Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

           

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Media Profiles

Profiles of journalists in the Middle east

Firas Fayyad - Syrian Journalist

Derek Schlennstedt

“I am at peace with myself” says Firas Fayyad before describing the torture and imprisonment he endured by the Syrian regime.

In front of him, several students sit listening sharing looks of anguish, shock and respect. Firas recounts his story, never wavering once; he is at peace with his past and comfortably retells his story and memories in vivid detail.

“They start to hit you with a cable, like thick tree, they have electric things and rod and put them in your back and torture you. All the time they asking you, give me names, who has worked with you?, how many times you filming the demonstrations?, are you spy for France and America?, you are filming by the Photoshop. It’s like that.”

He says the Syrian prisons are a place you go to die or be tortured “You was arrived to die or tortured.”

Firas a Syrian born filmmaker and journalist spent eight months in prisons around Damascus in 2011 after filming a movie focusing on the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria.

His film called "On the Other Side," focused on an exiled Syrian poet living in the Czech Republic.

He was arrested upon boarding a plane from Damascus to Dubai for a film festival.

“When I arrived to Damascus airport, one of the secret police said give me your passport. He take my passport and take a look at me, at my names and my picture, for three seconds, I just know I’m finished.”

Firas was imprisoned in September of 2011, he spent the following seven months in seven different prisons. In each he was subjected to torture and interrogation.

“They hit me all the time, in the secret prison they put me underground, three floor underground and they put me without anything, naked and they get a big stake and start to hit me in my back.”

Having been imprisoned for one month by the Syrian secret police for filming demonstrations in March 2011, Firas knew what prison in Syria was like however the second time in September 2011 he said was much worse.

“The second time I’m arrested, I stay seven months, it was bad experience, I’m arrested because I finish my film, the secret police in the Syrian regime get the film and knows everything I do for that. So the torture was very bad and bad experience.”

Yet even in this place the filmmaker retained hope, he escaped the reality of the prison by creating a fictional old man to talk to in his prison cell or as he called it his “small house”.

“Sometimes when we go back to my prison, my small house, I called it small house I tried to thinking something good, and try to create story inside, so I create a man, old man, he have white hair colour, and we start to discuss, I told him about the cinemas, told him about my life.”

Eventually released on a presidential pardon, a decree granting a general amnesty for criminals and jihadists by the Bashar Al-Assad regime, Firas was released.

“With the jihadists I get out, with the jihadists. I’m a jihadist of the cinema” He jokes.

Upon release he immediately escaped to Jordan, his work and films had all but been destroyed by the Syrian government.

 “I lose everything, all my cameras, computers, materials, all, everything so I get out with just my glasses.”

Whilst in prison his family had no knowledge of what had happened to him, his parents living in Syria and his wife living in Dubai knew only that he had disappeared.

“They didn’t know what’s happened with me just Firas is disappeared.”

Upon his release he immediately contacted his parents to tell them to disown him as he was scared they too would be targeted.

“I told my father, my brother and my sister that we didn’t know this man he is not from our family, I didn’t want the Assad regime to find any reason to catch my family and take them to the prison.”

Since his release Firas has continued to write films and report on the troubles of the people living in Syria.

His current film looks at children being exploited in Syria by extremist groups.

“It is about how Isis, and the extremists groups, and how they use the kids to be a part of the war. That’s our story now”

His memories and experiences of prison remain with him but Firas shows no anger to what he endured; he states that everyone in Syria is a victim of the Bashar Al-Assad regime.

Even when Firas saw his torturer on the opposite side of the road, one of the men who had tortured him in prison, he remained unaffected and calm.

“In street I meet a man who has tortured me, I didn’t care with him and so I walk.“

“Something in my hurt and my psychology said you should have peace inside your body and because the reason of all of this is one man Bashar Al-Assad. This torturer is one of that people who is like victim, same as me he is victim, but he is torturing me, it was normal, very normal for me I was surprised for myself.”

“It take a big big power to say I don’t want to call you, I don’t want to kill you, I don’t want to make your body like what you do to my body, to say that I forgive you.” He said

Firas now lives in Istanbul with his wife and his daughter Elona which means “green tree in old Syrian.”

