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Tue 18 Feb 2014 10:27 AM

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First Saudi female editor appointed

Somayya Jabarti is the first female editor-in-chief of a Saudi newspaper after being appointed to the Saudi Gazette

First Saudi female editor appointed

The first female editor-in-chief of a Saudi newspaper has been appointed to the English daily Saudi Gazette.

The appointment of Somayya Jabarti, who has worked in media for more than a decade, including at rival paper Arab News, is a milestone in a country where women have few rights.

“It was not a question of gender but of merit that decided and earned her this opportunity,” the outgoing editor-in-chief Khaled Almaeena wrote in a farewell letter posted on the newspaper’s website.

"She is determined and dedicated, and I can assure her and the team that I will be there to assist and advise, so that Saudi Gazette further advances as a media unit in a highly competitive and digital age."

In an interview with Al Arabiya, Jabarti said she was aware of the responsibility of being the first female to lead a Saudi newspaper but there was still more work to be done to ensure other women reached similar heights.

“There’s a crack that has been made in the glass ceiling,” Jabarti said. “And I’m hoping it will be made into a door.

"Being the first Saudi woman [editor-in-chief] is going to be a double the responsibility… One's actions will reflect upon my fellow Saudi women."

Jabarti said 17 of the 20 Saudi Gazette reporters were female but the paper's senior editorial positions were mainly held by men.

"The majority of our reporters are women – not because we are biased and choosing women over men,” she said.

“There are more women who are interested in being journalists, and who are journalists.

"The success will not be complete unless I see my peers who are also Saudi women in the media, take other roles where they are decision-makers."

Saudi Arabia has been rated one of the worst country’s for women by the World Bank.

Women are not allowed to drive in the kingdom and few are employed, although there has been some progression under King Abdullah, who last year allowed the first women to be appointed to the parliamentary advisory body, the Shoura Council.