Arabian Reporting

Al Jazeera’s Ghada Oueiss on being a woman and a journalist in the Middle East

Do Al Jazeera journalists encounter trouble while reporting in Arab countries?
Most of our correspondents have trouble with governments, and many are arrested. Our bureaus are constantly shut down, in Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen… we have problems when they don’t like what we say.

What is a journalist’s responsibility?
We have to be very careful, because we could report one little fact, which causes riots and violence. People will die. It’s like the Terry Jones situation… e didn’t want to report it, because we thought, “what’s the point?” Do we want to make these people “somebody”? Where’s the good in it?

How do you feel about self-regulation?
You have to be aware of what you’re doing and what the implications are. Ethics don’t change; a lie is a lie, and once you do this, all the technology in the world won’t help you

Do you encounter discrimination as a woman?
Oh my god, that’s bad, very bad! Um… it’s not easy. You can get away with some things because you’re a lady, but professionally, it’s a very hostile environment for a girl. But it depends on your actions, on your behavior. If you aren’t respected, you must force them to respect you.

Are you accused of being biased?
I interviewed a Yemeni politician and a Yemeni rebel, and both of them attacked me for being biased against them. When both sides criticize you, it means you’re being objective.

What more needs to be done?
We still need better training to instill a code of ethics in our journalists. But it is getting better, and we are on the right path. I have to believe in that.

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