Despite the worsening situation in Syria Firas still dreams that one day he will be able to return to his country Syria. A dream he says all Syrians share.

“That’s the dream of the Syrian to go back to their country and build again every step and every place in Syria without any dictator, with the dream of the democracy and let the people choose.”

Firas Fayyad and his colleague Ali Ibrahim demonstrate how the prisoners sat whilst in the confines of their small cells. Photograph by Christine Byllaardt

Firas Fayyad and his colleague Ali Ibrahim demonstrate how the prisoners sat whilst in the confines of their small cells. Photograph by Christine Byllaardt

Raed Omari - Jordan Times

Krystal Mizzi

Raed Omari. Photograph Juliette Strangio

Raed Omari. Photograph Juliette Strangio

Raed Omari has been working as a journalist at The Jordan Times for the past seven years. However he is currently conflicted because he has been offered several jobs which pay better. But if he accepts one of the jobs he will have to leave the paper he loves understaffed.

Finding good staff is one of the major challenges at The Jordan Times. According to Omari, it’s not easy to find someone who speaks English and who wants to be a reporter. If they do, they tend to have weak journalistic skills.

Omari said he is doing five people’s job’s to keep the newspaper running, including translating, editing and news monitoring as well as reporting. He is passionate about working at the country’s only English language newspaper. ‘I love it so much, it fits me perfectly,’ he says.

Like most reporters, he is working six-day weeks and 12-hour days, and even on his day off he says he can’t escape the stress. ‘Journalism is inside me, I am always critical.’ Omari would like to one-day move out of print media and into television broadcasting however he is finding it hard to leave because of his personal attachment to The Jordan Times.

He would like to write more about the topics he’s interested in, such as art, nature and agriculture, “the things I would write about because I want to, not because I have to.”

Omari said The Jordan Times is different to other Arabic papers because it tends to be more newsy, there are things that are difficult to report on. He says some other papers write uncritically about the government, but “we write news,” he says.

 

Raied T Shuqum - Jordan Times

Michael Thompson

Raied T Shuqum. Photograph by Juliette Strangio

Raied T Shuqum. Photograph by Juliette Strangio

“I think it’s okay for a while, “ says the Jordan Times’ Lifestyle and Sports editor, Raied T Shuqum.

He’s talking about the future of the paper he loves working at. “For the next five years I think it will survive, somehow,” he says.

Media organisations around the world are struggling to retain staff. The media in Jordan is experiencing the same issues.

Shuqum says newspapers in Jordan are declining. “Our sister companies are stressed. Hopefully they get back on their feet.”

He says more people are sourcing their news from smartphones and tablets, and fewer people are picking up the daily newspaper.

“People are switching to their mobiles. Print media is slowly dying out, it could die out completely.”

He says people are beginning to move with the times. “Some people still use the newspaper as a source of news, but they need to start looking for news on their mobiles.”

The marketing graduate from California didn’t study any form of journalism in college, but decided to move into the field after his parents asked him to come home to Jordan.

Shuqum’s job is to edit both the lifestyle and sports pages for The Jordan Times, which caters for tourists, embassy officials and people who don’t speak Arabic.

 

Abdullatif Najem - Jordan Media Institute

Stefania Di Paola

Abdullatif Najim. Photograpgh by Stefania Di Paola

Abdullatif Najim. Photograpgh by Stefania Di Paola

‘Akeed’ is an Arabic word that means ‘for sure.’ It is also the name of a project that monitors misreporting in Jordan.

The Jordan Media Institute (JMI) has been keeping track of media falsehoods, or “fabrications” for over a year.

In February alone, the project monitored and reported 820 rumours spreading across social media.

Abdullatif Najem, the website’s administrator and editor at JMI, says the project’s main objective is “to hold the media responsible and accountable”.

“This helps journalists understand the value of sticking to the standards, which elevates the profession to a higher level.

“It also teaches journalists to not just break the story. You have to check the facts first.”

Najem wants the project to be a tool that prevents journalists from falling into the trap of reporting misinformation.

The other objective is to alert the people to be more aware and sceptical of what they are republishing on social media.

Najem says “fabrication stories happen every day.”

