Saudi Arabia Ban on Women Driving
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Saudi Arabia Ban on Women Driving
How newspapers report an issue or a news item is not only important for communication purpose but also in determining the direction that history takes. It is however, of great interest to note that how a news item reports an event has a great influence in determining the reader's attitude and perception towards the issue. Saudi Arabia ban on women driving is an event that has been the focus of the media for a long time. The point that is of interest in the issue is how the issue is reported by different news media than the issue itself.
The other issue that is of great importance is the reliability of the recordings and the influence of the news articles on readers. Newspapers journalists always rush to cover an event that is of international concern and how they carry out their role has some elements of competition to win reader's attention. It is a fact that this ban has existed since the first car was driven on Saudi soil but the newspaper reports made the issue to appear as if it happened for the first time overnight. Taking a closer look at the newspaper report on the issue shows that the media was not neutral. The role played by the west in shaping history is also notable. A combination of these two issues forms the basis of this essay, which analyzes how different media presented this problem. Following this unfair or fair presentation, an important question is how the report affects and influences the reader. The essay therefore attempts to present an analysis of these issues.
According to the (BBC news, 17 June 2011) the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia was inspired by the uprising that took place in Tunisia. This indicate that the issue of the ban would have remained unnoticed was it not for the uprising in these countries. Like in Tunisia, the social media like face book played a central role in the activism. "The direct action has been organized on social network sites, where women have been posting images and videos of themselves behind the wheel (BBC news 17 June 2011). A crack down by the authority followed this demonstration and the major organizers were arrested and detained Manal ar- Sheriff being the main target. In history, only facts are required and therefore how events are recorded in the newspaper becomes questionable.
People write newspapers and therefore journalists are a clear representation of people's thoughts and ideas on an issue. The reports made by different newspapers on the ban in Saudi Arabia are not an exception and for that reason it is obvious that the reporting was one sided. All the news paper article that report the issue focus on the Saudi women and their cars without considering the reasons why the ban had been put in place. The reports therefore emphasize on some facts while giving other facts little or no consideration. Diagnosing and treating a disease alongside its causing factor and not the symptom is a common advice that one will receive from a concerned doctor and as a historian, this advice is of value. Most of the time people will rush and tackle the consequences of the problem without taking their time to know the root cause of the problem.
The New York times (September 27, 2011) writes on a story of a woman who was sentenced to 10 lashes for violating the ban. This news article shows that Saudi Arabia is a country that has large-scale gender discrimination and that the issue was driven by gender discrimination. The ban on women from driving is a clear demonstration of gender discrimination (according to the article) and therefore a reader will be left wondering why men are free to drive while women are banned from driving. The other issue that is emphasized in the news article is the picture of the Saudi government and policies. The article tries to paint a picture of a government that is authoritative and does not respect democracy
"This is Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world that bans women from driving motor vehicles" (BBC News, 17 June 2011). The reporter of this news article tried to portray Saudi Arabia as a country that exists on its own world and a backward country. The policies made by the Saudi government are to create a boundary between genders and do not in any way promote gender integration. The reports also show a government that is gender biased and a government that is harsh on its people where from these articles; the policies made by the Saudi government are outdated and unsustainable
Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country and therefore the religion plays an important role in defining the code of conduct among genders and especially the women but the repots present the Saudi women as defiant people. It is not wrong for the media to emphasize on these and other related points but it is important that the media take the judge's point of view in the reporting. Doing this enables the media to cover the other side of the story for a reliable and a comprehensive report.
Saudi has "conservative traditions and religious views that hold that giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins" (The Guardian, Thursday 29 September 2011). According to this article from the guardian, newspaper (UK) the ban is a religious issue. Saudi Arabia will remain as Saudi Arabia and there will be no any time it will turn to be France or America. The people who put up the ban on women driving in the country were not wrong and they must have considered several factors from which they considered the ban appropriate. A closer look at all these news articles reveals that the reporters are either ignorant of the reasons for the ban or that they assume the reason. Islamic religion requires women to respect and be submissive to their husbands and for this reason; a woman should not leave her husband at home and drive to work without asking for assistance. The newspaper articles therefore do not make a provision for the place of the religion in the country.
Saudi Arabian terrain is that of a desert vast country that is sparsely populated and therefore women being the weaker gender will have difficulties driving in such country. The Saudi people are conservative people and therefore their culture matters a lot and this led to the ban. However, the newspaper reports do not give this issue the required attention, which is among the facts that are emphasized or not emphasized by the newspaper reports, and this leads to taking sides in reporting.
Without being biased, the reports made on this issue simply can be described as one-sided reports. This is because the reports made were from the social activist and the women's point of view without looking at the wider society, the government and Saudi as an Islamic country and a monarchy. The reports focus more on why the women are denied their driving right without considering the reasons for this action. The reports fail to acknowledge that the ban was put in place in order to protect the women and their rights. The reports also fail to consider the conservative nature of the monarchy and the religion. It focuses on women who are against the ban and give less attention to women who have no problem with the ban and therefore resenting a one sided report leads us to the next big issue of why this happens.
The media shapes the behavior and the reaction of the people and through the media people form varied reaction. The media has a clear understanding of this and therefore presents reports that drive certain agenda due to external or internal influence. The world has also become a "global village" and therefore sharing of information is easier than before, which make the media have a global influence on people through its reports. The reason why the ban on women driver is reported in that format is to make the world aware of the dimensions of the inevitable Arabian revolution. The reports tried to prove that even though Saudi Arabia is an ally of the west it is undemocratic and oppressive. Although it is not easy to notice the problem of this kind in reporting, the reporting has a negative influence to the reader.
A person who has never been to Saudi Arabia will have a negative judgment on the country after reading such news article. To begin with, reading these articles will make a person conclude that Saudi Arabia is a highly conservative country with outdated policies and the same person will view Saudi Arabia as a country that does not allow women to participate in decision making (Daily news Egypt, October 23, 2011). The picture of defiant Saudi women and a government that is harsh on its people will form in the minds of the readers where this influence on the reader raises the issue of the role played by the west in shaping the news that people read.
An issue that is of world concern similar to this cannot pass without being of interest to the west. Through the media, the west used the events in Saudi as a platform to launch and promote the western democracy and ideologies. The west also influences the reports to emphasize the fact that the Arab world needs to reform and that their policies and ideologies are unsustainable in the long-term.
Sometimes making an opinion in such issue can be difficult and simple at the same time. As a believer of the rule of law and as a person who respect human rights and values people's opinion, the River should be allowed to find its own course and for this, the Saudi people should solve their own problems without external influence. This however does not imply that women's rights should be abused and therefore the two parties should consider dialogue. The issue should therefore be resolved according to the laws of the monarchy and if necessary, the rules should be amended to give some provisions of when women should drive. Finally, the media has an obligation in the society and therefore fairness in reporting should be the driving principle. Saudi Arabia ban on women driving reports presented are unfair and the media needs to reconsider its role.
BBC News. "Saudi Arabia Women Drive Cars in Protest at Ban". BBC mobile. 17 June 2011. Web. 12 Nov. 2011.