understanding.
- Access by the public to information should be guaranteed by the diversity of the sources and means of information available to it, thus enabling each individual to check the accuracy of facts and to appraise events objectively. To this end, journalists must have freedom to report and the fullest possible facilities of access to information. Similarly, it is important that the mass media be responsive to concerns of peoples and individuals, thus promoting the participation of the public in the elaboration of information.
- With a view to the strengthening of peace and international understanding, to promoting human rights and to countering racialism, apartheid and incitement to war, the mass media throughout the world, by reason of their role, contribute to promoting human rights, in particular by giving expression to oppressed peoples who struggle against colonialism, neo-colonialism, foreign occupation and all forms of racial discrimination and oppression and who are unable to make their voices heard within their own territories.
- If the mass media are to be in a position to promote the principles of this Declaration in their activities, it is essential that journalists and other agents of the mass media, in their own country or abroad, be assured of protection guaranteeing them the best conditions for the exercise of their profession.
Furthermore, UN Resolution 76/173 of 16 December 2021 emphasised the importance of adopting an approach that addresses the risks that female journalists face while performing their duties, as it states, “[The General Assembly is] deeply concerned by the specific risks faced by women journalists in relation to their work, in non-conflict as well as in armed conflict situations, where they continue to be targeted at alarming rates, underlining in this context the importance of taking a gender-responsive approach when considering measures to address the safety of journalists and media workers, including in the online sphere, in particular to effectively tackle all forms of sexual and gender-based discrimination, violence, abuse and harassment, including sexual harassment, threats and intimidation, as well as inequality and gender stereotypes, to enable women to enter and remain in journalism on terms of equality and non-discrimination while ensuring their greatest possible safety, and to ensure that the experiences and concerns of women journalists are effectively addressed and gender stereotypes in the media are adequately tackled.”
In addition, Article 79 of the 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I) stressed that special protection should be given to journalists working in areas of armed conflict, as it states the following:
- Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians within the meaning of Article 50, paragraph 1.
- They shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this Protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians, and without prejudice to the right of war correspondents accredited to the armed forces to the status provided for in Article 4 A (4) of the Third Convention.
Second: National legislation
The Yemeni Constitution guarantees the right of journalists to express their opinions, as stated in Article 42, “Every citizen has the right to participate in the political, economic, cultural life of the country. The state shall guarantee freedom of thought and expression of opinion in speech, writing and photography within the limits of the law.”
Among the principles that must be implemented in Yemeni Law No. 25 (1990) on the press and publications is the protection of journalists and the provision of guarantees for the exercise of their work, as Article 6 states, “The law assures the protection of journalists and authors, and it provides the legal guarantees necessary for them to the practise their profession, to enjoy freedom of expression and immunity from interference so long as they do not contravene the provisions of this law.”
Furthermore, Article 13 of the aforementioned law states, “A journalist may not be interrogated on opinions which he has expressed or published, and which may not be used to inflict harm on him/her provided what he/she published is not contrary to the law.”
Article 31 of the Tunisian Constitution of 2014 guarantees the right to freedom of the press as it states, “Freedom of opinion, thought, expression, information and publication shall be guaranteed. These freedoms shall not be subject to prior censorship.”
Additionally, Decree No. 115 of 2011 designated entire chapters prohibiting attacks on journalists and protecting their sources, and referred the punishment of journalist attackers to Article 123 of the penal code, with the penalty of attacks against public authority, as stated in the following:
- The sources of the journalist while performing his duties, as well as the sources of anyone who contributes to the preparation of media material, are protected. The confidentiality of these sources may not be violated, either directly or indirectly, unless justified by an urgent reason related to state security or national defence and subject to judicial oversight.
All investigations, searches, inspections, and eavesdropping on correspondence or communications conducted by a public authority against a journalist to reveal his sources or against all persons with whom he has a special relationship are considered a violation of source confidentiality.
A journalist may not be subjected to pressure from any authority, nor may any journalist or person who contributes to the preparation of media material be required to disclose the sources of his information unless authorised by a competent judicial judge, and only if such information is related to crimes that pose a serious threat to the physical safety of others and its disclosure is necessary to avoid these crimes, or if such information cannot be obtained in any other way.
- The opinion issued by the journalist or the information he publishes may not be used as a pretext to undermine his dignity or his physical or moral sanctity.
