On TV since age 18, Lebanese journalist Rima Maktabi gained international recognition for her reporting during the 2006 Lebanese War. Speaking to students of the Polis/LSE Summer School, Maktabi recounted some of her experiences and the lessons she has learned. Polis Summer School student Sarah Rafla-Yuan reports.
“Journalism is a never-ending job” Maktabi said as she recounted some of the sacrifices she’s had to make over her career, some of those including lost time with her family and health issues.
Her time and experience as a journalist has allowed her to report on topics she wants to push the limits on. Maktabi wants Arab media to push the boundaries of reporting amidst the heated discourse surrounding journalistic censorship in the Arab world.
Having worked both on the ground and in the newsroom as a news anchor, she says that battles exist in both contexts:
“battles in the newsrooms are sometimes more difficult than battles on the ground.”
The sources and information Maktabi managed to obtain over the course of the Lebanese War were not easily acquired. Her sensitive situation came with the very real threat of constant danger, and she kept in mind one rule: no story is worth your life:
“Search for truths, reveal truths, but stay alive.”
This was also very relevant to the people she worked with and interviewed. Local producers and fixers often have political biases and fears concerning potential conflict with media mediators or governments. Political figures involved in conflict or war almost always have concealed agendas. Maktabi recounted one of her personal experiences with sensitive political content disappearing without a trace or full explanation.
This mindset is necessary to subtly navigate the delicate balance of attaining important content without aggravating powerful figures or organizations. “Sometimes, they use you, you use them. You are aware of the game,” Maktabi stated. She explained that answering certain questions may reveal sources. To counter this, she had built relationships with contacts and sources from around the world. To continue getting information, she was persistent, mindful, and knowledgeable of the people she worked with and around:
“Build a relationship, where if someone has something to say, they come to you.”
For Rima Maktabi, her career was not a job, but “a passion.” Having wanted to quit many times, she warned of the merciless and difficult world of journalism:
“Don’t let the competitive life of journalism kill you. It can kill you.”
This article by Polis Summer School student Sarah Rafla-Yuan
All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s), and not the position of Polis, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science