A Saudi Arabian blogger has published an …
A Saudi Arabian blogger has published an expose about women reporters in that country suffering sexual harassment and having to sleep with their bosses to keep jobs and get promotions. The blogger, Hedayah Darwish, also reports that Saudi journalists sometimes resort to using drugs and alcohol. As most any reporter will tell you, use and abuse of substances is sadly far more common than it should be among those in that profession due to the stress and the sometimes inhuman demands that come with the job, so this is not a wild report.
Now however, it seems the bosses and editors she exposed are utilizing the Saudi Journalists Association to destroy her, with 13 female journalists smearing Darwish and calling for a government crackdown and new round of censorship of bloggers and e-newspapers that publish “content that creates social harm and negative images.” (The gender of the accusers is important because they claim Darwish impugned female journalists only, but Darwish seems to deny that in the Arab News article linked above.) The attack on Darwish is a trojan horse that may allow the traditional print journalists of Saudi Arabia, who operate under more restrictive censorship rules than their online brothers, to cut out the competition by prompting a government over-reaction that squashes access to Internet information sources in that country.
Aside from that larger issue, the most important journalistic question that arises out of the story is this: Is the report accurate? If the story is accurate then there is no issue, since the truth should be the highest value as a standard of personal, professional, societal and even religious integrity. “Social harm” and “negative images” should be secondary considerations to the truth in a country that claims the Quran for its constitution.
If Darwish’s story contained inaccuracies, the Saudi journalists should have published reports that corrected the inaccuracies and set the record straight. Instead they acted like Stalinist toadies and called for a full-on government slam-down on Internet publishers. So I’m creating a new tag here at TalkIslam “Faux Journalist Watch” to go with the “Faux Feminist Watch”, both of which seem to apply to this story.