- No journalist shall be held liable for an opinion, idea, or information published as per the norms and ethics of the profession, nor shall he be held liable for his work, unless it is proven that he violated the provisions of the decree herein.
- Anyone who violates Articles 11, 12, and 13 of this decree, insults or assaults a journalist in the course of his work through words, gestures, acts, or threats, shall face the penalty of assaulting a public or semi-public official, as stated in Article 123 of the Penal Code.
Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt)
The Basic Law of the Palestinian National Authority guarantees citizens’ freedom of expression, as Article 19 states, “Freedom of opinion may not be prejudiced. Every person shall have the right to express his opinion and to circulate it orally, in writing or in any form of expression or art, with due consideration to the provisions of the law.”
Article 2 of the Palestinian Press Law of 1995 further affirms freedom of expression, as it states, “Freedom of the press and printing are guaranteed. Freedom of opinion is guaranteed to every Palestinian, and he can express himself in the form of speech, writing, photography or drawing, for the purposes of expression and information.”
At a time when armed conflicts and violence in the MENA region are on the rise, journalists remain among the groups most vulnerable to repeated violations and assaults, with female journalists, in particular, facing added pressure.
In light of the attacks on female journalists documented by the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor in Yemen, Tunisia, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the organisation recommends that:
The United Nations and relevant bodies
- Activate UN Resolution 76/173 by establishing mechanisms to address the risks that female journalists face while working in the MENA region.
- Establish independent accountability mechanisms to investigate and hold accountable perpetrators of systematic violations against female journalists in Yemen, Tunisia, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, ensuring justice for them and protecting their right to freedom of expression and journalistic work.
- Work with conflict parties and authorities to take steps to release detained and forcibly disappeared journalists and to reduce attacks on female journalists.
- Support civil society organisations concerned with press freedom in Yemen, Tunisia, and the Palestinian Territory by taking up their causes to put pressure on government agencies and ensure journalists' rights.
- Collaborate with social media companies to create effective reporting mechanisms to assist female journalists in reporting cases of threats, intimidation, and extortion as a result of their work.
- End the arbitrary and unjustified restrictions on women’s rights by protecting their right to work in journalism, freedom of movement, and freedom of expression.
- Launch an independent and thorough investigation into allegations of assault on female journalists in Yemen, including their prosecution on the ground and via social media, fabricated charges against them, stigma, and slander as a result of their journalistic work.
- Cooperate with female journalists to facilitate their work and stop withholding information from and obstructing the journalistic efforts of women.
- Respect free expression and the press; end the campaign of incitement against female journalists and bloggers; and follow the Tunisian constitution, national laws governing journalistic work, and international conventions.
- Launch an independent investigation into all incidents of assault on female journalists, including physical and verbal abuse and arbitrary detention, bring those responsible to justice, ensure they are not left unpunished, and stop issuing restrictive decisions against journalistic work in the country.
- Enact clear laws and penalties for cyberbullying and repeated attacks on female journalists; and increase oversight to prevent smear campaigns and punish perpetrators.
- Tunisian President Kais Saied must stop inciting against the media and take responsibility for any security attack on female journalists in Tunisia, especially given the current state of tension, which provides a fertile environment for assaulting liberties and violating rights guaranteed by the Tunisian constitution.
Assume their responsibilities as an occupying power and cease targeting, prosecuting, arresting, threatening, and interrogating female journalists at border crossings and military checkpoints for their journalistic activities.
Commit to granting female journalists the right to free movement to and from the Palestinian Territory, as well as within cities. If there are exceptional circumstances that necessitate the imposition of specific security restrictions, they must be examined individually and dealt with in accordance with international law.
Investigate allegations that Israeli officers threatened, extorted, and bargained with Palestinian journalists, including female journalists, over their right to travel in exchange for giving up their journalistic work, and ensure that such incidents do not reoccur.
The Palestinian Authority and the ruling authorities in Gaza
- Lift all restrictions on free speech and expression, ensure that journalists can do their jobs freely, and limit all practices that impede or impose self-censorship on journalists.
- Implement training programmes for journalists and decision-makers to address the issue of unequal job and leadership opportunities in journalism, as well as to strengthen female journalists' capacities.
- Create effective channels for reporting cases of discrimination and defamation against female journalists that occur during or as a result of their journalistic work.