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The Jordan Times — an enabling environment for women journalists

By Dana Al Emam - Oct 29,2015 - Last updated at Oct 30,2015

AMMAN — Since its establishment 40 years ago, The Jordan Times has been a "women-heavy" institution that puts gender equality policies into practice, according to current and former female JT leaders.

Women have always been an "essential ingredient of the newspaper's colourful and pluralistic" fabric, one that united free-minded employees from different social classes, religions and cultures, said Rana Sabbagh, former JT reporter and chief editor (1999-January 2002).

Sabbagh, who is currently the executive director of Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism, was the first of two female chief editors at JT, with the second being the late Jennifer Hamarneh (2002-2007).

Many of the paper's female staff members gained professional expertise that enabled them to "land in bigger places", Sabbagh said, citing Rana Sweis (The New York Times), Suha Maayeh (The Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine) as examples of JT reporters who moved on to leading international media institutions.

Reflecting back on her first encounter with journalism as a JT reporter in 1984, the veteran journalist recalls how editors used to ask her to rewrite some of her stories.

"We learned to work hard to prove ourselves," she told The Jordan Times, adding that the late P.V. Vivekanand, who was senior editor at the time, would spend over two hours with her editing a story.

Sabbagh left The JT, which she describes as a safe haven that taught her integrity and professionalism, in 1987 to work for Reuters, with her articles featured in several local, regional and international media outlets.

With a rich professional experience, she returned to "give back to the JT" as a managing editor and later as chief editor, but her journey at the daily, which turned 40 on Tuesday, ended due to what she called a clash between her journalistic ethics and the government's political agenda at the time.




The newspaper maintained a professional environment that treated employees based on merit, according to managing editor Ica Wahbeh, who joined the newspaper some 26 years ago.

Wahbeh, who edits the opinion pages, said all employees were treated equally. 

"At the JT, editors-in-chief, without fail, would be supportive, but again, based on merit, not on gender," she added.

"The support we needed was from our families, which had to put up with our ungodly hours, but professionally, [the JT] was a good place to be in."

Female employees at The JT, she noted, always exceeded or were similar to the number of male staff members.

For Rana Husseini, an award-winning JT journalist and a women's rights activist for over 22 years, her experience at the paper has enabled her to become a keynote speaker and trainer in the field, and inspired her to write a book on so-called honour crimes.

"The Jordan Times was the first newspaper to adopt a campaign against so-called honour crimes… if it hadn't been for the open policy of the newspaper and the encouragement, I would not have written a book, I would not have been invited to talk everywhere on this issue," she said.

The book, "Murder in the Name of Honor", includes stories Husseini compiled while covering the crime beat for The JT.

"I always got support from my editors-in-chief, editors and colleagues regarding my work in general and regarding women's rights," she said, adding that everybody who took the helm of The JT believed in human rights.

Similar to Husseini, several women leading social change have worked at The JT, according to Nermeen Murad, who was a reporter at the newspaper between 1984 and 1995 and a columnist from 2006 to 2012.

As a paper that believes in multiplicity, The JT has provided female columnists and political thinkers with the space for self expression and exposure to public space, Murad added.

Speaking from the perspective of a former reporter, she said the newspaper's environment had an integral role in encouraging women employees to flourish at a time when journalism was a controversial job for females.

Murad, who is currently leading the first Jordanian Gender Programme funded through USAID and implemented by IREX, highlighted The JT as a newspaper sensitive to issues facing women, depicted at "an intellectual level".


"The Jordan Times needs to continue doing so… Women still need The JT to be sensitive to their issues and to give them the voice they need to express themselves."

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