I am a journalist by profession. I have been working in this job for 25 years, since before I graduated from university and although my work has been tiring, it has never been boring.
Other people call this profession “looking for trouble” but journalists call it “the majesty”. In this apparent contradiction, we can find the secret of this permanently difficult profession. It’s true that all journalists look for trouble, not only to write about it and tell the world, but also to become part of it.
When journalists become the news
In recent years, more and more journalists have become news themselves rather than a means to convey it.
Journalists have always been exposed to accidental harm because they work in dangerous places but today they are exposed to intentional harm because of what they write. Many journalists have been killed because of this. Others have been imprisoned or have disappeared mysteriously. Despite this, free and independent journalism will always exist, and the truth is still what journalists look for in their work.
I always tell students at the Kuwaiti universities where I sometimes present journalistic seminars that every day I still go to my newspaper’s office as if it was a first date – with passion and expectations of new experiences.
The students laugh. They’re shocked by my candid descriptions – this language is not appropriate for a university seminar – but I tell them that this kind of passion is what keeps a journalist in their profession.
Because I have worked nearly every day for the past 25 years as a journalist, I’m able to notice the changes that have befallen this profession. These changes have transformed it from a pleasurable activity tinged with caution to a pleasurable activity tinged with tension, worry, and fear. Instead of writing about fearful places, journalists are now living this fear in their everyday life and work.
World Press Freedom Day was 3 May. This year, instead of celebrating, journalists seemed mournful. Most of the articles written for the occasion were angry, not about the way journalism was going but about the conditions in which journalism is currently practised.
Paying the price
In every country of the world, there are stories about how journalists are persecuted. Of course, there are big differences across the world – there is more press freedom in countries where there is more freedom generally.
In every report we see on the dangers journalists face in their work, we see that Arab countries unfortunately have a a huge share of these dangers. Some of them have the largest share globally.
But what is really interesting is that while journalism has developed significantly – news is carried faster than ever, sources of news are more varied than ever, and different paper and electronic formats have flourished – the situation is very different when it comes to press freedom.
Things are going backward and there is very little hope for improvement in the foreseeable future. For this reason, journalism is now not about “looking for trouble” it is about “looking for freedom”. I am still looking.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.
Date of publication: 8 May, 2015
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.