Bouchra Chakir: Moroccan women journalists seek justice
Journalist Bouchra Chakir emphasized that women journalists should work together because they have a great role in society since they hold the key to change.
Morocco - Moroccan female journalists have had an effect in a wide range of fields and have obtained effective skills in a number of organizations. A group of women has led successful experiences in the online press and supervises media projects that have met with tangible success. In recent years, they have held major positions in the editing department, working group management, and general supervision.
Despite this, female journalists think that women's access to decision-making positions in the media has remained below expectations and has to be improved, and that their aspirations to advance the reality of the Fourth Estate have not yet been fulfilled.
In an interview with JINHA, Bouchra Chakir, a Moroccan journalist and the Moroccan coordinator of the Pan-African Journalists' Caucus, said that women journalists are denied opportunities in many crucial fields and face material injustice. She also said that certain organizations mistreat women journalists by forcing them to work longer hours for a low pay. Women journalists work long hours and have a hard time finding someone to protect their rights.
She continued to talk by saying, "In the perspective of certain journalists and media workers, women journalists are linked to entertainment, women, beauty contents. But men are preferred in economics and politics, even if they are not specialists."
Could you tell us about your position as the coordinator of the Pan-African Journalists' Caucus in Morocco after years of media engagement?
As a journalist and press relations officer, I was among the first to travel to the African continent and helped African journalists by participating in a number of conferences.
Our diversity, as well as our religious and linguistic differences, which unite us as one Maghreb, were discussed at the conferences titled “African Women, the Pillar of Development in Our Continent” as well as 1The Conference of Our History and Diversity is the Secret of Our Unity”. Both conferences were held in the same context. Following that, I was in charge of a number of African press conferences.
My nomination as coordinator of the Pan-African Journalists' Caucus was announced with the proclamation of the African Diaporama nations on April 6, 2021. African journalists from various countries voted, and some of them nominated me and confirmed and admitted by Élisée Héribert-Label Adjovi, Chairperson of the Pan-African Journalists' Caucus and director of the publication of the African quarterly magazine "Le Label Diplomatique," specializing in diplomacy and international relations.
Why aren't women in high-ranking positions in the media, despite their expertise? Do you feel they are discriminated against? And how do they deal with it?
To be fair, a brilliant Moroccan journalist, whether male or female, advances through the ranks until he/she becomes editor-in-chief and director of publishing, and there are many female directors of publication and editors-in-chief. I am the editor-in-chief of the Arab Travel and Investment magazine, which is published in both French and Arabic. In terms of the prejudiced perspective, when men choose certain tasks, they assume women are unqualified for them, and vice versa.
Women who specialize in specific disciplines are not called upon in media analysis, but males have access to platforms when they are not qualified in what they evaluate or if they are qualified in a profession. males will not be qualified in all areas, yet we see them filling the channels and discussing a wide range of topics without regard for specialty.
I was committed to media campaigns opposing extremism and terrorism, and I led a winning media campaign at the Netherlands' Media Academy. Prior to that, I was the first to organize an international conference on the role of the media in battling extremism and terrorism, as well as one on the role of the media and civil society in countering terrorism. In the face of the extremist tide, I traveled to areas controlled by ISIS, such as Iraq and Hadramout, where I attended conferences discussing crises in hotbeds of tension outside of Morocco and lectured at religious conferences to explain the Kingdom of Morocco's moderation and rationality, as well as the Islamic religion.
I was the only person among sheikhs and academic specialized in the sector, and I also worked in the refugees camps in Tindouf, and reported about ISIS's cross-border terrorism of minors and harsh practices in the camps. Many of my colleagues chose to invite men who have never been to a combat zone and are not experts in this sector, so the debate and analysis are limited. Without investigation and without understanding the facts, it's uninteresting, but it's fun to play in your comfort zone. Some media people or journalists think that women should only be attached to entertainment programs, beauty, and youth, but they favor males in economics and politics, even if they are not specialized.
What do you believe institutions should do about female journalists and how they obtain information, and do you think their aims should be hampered or encouraged?
Unfortunately, female journalists face two challenges: the increase of press prosecutors and researchers who regress institutions in terms of information access, causing these organizations to retreat and refuse to interact with journalists. This conduct has a significant impact on journalists; yet, an experienced and skilled journalist may get information without troubling anybody.
We have discussed programs aimed at combatting fake news that promotes terrorism and extremism, how do you combat against false information?
In 2019, I was offered a scholarship to study at the greatest media academy in the Netherlands and Europe. After passing the exam, I was picked as the lone Arab throughout the study period there, which was about the execution of media campaigns against extremism. Because of what I witnessed while working with ISIS and Takfiri groups through the media, I opted to focus on the subject of terrorist promotion in the media.
My campaign was based on two true tales of two families I met in Istanbul and Kuwait, from which I developed the screenplay, which was then shot and represented by two Dutch actors who were touched by the script after it was approved by a brilliant director in Kuwait. It was also screened in Amsterdam's Radar Center for refugees and returnees from troubled areas.
I also went to the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding for female media professionals in the face of extremism, which was a very powerful campaign because it reminded me of all the tragedies of families who had been affected by extremism and terrorism. We are not far from the memories of the dark May 16 in Morocco, where families from a variety of nationalities, including Iraq, were killed.
How can the equation in certain strong media firms be changed to give women journalists a voice by putting them in front of the camera and in positions of leadership, rather than restricting their work to the women's and arts sectors?
Officials should keep a tight eye on media companies, because female journalists face not just a lack of opportunity in many critical professions, but also material inequalities. Some institutions exploit women journalists more; they work longer hours for less pay, and the majority of them do the majority of the work with few means to safeguard their rights, unless they work for well-known platforms. Several media outlets have violated female journalists' rights, yet no one has spoken out, and these media outlets have gone unpunished.
Is globalization helping to elevate the role of women journalists, or has it marginalized them, and how can we make the voices of women journalists be heard?
Yes, female journalists have contributed and crossed borders through their reports, articles, and social media opinions, and many of them are able to find work in countries that value their work and institutions that do not distinguish between men and women except through professional work and distinguished practice. To be honest, it will be the duty of female journalists themselves to activate the role of women journalists.
How can female journalists in North Africa and the Middle East collaborate to develop contents that reflect women's experiences, challenge backward societies' inferior viewpoints, and combat gender-based discrimination?
Despite the fact that there is significant media cooperation between North Africa and the Middle East, with Moroccan female journalists participating through media organizations, modern technology and the Internet have contributed to the interconnection of all continents, not just in North Africa and the Middle East.
For example, we are a group of Moroccan women journalists who have embarked on a campaign to promote professional ethics and a media that respects and does not degrade the citizen. Through active groups, I am able to collaborate with female students from Lebanon, Tunisia, Sweden, Colombia, and other countries. There may be media and women's issues integration between North Africa and the Middle East, especially considering our common peculiarities and norms.