Women in journalism tackle the worst of situations each day that they step out of their homes. Like inequitable working conditions aren’t enough, they face society’s fury outside. On Tuesday, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club published a statement highlighting the arrest of some female journalists from the Hebron governorate. The number of female journalists who are prisoners in Israel, as the club states, is now 63.
42-year-old Lama Khater, a Palestinian writer and mother of five, writes for the independent Noon Post website on crimes and violations committed by the Israeli occupation. Khater was arrested from her home in Hebron by at least 25 Israeli soldiers. Two years ago, too, she was arrested barely a month after giving birth to her daughter, and was subjected to long hours of interrogation regarding her writings before she was released the same day. Khater’s husband, Hazem al-Fakhouri, told Al Jazeera that he was summoned by Israeli forces five days ago for interrogation. The forces not only warned him of Khater’s arrest but also pressured him to stop his wife from writing.
فجر اليوم اقتحم جنود الاحتلال المدججين بالسلاح مدينة الخليل جنوب الضفة الغربية المحتلة من أجل اعتقال الكاتبة الفلسطينية #لمى_خاطر.
وسط العتمة كما اللصوص دخلوا المنزل واختطفوا الأم من بين أطفالها.
— رضوان الأخرس (@rdooan) July 24, 2018
Not lone female journo to be arrested recently
On June 5, the forces arrested 39-year-old freelance journalist Suzanne Oweiwi from her home in Hebron. The arrest was followed after a raid by Israeli forces. Suzanne is a member of the Hebron municipality. She underwent intensive interrogation, sleep deprivation, and solitary confinement in an Israeli prison for an entire month.
The club also mentioned the arrest of 36-year-old Safaa Abu Sneineh who remains under interrogation at the Ashkelon detention centre. The fourth journalist, 39-year-old Dunya Sa’id, was arrested on July 4. She too is at the Ashkelon detention centre.
Long history of targeting journalists
Israel has a long history of targeting journalists. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists documented about 17 confirmed instances where journalists were killed since 1992. In 2014, the Israeli authorities even admitted to intentionally targeting the Al-Aqsa network, a Gaza-based television channel known for its links to Hamas.
According to UN figures, 16 Palestinian journalists were rendered homeless during the massacre in 2014. The authorities even resorted to burning offices of about eight local media outlets.
During US Vice-President Mike Pence’s visit to Israel in January, female journalists covering the event were forced to stand behind male colleagues
In January, US Vice-President Mike Pence visited Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The female journalists covering the trip were taken aback when they were forced to stand behind their male colleagues. They were shocked to discover that they had been downgraded to cover Pence’s spiritual stop at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, from the other side of a fence.
As Pence prayed on the men’s side, it was impossible for the female journalists to look beyond and above the cameras and microphones held by their male colleagues.
The #pencefence is a physical expression of the institutionalized inequity female professionals face AND how their male colleagues so often -and too often- stand idly by while their female colleagues suffer injustice and do nothing to try to equalize their access and opportunity. https://t.co/2MwTQH06Oj
— Amalie Flynn (@amalieflynn) January 23, 2018
The women covering the event tweeted their thoughts with the hashtag #pencefence.
Tal Schneider, a prominent Israeli journalist, tweeted: “Separation at the Western Wall. The women stuck in isolation and can not photograph, work. Women journalists are second-class citizens. The American women photographers are frantically yelling at the representatives of the White House.” #PenceFence
When it's a bit hard to do your job / women journalists forced to stand behind the men at the separation fence at the western wall for Mike Pence's visit #PenceInIsrael #PenceFence pic.twitter.com/IsXbJ0jTi5
— Ariane Ménage (@ariane_menage) January 23, 2018
During the same event, the authorities told a visiting female journalist, from Finland, to remove her bra during a demeaning security check at Netanyahu’s office. When she refused, she was prohibited from covering Pence’s news conference with Netanyahu. In 2011, at an event, an Al Jazeera journalist was also asked to remove her bra.
There’s no denying that Journalism is one of the most dangerous professions in these times. And if you’re a woman, it’s worse. Journalists are constantly required to put themselves upfront in areas of conflict, war, and disasters. Facing the wrath of the most powerful sections in society is a normal course if they have to cover areas of political turmoil, corruption, human rights etc.
What remains intact, however, is the fearless drive that’s present in female journalists around the world. They’re out in the world to cover the most important stories of our generation. They put their personal safety behind to expose all the injustices that are there in the world, and there is no stopping them.