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On Harassment & Character Assassination!

Ghada Oueiss was enjoying dinner with her husband in June 2020. The young lady, originally from Lebanon, is a leading journalist in Saudi Arabia. One of her colleagues dialled Ghada, asking her to check her Twitter Account. She had no idea that a surprise was waiting for her. Some of her personal photos, taken on her phone, had been leaked in the Social Media! Those pictures had not only gone viral, but the Netizens had also assassinated Ghada’s character.

Sharing pictures of women is a very common phenomenon in the Western World. However, the ultra-conservative Arab World is a different place. Hence, Ghada had come under intense attack due to those images. Ghada, the Principal Anchor and Presenter for Al Jazeera Arabic, said: “I am an independent, liberal woman and that provokes a misogynistic regime. I am used to being harassed online. But, this was different. It was as if someone had entered my home, my bedroom, my bathroom. I felt so unsafe and traumatised.

Ghada Oueiss

Ghada was initially surprised to find that the entire world saw her images that were only on her phone, and she had never shared them on the Social Media. Later, she realised that her mobile phone had been hacked through Pegasus Spyware. However, Ghada is not alone. Forensic analysis by Amnesty International has confirmed that a mobile device belonging to Ragip Soylu, the Turkey Bureau Chief of Middle East Eye, was infected with the Pegasus software by the Saudi Authorities. Several women journalists or Human Rights activists in Central and West Asia, who have challenged the Governments or Administrations, have also been harassed in recent years. Even the Saudi Patriarchal Society did not hesitate to call a professional, like Ghada, a sex worker!

On December 10, 2020, Ghada filed a lawsuit against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed in a US court in Florida, accusing the two of being behind the incident of hacking her phone, and publishing personal photos of her about six months ago. She stated that Bin Salman had “thought that the policy of debt buying and intimidation could succeed, but that was wrong”. She stressed: “They believed that they could not be held accountable, and that they could continue their tyrannical vows.

Meanwhile, Ghada has made it clear that she “won’t be silenced by online attacks and trolling“. It seems that the courage of Saudi journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi (October 13, 1958 – October 2, 2018) encourages Ghada to perform her duty in a professional manner. It may be noted that Khashoggi was assassinated at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018 by agents of the Saudi Government, allegedly at the behest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The investigation revealed that the phone of Khadija Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, was subjected to a hacking attempt, when it was first infected with the Pegasus programme only four days after his death, on October 6, 2018. Her phone was also hacked two other days in October 2018. Other attempts to hack her phone continued in June 2019.

It seems that the Arab Nations have failed to realise the fact that no Power on Earth can stop dedicated journalists from revealing facts!

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