“You don’t see them in mainstream media. (They are) mainly on websites because there is not enough monitoring.”

Those behind the fabricated news websites are professional journalists, who publish online and on social media.

The aim of these journalists is to draw readers to the fabricated websites with headlines that appear newsworthy to get a lot of hits, promote themselves and attract advertisers.

Stories range from politics and war to the absurd, and as soon as the project reports on these fabrications, the journalists delete them immediately.

“A lot of these websites have been mushrooming throughout the past few years, there are so many of them and they are not being held responsible for what they do”.

The project team includes Najem and four other journalists, and will be extending the monitoring to broadcasting television stations in the near future.

Khetam Malkawi - Jordan Times

Christine Byllaardt

Khetam Malkawi. Photograph by Juliette Strangio

Khetam Malkawi. Photograph by Juliette Strangio

As far as Jordanian reporters go, Khetam Malkawi is “the most aggressive journalist, and the most tough one,” according to a colleague at the Jordan Times.  

When she started reporting at Jordan’s only English newspaper eight years ago, she was the only female journalist covering the lower house of parliament.

She has since covered “politics, some sensitive issues, international relations, even military issues…”

“Changing people’s lives, for me, positive change, this is the real success.”

Malkawi’s goal is to prove that women are on the same level as men.

“Usually I take issues that are not easy for a woman to be accepted in, just to prove to the people that women can do it...”

During a trip to southern Jordan, Malkawi discovered a story in the small village of Tasan. It led to a story that would win her a major journalism award.

“I found out that they don’t have secondary school there, that’s why children there drop out of school at the age of 15 or 16.

“If they want to go to the nearest school they have to walk daily about 10 kilometres… there is no transportation from their village to the nearest village.

“They didn’t have back then a medical centre… they don’t have normal phones… they didn’t have access to water and things, so they lived in a difficult situation.”

Malkawi became focused on the children in the village. The day after she published her story, the royal court contacted her for more details about the situation.

“After one week,” the King ordered local officials “to build a school there, to build a medical centre, and to equip it with doctors and equipment, and, they decided to provide them with buses to take students to school in the nearest villages until the school is built there.”

For Malkawi, this was a “real success story.”

“Having an impact or changing the lives of the local community for me is a priority.”

Although journalism is Malkawi’s passion, she says in two more years it will be time for her to make a change of career to challenge herself.

“I really, really love journalism, and I try not to be disappointed with the restrictions of access to information here,” she said. “But now, it is time for me to move to a different level.” 

Deena Holz - Jordan TV

Stephen Jones

Denn Holz. Photograph by Juliette Strangio

Denn Holz. Photograph by Juliette Strangio

Deena Holz is German-Jordanian TV Producer.

She travelled to Jordan in 2011 on a research project to survey over 300 journalists about freedom of the press.

While she was there, the Arab Spring unfolded in several neighbouring countries.

“I was not scared,” says Holz, “if you are not brave it’s the wrong job for you.”

She felt confident to stay because she had some protection from her Jordanian family. “I’m the granddaughter of a mighty person in the north of this country. They know my family name, everyone knows. Wherever I go, sometimes I use my name very carefully. When I’m with you I say Holz because it’s Western, but when I go to the people in the street I say Al-Zoubi. And they show respect.”

She continued her research which she hopes will become a book.

“It’s all about the freedom of speech and the freedom of press in this country.”

The book discusses the ways in which family-based censorship affects journalism in Jordan.

“Even your family can pressure you as a journalist, because families are very important in this region, more than I feel in Europe.”

In her survey she researched broader problems of blackmail and censorship, and asked Jordanian reporters whether they had ever been pressured in these ways.

“I found two or three,” she says. “One who is experienced here, he was so fearful he didn’t want to talk to me”.

Holz says she has to follow the news. “I’m here now because it’s happening. Here it will be war for a long time.”

“Give this region some time, it’s really hard to grow when you’re surrounded by war. Give the region time to be more self-confident with journalism freedom.”

Ekram Alzou’bi - Jordan Media Institute

Edwina Toohey

Ekram Alzou'bi. Photograph by Edwina Toohey

Ekram Alzou'bi. Photograph by Edwina Toohey

Ekram Alzou’bi was told she was too pretty to work as a translator.

