Rana Sabbagh is executive director at Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) – the region’s leading media support network spreading the culture of “accountability journalism” in nine Arab states since 2005.
As former chief editor of the Jordan Times (1999-Jan 2002), she became the first Arab female in the history of the Levant to run a daily political newspaper.
She was correspondent for Reuters International News Agency (1987-1997) and helped establish Jordan’s latest independent newspaper, Al-Ghad.
In addition to her post at ARIJ, she is a regular columnist for Al-Hayat and regional media consultant/trainer for Thomson Reuters Foundation. She is a jury member of UNESCO’s annual world media freedom prize.
As a candidate for the new board in GIJN, she says:
I believe a new board of GIJN and me being on that board will reflect positively on investigative journalism in the Arab world. It will be in terms of gaining professional experience from networking with similar organizations around the globe, sharing specificities about challenges and prospects of investigative journalism in the Arab world and ensuring global support/solidarity for over 1000 journalists who have been trained by ARIJ, including 170 that have produced brave investigations for the benefit of accountability.
In a world which has become a village, thanks to globalization and the advent of the internet, the presence of a journalist from the Arab world on the board of directors of GJIC will also increase diversity and pluralism and improve cultural sensitivities.
As founder and executive director of ARIJ since 2005, I have dedicated the last eight years of my career spreading the culture of “accountability journalism” in newsrooms and among media students in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Bahrain and Tunisia. The NGO has been mainly supported by the governments of Norway, Sweden and Denmark – as well as the Open Society Foundations.
My role has been to help Arab journalists achieve professional standards, comparable to those in the West and to assist them in fighting for their rights and negotiating the minefield of state censorship. In fulfilling this mission, I travel widely in the region and organize workshops on a regular basis in the nine countries where ARIJ operates – despite the political unrest of the last three years.
All investigations we have published have been miracles given the difficulty in accessing information, even on the most basic issues. Society in the Arab region is largely conservative and patriarchal and does not yet have the maturity to look at its problems and try to come to terms with the reality.
Media has become so polarized in Egypt and Tunis as well as in most Arab countries where we operate since the so called “Arab Spring”.
Most chief editors I deal with do not appreciate investigative journalism and are not willing to give their brave journalists some time off to focus on quality journalism. Often they refuse to publish investigations which they initially approved because they do not want to get into trouble with culprits.
So often I feel that what ARIJ is doing is like pushing a donkey cart filled with stones up a steep hill and the minute you stop pushing it will derail and roll back.
It is difficult, but the good news is that so many brilliant, committed, hard-working and brave journalist that have worked with ARIJ and have used facts and figures as evidence in their investigations, have become role models for other peers and are regaining the long-lost respect to the role of the “fourth estate” — they are no longer officials’ lapdogs but society’s watchdogs.
Ten years from now, ARIJ will be credited as the movement that started IJ in the arab world.