Saudi Arabia Gets Its First Female Newspaper Editor, Somayye Jabarti
It's a huge step for conservative Saudi Arabia: a woman has been appointed editor-in-chief of a national Saudi Arabia newspaper. In a country with widely oppressive women's rights, Somayya Jabarti's new position heading the Saudi Gazette is momentous, but here's a little refresher: In Saudi Arabia, women still can't drive; must have a "male guardian" who has essentially the same permissions a parent has over a child; and can't even visit a doctor on their own.
Jabarti takes over the English-language newspaper from Khaled Almaeena, who will become editor-at-large. The journalist, who joined the paper in 2011, was a former deputy editor and tells Al Arabiya News that a mold has been broken.
“There’s a crack that has been made in the glass ceiling," Jabarti says. "And I’m hoping it will be made into a door."
In 2012, the Committee to Protect Journalists listed Saudi Arabia on its list of 10 most-censored countries, criticizing the kingdom's restrictions. Jabarti is more than aware of the responsibility she carries with her new position, saying that her actions will reflect her fellow Saudi women.
It's a powerful thing to have a woman at the helm of a media organization, particularly in an area notorious for its oppression toward females. Though most of the newspaper's reporters are women , senior editorial positions at the paper are mostly held by males, according to Jabarti. She claims to not have experienced any sexism or racism at the office.
The majority of our reporters are women – not because we are biased and choosing women over men. There are more women who are interested in being journalists, and who are journalists. The success will not be complete unless I see my peers who are also Saudi women in the media, take other roles where they are decision-makers.
And you better believe Jabarti is on top of her game. Before coming to the Saudi Gazette, she worked at rival newspaper Arab News and was a CEO of a public relations company, a Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, and columnist, among myriad jobs.
Undoubtedly, her promotion is historic (and awesome!) for females in Saudi Arabia, but it's a little counterintuitive for a country that basically pens women as second-class citizens. In this case, however, a giant leap is better than no leap at all.