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.
She has dedicated the last 33 years of her career as journalist, columnist and media trainer to promote free speech, independent media, “accountability journalism” and human rights.
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) as well as The Times (London) from 2001-2014 and helped establish Jordan’s latest independent newspaper, Al-Ghad.
In addition to her post at ARIJ, her OP-Ed’s have been featured in the Huffington Post, she is a regular columnist for Al-Hayat and Al-Ghad and regional media consultant/trainer for Thomson Reuters Foundation. She is a former jury member of the following prizes: UNESCO’s annual world media freedom prize (2011-2014), Arab Media Prize (2014) organized by the Dubai Press Club and Samir Kassir Foundation Award for Freedom of the Press.
As a candidate for the new board in GIJN, she says:
Being on the board of GIJN for a second time will reflect positively on enhancing investigative journalism in the Arab world, the core mission of ARIJ since its creation in 2005 and operating in nine states: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Palestine and Iraq.
Being on board this inspiring network will provide ARIJ and its 1400 members global ‘moral, institutional and professional” backing at a time of growing media and free-speech muzzling across the region following a window of hope triggered by the so-called “Arab Spring” in 2011.
By networking with amazing professional colleagues and having access to global professional networks, we are able to share challenges and prospects, learn from others’ lessons, and ensure ever-needed global support/solidarity for ARIJ-supported journalists producing edge-cutting print and multimedia investigations, against political, professional, societal and legal odds.
What ARIJ is doing often seems like pushing a donkey cart filled with stones up a steep hill: The minute you let go it will roll back.
It is a near impossible mission. 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.
And they are building a credible movement that in ten years from now will be labeled the IRE of the Arab world.
In a world which has become a village, thanks to globalization and the advent of the internet and social media, the presence of a female journalist from the largely patriarchal Arab world on the board of directors of GJIC will improve cultural sensitivities.
As founder and executive director of ARIJ since 2005, my role has been to help Arab journalists raise professional standards, comparable to those in the West and to assist them in fighting for their rights and negotiating the minefield of state censorship and lack of support from media owners and editors. All investigations we have published/broadcast have been miracles given the difficulty in accessing information, even on the most basic issues. Society in the Arab region is largely conservative and male-dominated does not yet have the maturity to look at its problems and try to come to terms with the reality
In fulfilling this mission, I travel widely in the region, organize workshops on a regular basis in the nine countries where ARIJ operates, coach colleagues and offer on the job mentoring and editing. I regularly write and campaign against censorship, media polarization and intimidation from the state, non-state players and editors.
The NGO has been mainly supported by the governments of Norway, Sweden and Denmark – as well as the Open Society Foundations.
Serving ARIJEANS has been so rewarding and meaningful. Serving the mission of GIJN and its members is equally rewarding.