Al Jazeera news editor discusses reporting from warzones at NU-Q

Awad Joumaa's visit to NU-Q was part of its Al Jazeera Speaker Series, where professionals from the network deliver a variety of lectures about the future of journalism and media communication.

The implications and challenges of on-the-ground reporting in warzones was the center of a discussion at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) with Awad Joumaa, a news editor, book editor, and documentary film maker at Al Jazeera.

In a recent book, which he co-edited, “Journalism in Times of War,” journalists and media activists contributed articles which provided a behind the scenes look at journalism in conflict areas. During the session at NU-Q, he read several excerpts from the book, detailing life for journalists in a war zone.

In introducing the session Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO, noted that covering warzones is the “most difficult aspect of media and journalism. To have someone who works so closely with journalists who report on some of the most dangerous conflicts in the world gives our community a real perspective into the complications and risks involved in news creation and reporting.” 

The conversation, which was moderated by NU-Q Professor Craig LaMay, addressed journalistic challenges in a conflict area, which range from security and survival, to responsible reporting, and maintaining professional ethics and integrity.

During the discussion, LaMay asked Joumaa how Al Jazeera prepares its journalists before dispatching them to warzones and conflicted areas. “There’s never enough preparation,” Joumaa said. “Once journalists are on the ground they are hit with the reality of how difficult and dangerous things are.” 

Joumaa explained that reporters in conflict areas face a number of challenges, in addition to the physical danger, which includes being held by government officials or the military who want to stop them from doing their job or receiving serious threats to hurt their families. 

The quality of a journalist’s work can also be compromised in a warzone, explained Joumaa. “Security is not guaranteed in danger zones; therefore, we need to be accommodating to video or photo coverage that is not of high quality. In some cases, just being seen with a camera can put your life in danger,” he said. 

Joumaa’s book, which is available online in English and Arabic, includes contributions from award-winning war correspondents, including Zeina Khodr, who has covered wars in Syria and Iraq; Zaina Erhaim, a project coordinator for the Institute for War and Peace reporting; and Peter Greste, who was imprisoned in Egypt for 400 days in 2013.

Joumaa’s visit to NU-Q was part of its Al Jazeera Speaker Series, where professionals from the network deliver a variety of lectures about the future of journalism and media communication to the University’s community. In return, NU-Q faculty provide strategic training sessions and consultation on upcoming projects for Al Jazeera.