Syrian journalist given award for ‘showing human side’ of war

Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim takes part in a panel discussion after receiving the 2015 Peter Mackler award at the National Press Club. (AFP)

Zaina Erhaim, the Syrian recipient of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism, said on Thursday she hopes her work can convey “the human side” of the horrific conflict.

“I’m not a war zone reporter. I wouldn’t be there if it was not my home country,” she said ahead of accepting the award from Reporters Without Borders, Agence France-Presse and Global Media Forum, a journalist training organization.

“I went back because I’m Syrian. I belong to that homeland.”

Erhaim, who lives and works in Aleppo, Syria, has trained about 100 citizen reporters from inside Syria, approximately a third of them women, in print and TV journalism, and helped establish new, independent newspapers and magazines in the country.

The 30-year-old Erhaim is also the Syria project coordinator for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), an international organization that supports journalists in countries undergoing conflict, crisis or transition.

Erhaim studied in London before returning to Syria to report on the conflict.

She said she has been training others because “I wanted to help my fellow citizen journalists. I feel a burden to complete what my colleagues and friends have died for. They died to make the world see what is going on.”

The work of some of her students has been published in major international news outlets, but Erhaim said her goal is to help convey the human element of life in Syria.

“What I was trying to do in the last three or four years is just report on lives and not just wars or massacres,” she said.

“International politicians are dehumanizing the Syrians; they have lives, they are interested in living, loving having kids.”

Erhaim said working as a journalist has never been easy in Syria - ranked 177th among 180 countries in terms of press freedom by Reporters Without Borders - but that now she and others are frequent targets of both the government and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49
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