Women who wear Hijab have always been discriminated against in Algeria, especially in the media sector. According to the rules put in place by the French people before the independence of their country, there was a restriction that prevented women with headscarves to present news or any other information on public television. Algeria had already managed to regain its media sovereignty from the French people as of 28th October 1962 but still, women could not wear headscarves on national television while presenting. This phenomenon has, however, been challenged lately when presenter Najwa Gedi managed to present a news bulletin while wearing a hijab on 15th February 2022 (Amin, 2022, p. 23). The historical event was applauded by many who felt that the restrictions imposed by French people were discriminatory to women, particularly those in the Islamic religion.
Women Wearing Hijab on National Television
In Algeria, Islam is the state religion. However, for half a century, women have not been given the freedom to appear on public television while wearing headcovers. The country had already achieved radio and television sovereignty back in 1962 after independence from the French people but this restriction has been in place till now. Based on a statement made by Reda Jawadi, who is a member of the Algerian National Union of Journalists (SNJ), this constraint has been prevalent due to the personal convictions of some officials in Algeria who run the state television (Boussoualim, 2021, p. 1304). He added that with some high-ranking government officials who were satisfied with this policy, the restriction has been able to stay in place, prohibiting any woman with a headcover from presenting news.
The appearance of the first woman on public television wearing a hijab marks a new era, which no longer restricts females’ dress code. In Algeria, there are thousands of women who have graduated with degrees in media and communication but could not work in television because of wearing headscarves. With this opportunity, many women will have the chance to work in this field without going through any discrimination (MacMaster, 2020, p. 65). According to various personalities in the media industry, it is clear that despite having media sovereignty, all decision-makers in this sector have been following the European perception of presentation and appearance that should be maintained on television. The European thoughts of how women in the media should look have been the biggest hindrance to letting headscarves on public television. The media has had to follow this perception for years, which has prevented women from venturing into this career.
Najwa Jeddi has highly changed the image of women on national television in Algeria. Her appearance indicates that civilisation has boosted the perspective of women in society by acknowledging them in all their diversities. Since the Europeans reigned over Algeria, veiled women did not have a chance in this industry. The most extreme aspect of it is that they were discriminated against in the entire society based on job opportunities (Boussoualim, 2021, p. 1296). With a headscarf, women had little chance of getting jobs in any sector. In the media sector, women with headcovers were not deemed attractive enough to appear in the news. The stereotypical image of a news anchor is that of a woman with straight hair that is well-styled to attract many viewers. Women with headcovers did not provide this benefit, and, thus, they were discriminated against while appearing on TV. This is an issue that affects women in general as they are judged not for the value that originates from qualifications and knowledge but with a sense of objectification.
The body of a woman and how they dress is what makes them attractive. This explains why they are preferred in the media industry. With women in scarves being highly covered, they defy this body image. Najwa Gedi has, thus, effectively helped eliminate this perception that has denied many like her the opportunity to pursue a career in media and communication. Gedi as the first woman to appear with a veil on public television has opened a door for many who have similar qualifications like her to pursue their career and end discrimination against women in general. There should be no body type or dressing standards that should hinder a person from pursuing their dreams, especially in the 21st century. As long as a person has the right qualifications, they should have the chance to do it without getting discriminated against. What Gedi has achieved is a milestone that women in Algeria have been waiting for for the longest time (Amin, 2022, p. 52). However, to sustain it, more media houses need to uphold this change by engaging more women with headscarves on public television.
Algeria has been biased against women wearing scarves on national TVs and this has been prompted by the European perception of media body images. With Jeddi being the first woman to appear on national television wearing a veil, this begins a new era in the country where Islamic women get the chance to venture into this career. There are thousands of women with an education qualification in this sector but due to the restrictions on head covers, they could not get a job. Hence, with this change, most of them are expected to be given an opportunity as well.