Acclaimed Lebanese-British journalist snubs Saudi G20 invitation citing Riyadh's record on women's rights

Acclaimed Lebanese-British journalist snubs Saudi G20 invitation citing Riyadh's record on women's rights
While many have lauded Zahra Hankir for her boycott, her post sparked substantial backlash.
3 min read
11 September, 2020
Hankir said certain Saudi accounts labelled her a “terrorist” [Zahra Hankir]

Lebanese-British journalist Zahra Hankir said on Wednesday she is boycotting Saudi Arabia’s G20 event on gender due to the kingdom’s record of jailing women’s rights advocates, which sparked backlash against her online.

“I was invited by Women20... to moderate its summit in October. I have declined as I stand in solidarity with women's rights defenders in Saudi Arabia & beyond, including Loujain Alhathloul, who remains in prison in the country,” Hankir said on Twitter.

Women20 is the G20’s annual summit to highlight gender considerations in the summit’s discussions, with this year's event organised by Saudi Arabia.

While many lauded Hankir for her boycott, her post incited substantial backlash. The editor of the collection of essays by female Middle Eastern journalists, Our Women On The Ground, was “viciously attacked” on Twitter, said The Coalition for Women in Journalism on Friday.

Hankir said certain Saudi accounts labelled her a “terrorist”, while others attacked human rights activist Loujain Alhathloul, labelling the jailed Saudi a spy and a traitor.

One cartoon, which Hankir says was sent to her by a Saudi account, shows the Lebanese journalist in a dumpster, covered in garbage, with a speech bubble saying: “I demand women's rights in Saudi Arabia”. The drawing is set in Lebanon, implying that Hankir should be worrying about Lebanon’s garbage crisis rather than commenting on Saudi Arabia.

“I've received dozens of direct messages from people who have threatened me and levelled gendered insults at me. Often these insults have been violent and disturbing. Regardless, I stand by my decision and I will continue to advocate for women's rights in the region and beyond,” Hankir, whose work has appeared on international publications such as the BBC and Bloomberg, said to The New Arab.

The CWFIJ reiterated concerns about the online targetting of female journalists.

“Recently we have launched a campaign to support women journalists in Pakistan against similar practices and have documented 2 cases of trolling and online attacks on women journalists by Saudi accounts in the past two months,” the CFWIJ said.

“It’s defaming how cyberspace is turning into a dire experience for women journalists.”

In June, numerous pro-Saudi government Twitter users, some of which were verified and high-profile accounts, began to circulate false misogynistic allegations against Al Jazeera presenters Ola Al-Fares and Ghada Oueiss.

Over 24-hours, at least 25,000 tweets, retweets, and replies intending to smear the two journalists were posted on the social media site.

There have been reports claiming that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been deploying efforts to hire facilities tasked with countering any criticisms against the Kingdom, according to The New York Times.

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