#BeBoldForChange: Interview with Imane Rachidi

by Jane Whyatt

Imane Rachidi, a reporter focusing on Europe as well as the Middle East, is based in Spain and the Netherlands and works in Arab countries. For International Women's Day, she tells the ECPMF about her painful experiences with sexism from sources and the public alike. 

Threats against women Women experience considerably more abuse and threats of violence against them as journalists than men in the same profession. The ECPMF interviewed two female reporters who shed light on that fact. (Photo: public domain)

ECPMF: Please describe the gender-based violence and abuse that you have experienced as a result of your journalistic work, and cite examples.

I have experience as journalist in different countries, as Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Lebanon, Spain or The Netherlands. I did have to deal with gender discrimination and “positive discrimination”. For example, they refused to give me an interview because I am a woman. This happened to me especially in Arab countries.  On other occasions, I could get interviews, testimonies or the information I needed just because I am a woman.

I remember when one of my male colleagues called a spokesperson of a Ministry and he told him “I don’t have any information now”. But in that exact moment, I called and suddenly the answer was “yes, of course, I will check for you everything you need”.

I also received death threats because I wrote a few articles about homosexuality and  Islam, women’s rights and freedom, and equality of religions. Radicals, from both sides, have threatened me. As I am originally from Morocco, many automatically think that I am Muslim: for Muslim radicals, and Muslim haters alike. I also received threats from homophobic people. Because of my Arab name, I was even insulted by European extremists, for whom I am just an oppressed woman.

What effect did the abuse have on you in terms of your physical and psychological wellbeing?

Luckily, I did not experience any physical effects, but I had colleagues who did. Psychologically I experienced anger at the beginning, frustration after, oppression, and yes, it is very very sad when you should learn how to deal differently with the world, just because you are a woman. So, at the end you just start to become paranoid. When I was working in sensitive territories, like Egypt, I reached a level in which I could not differentiate between sexual harassment and kind behaviour. You mistrust every man who talks to you, who asks you something. And also I stopped going to some places like Tahrir square, or sharing an elevator with a man, just because I didn’t know what could happen. After a life fighting gender discrimination, I found myself needing a man to go out, or to take me back home, because I did not feel safe by myself.

Imane Rachidi Portrait Imane Rachidi (Photo: European Commission)

What effect did it have on your ability to do your job?

There is no way to avoid that this situation affects your job. Maybe, in my case, it was in a positive way, because I learned how to search for the information I need in different ways, how to build my own character and deal with people who discriminate me. I realized that I cannot change them. And I learned to be on alert and detect those behaviours.

How did your employer respond to the abuse?

I understand here that you ask about the death threats. I had “good words” from my superiors, they supported me on this, but they can do nothing more than that. I am a freelance journalist, and I am not protected by any media. So, I have to deal with my problems myself.

But I did not have the support of the police, in the Netherlands, where I am living, and I had to ask for help in the European Commission and Reporters without Borders. They reported my situation and that prompted the police to take a look into my case. However, there is no answer so far and I don’t know if I should be afraid of something, or just understand that no one is going to investigate what happened.

The media I work with also have had a problem. They didn’t know if we should give publicity to this kind of threat, or if it was better to just let the police do their own investigation. It’s an important point and we should carry out a real study about it: is it beneficial or not to report this kind of threat in the media? Do we run the risk of having a “pull effect”? Is it helpful at all?

You courageously gave testimony at the Fundamental Rights Agency Colloquium in Brussels. What motivated you to do that? And what was the reaction?

I felt motivated when I heard other journalists reporting their situation. I wanted them to feel that we are all together on this and we will not surrender to those people who don’t believe in freedom of speech and equality.

The reaction is that we talked a lot about it that day but I never heard more. I didn’t see any measures being implemented to protect us from online threats or to make us stronger, so that we can keep working and ignore the threats.

Do you have any advice for other female journalists who may be suffering gender-based abuse and violence?

The only advice I can give is to be strong and learn that we have to deal with the situation. That even if they try to stop us from working, because of our origin, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else. We are journalists and we have a duty, to ourselves because we want to do our job, and to society, which deserves to be informed about whatever is happening in this world.

They should report anything that has happened to them. It is the only chance we have to fight discrimination. We have the right to do it, and we need to report our situations so other women can be aware and especially not feel alone. 

How could media freedom organisations help? For example, would it be a good idea to set up a network, physical meetings, online forums or training in psychological self-care and peer support of the kind provided by the Dart Center?

Of course it would help. Setting up a network means making us feel like a team. Listening to us in meetings and forums means sharing experiences, learning from each other, and thinking together about how to deal with the hatred. And the training would be something new but amazing because finally someone would be seriously considering the toll that living in a “men’s world” has had on journalists - and that there is nothing positive about “positive discrimination”. It's not fair having to feel that we need to act differently or accept some stuff, just to get our rights.


Follow the official hashtag #BeBoldForChange for conversations on International Women's Day 2017.

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