An Idlib-based Syrian journalist is being targeted by a sexist campaign by pro-regime social media accounts, press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Wednesday.
Freelance journalist Merna Alhasan is one of the first women to rise to prominence for her coverage of the conflict in Idlib. She has been targeted with sexist abuse and smear campaigns by numerous pro-regime social media accounts.
Fares Shehabi, a member of the People’s Assembly – the Syrian regime’s rubber-stamp parliament – tweeted a photo of Alhasan on Sunday, claiming that she was an “Al-Qaeda correspondent” who had been raped and left for dead by members of the organisation.
“Every day, a new rumor,” Alhasan posted to Facebook after Shehabi’s tweet. “I’m fine, praise be to God.”
RSF reported “threats, insuts and gibes” against Alhasan have grown alongside the intensified clashes in Idlib.
Alhasan told RSF that false reports and rumours about her, including a claim that her father had decided to kill her for tainting his honour by appearing on TV, are often shared by accounts affiliated to media outlets and leading figures who support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
“Delighting in a journalist’s supposed rape and constantly using her gender to attack her work is intolerable,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.
RSF reported widespread sexism faced by female Syrian journalists in Idlib, citing some who have needed to wear a hijab and use pseudonyms out of fear for their safety.