When she turned up at Jordan TV for an interview she was told “translation has people who just can put text on Google Translate but you can work here, and immediately after that I was on the air,” she says.

Since 1997 Alzou’bi has produced and presented many of Jordan TV’s cultural and political programs as well as its morning show.

She regards her work as a print journalist as her most important role.

She wrote a column every week in the daily Jordanian newspaper, the Alrai.

“The best experience I had was being a writer. I started writing every week but I was lazy and I was busy with my family. So I had to quit for 5 years just to take care of my kids.”

The decision was difficult for Alzou’bi because by then she had a public profile. However, “the best websites in Jordan used to take my articles and republish them. It was a great thing for me.”

Alzou’bi is popular with Jordanians, in part because of the way she speaks.

“The Jordanian accent, is quite lost in Jordan,” she says. With “so many refugees coming to Amman forming this mutual dialect. They call it the white language, the language that absorbs all dialects and languages together and makes them just like one language or one dialect. I used that pure Jordanian dialect and I’m very proud of people telling me that all the time.”

Alzou’bi is studying for her Masters at the Jordan Media Institute. After graduating, she will join her husband, the Jordanian Ambassador in Iran, until he finishes his term.

“An Arabic woman is always connected to her husband,” she says.

She plans to make films about the aspects of life in Iran to show the difference between the media’s portrayal and reality.

“I want to show how life goes there and I want to show the art and the magic of the East.

If we come back to Jordan, I would love to go back to my work at Jordan TV. It’s my home; it’s where I belong.

People in Jordan they need to make programs about the aspects of their lives, the way they live, the way they think, the way they speak, the way they believe in things.”

 

Caroline Faraj - CNN Arabic

Thomas Wharton

A major player in the Arab media world is tucked away in Dubai’s Media City, in an office at the end of a corridor.

CNN Arabic runs a social media platform and a news website for CNN International in the Arabic language.

The Vice President, Caroline Faraj, runs the 24-hour  operation. And with a staff of nine reaches an audience of millions.

Photograph by Andrew Dodd

Photograph by Andrew Dodd

The website translates international news to an Arabic speaking audience and, inversely, Arabic news to CNN International’s viewers and readers.

Faraj is responsible for upholding CNN’s brand name. She does this through a combination of “editorial independence and impartiality.”

However, managing a Western media outlet in the United Arab Emirates is wrought with difficulties.

The UAE has dropped from 86th to 120th in the Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index in the past five years.

Criticising the UAE’s President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan or the government can result in severe penalties.

Journalists from local publications claim this can result in editorial self-censorship.

Faraj downplays these issues, “Clearly you must respect the laws of the country in which you operate, but I think the impact of this can sometimes be overstated. CNN operates freely in the UAE.

“I think regimes around the world are beginning to understand that a free press is not something to be afraid of, and actually allowing criticism is a sign of confidence. I hope and believe we will eventually see that more progressive mindset take hold more widely around the world.”

Faraj was behind the establishment of CNN’s headquarters in Dubai, passing over both Jordan and Bahrain.

When the office opened in January 2002, the region was in turmoil and the audience was wary of an American company reporting to and for the Arabic speaking world.

However, Faraj was confident.

“By and large we have always been welcomed here by Arabic speakers. We’re finding that ever greater numbers are turning to us now and they accept that our commitment to the region and to Arabic language news is sincere and wholehearted.”

CNN Arabic is dissimilar to the company’s franchises in Turkey or Japan because it is fully integrated within CNN International’s corporate structure, along with its information arteries and networks of stringers.

The website features short form journalism liberally punctuated with photographs and videos, reflecting Faraj’s view on the need for news to be digestible.

Stories are rarely longer than 400 words, doing away with the need for in depth background information by utilising hyperlinks and embedded multimedia.

The social media platforms - Twitter, Google+ and Facebook - augment the website’s reach and encourages user engagement.

These applications are a vehicle for the expression of social justice issues in some countries in which freedom of association rights are curtailed.

Online grassroots discussions a rich source of stories for CNN Arabic.

When asked how CNN Arabic reports on politics in the region, Faraj is unequivocal.

“Without fear or favour.”