In a first, female editor-in-chief named at Saudi national newspaper

by Lisa Anderson | | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 19 February 2014 04:59 GMT

People read the newspapers with cover stories about Osama bin Laden, in Riyadh, May 3, 2011. Bin Laden was killed in a U.S. special forces assault on a Pakistani compound, then quickly buried at sea. REUTERS/Mohammed Mashhor

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In a country where women still are not allowed to drive cars, Somayya Jabarti will be driving the news agenda and making journalism history at the Saudi Gazette

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - For the first time in Saudi Arabia, a woman has been named top editor of a national newspaper, according to a report in the Guardian.

Somayya Jabarti, formerly deputy editor of the Saudi Gazette, has been promoted to editor-in-chief of the Jeddah-based English language daily. Women have been editors-in-chief of Saudi magazines, but previously had never held the top post at a national paper.

In a country where women still are not allowed to drive cars, Jabarti will be driving the news agenda for a publication with a circulation of about 47,000, according to a figure cited by outgoing editor-in-chief Khaled Almaeena.

A veteran journalist, Jabarti previously worked for nine years at Arab News, a larger English language daily rival where she became the country’s first female managing editor of a newspaper and rose to the post of deputy editor-in-chief under Almaeena.  In 2012, Almaeena left Arab News to head the Saudi Gazette, where Jabarti served as his deputy.

Almaeena, who is leaving the top spot to become editor-at-large, revealed Jabarti’s appointment in an article published on Sunday on the paper’s website.  

“Today I proudly leave my nominee, a female journalist - Somayya Jabarti - who will take the helm of the paper,” he wrote.

“She has been associated with me for almost 13 years, and I’ve had the goal almost as long of wanting to see a Saudi woman enter the male-dominated bastion of editors-in-chief. It was not a question of gender but of merit that decided and earned her this opportunity. I am proud to have played a role in her career. She is determined and dedicated, and I can assure her and the team that I will be there to assist and advise, so that Saudi Gazette further advances as a media unit in a highly competitive and digital age.”

Describing her new post, Jabarti told Al Arabiya, “There’s a crack that has been made in the glass ceiling. And I’m hoping it will be made into a door.” 

Although the Saudi newspaper industry is dominated by men, about 17 of the Saudi Gazette’s 20 reporters are women.

“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,” Jabarti told Al Arabiya.

Noting that she feels a great responsibility as the first female editor-in-chief, she said, “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.”

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