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Riyadh, Aug 9: They are few in number but determined to make their mark -- women journalists in Saudi Arabia have fought hard to get where they are and say they have more than proved themselves the equal of men.

The kingdom is one of the most restrictive places in the world for women, where powerful clerics say a woman's place is in the home, raising a family.

Women cannot drive cars, must be accompanied in public by male relatives, and must cover themselves up in anonymous black robes lest they incite men's sexual desire.

But despite limitations on women in the workplace, many who have ventured into the media industry as Saudi Arabia opens up under King Abdullah have attracted attention for their tenacity and professionalism.

A young print journalist in the capital Riyadh, who declined to be named, said female journalists had a lot of strengths people might not appreciate.

"I want to speak out,'' she said.

The journalist, who hails from the less restrictive Eastern Province on the Gulf coast, said her family supported her ambitions but Saudi society made it difficult to do her work.

"The problem is we don't have media departments at university for women. But you need to know how to write, and I don't have the tools,'' she said in an interview.

"Media means working evenings. You can't do interviews except in your office, and if you go to a hotel lobby, it's a crime,'' she said, recounting how a colleague was hauled off by the Saudi morality police for interviewing an unrelated man.

"You have to find safe ways. I have to be really careful. In Saudi Arabia, every one is watching you,'' she said.


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