Reporting from the Middle East

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Joakim Medin (left) and Rana Sabbagh (right) on stage during the panel: “Investigations in the Middle East: Focus on ISIS/Daesh.” Photo: Harald Stolt-Nielsen

Being a journalist in countries with repressive regimes and limited press freedom can be a daunting task. Countries in the Middle East have been described as some of the most dangerous in the world for journalists to report from.

Rana Sabbagh, executive director at Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), shared useful tips for reporting in the region:

  • Use pseudonyms in reports and emails.
  • Encrypt online communication to avoid surveillance.
  • Use hidden cameras, especially in ISIL occupied areas, where carrying a camera can get you thrown in jail.
  • Contact Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism.

“We encourage great journalists to come to us,” Sabbagh explained. Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism trains journalists, pays full funding for investigations, and assigns an attorney when needed.

“We have done 350 investigations, all of which are changing the society.”

Sabbagh stressed that the region’s media companies which refuse to investigate human rights abuses, remain loyal to the state, or censor the reporting of their journalists are breaking the souls of their reporters.

“The biggest enemy for freedom of the press is the media itself,” Sabbagh explained. Because private companies can purchase media outlets or newspapers, she argued, sometimes the most objective and neutral news comes, ironically, from state-run television broadcasters.

For more on ARIJ’s work, see its website and GJIN’s story on the group’s last regional conference, with profiles of award-winning work by journalists from across the Middle East and North Africa.

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