In one of my journalism classes, I had an in-class essay prompt that asked us to write a eulogy of a fictional Egyptian student journalist who died in the riots serving as a reporter and our translator. In this scenario, we are to address her country, her media company (CNN), her peers and the world as a whole. We are told the eulogy will be broadcast on YouTube as well as being spoken live at her funeral.
My professor was very encouraging about the words I wrote so I thought I would share them with you all. They sum up well all I have learned in this major, why I do journalism and my vision for this calling. It is good to reread them and remember as graduation looms closer.
Journalists are often described as “giving a voice to the voiceless.” The work of a reporter and interpreter has no better description. I believe there is no higher calling than a life devoted to seeking the truth. This truth is elusive and hides in dangerous places. Today, it is in the riots of Tahir Square. It is a risk we all take, day after day, to inform the world, to hold governments accountable to their citizens and to write the first draft of history. It is a risk of honor, one our dear friend considered worth her life.
In her book “A Mighty Heart,” Mariane Pearl acknowledged that she and her husband, Daniel Pearl, knew the risks they took upon reporting in dangerous places.
“Terrorism may hit anywhere on the globe, but the heart… of its network is here and the work at hand is daunting.”
She did not run away in fear. Even when her husband was captured and beheaded, she fought to find out the truth behind it.
There is great difficulty in this work that requires unwavering ethics. “Integrity is the cornerstone of credibility,” as the Society of Professional Journalists states. I can assure you, this credibility ran throughout her life and integrity was its guiding light.
Recently, our work has changed in irreversible ways. The web has opened the door to truth and freedom as well as cultural understanding and globalization. As Thomas Friedman observed in his book “The World is Flat,” this wave of globalization “is going to be more and more driven by a much more diverse – non-western – group of individuals.”
I am proud to have known and worked alongside one of those individuals.
I challenge CNN to honor this young truth-seeker by staying open to more young local journalists in their international reporting. We must be intentional in our efforts to inform the world, not from an American viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of the people actually living and dying in the midst of the events we report about.
I challenge her country to remember her. Remember her, Egypt, for her passion, her courage and her conviction to make the world a better place. Raise up young reporters and train them to question authority, think critically and expose places of darkness, that this country might be a place of peace, security and democracy with a government based on the will of the people, serving its citizens and held accountable by a fair, independent and unbiased press. I challenge her peers and colleagues to follow her example in portraying their sources honestly, as real people and not merely statistics. Serve your audience without fear or personal interest. Minimize harm by recognizing the risk your sources take by revealing their names. Honor the trust your readers have placed in you to inform them.
As Negar Azimi described about this country years ago in “Bloggers Against Torture,” Egyptian journalists and bloggers have been risking their lives in the name of truth long before these riots. Still, the opportunity is here and the time is now for open dialog in Egypt about the benefits of freedom and independent media.
This new media outlook can be dangerous as well as beneficial. As Philip Seib said in “The Al Jazeera Effect,” “New media do not cause disorder, but they can perpetuate and spread it, whether the case at hand involves urban rioting, larger-scale conflict or terrorism.”
However, with an ethical, free and independent media, democracy in Egypt can be possible. Not only will it be possible, but it will ensure that Egyptian truth-seekers such as this young woman will not have perished in vain. Let us be like her, with the courage to stand for freedom and a dream greater than fear.