Journalists and filmmakers are society’s watchdogs, ensuring government accountability and informing people of what is going on in the world around them. Yet they are increasingly under pressure to report against the backdrop of bans, threats and restrictions around the world.
We spoke to Isam Uraiqat, Editor-in-Chief at AlHudood and One World Media Special Award Winner 2018, to hear how he has continued his crucial work despite countless attempts to silence his publication.
Q: What has been your experience with governments and authorities trying to ban or restrict your work at AlHudood?
From the beginning, we were careful to push the lines slowly, so that we didn’t immediately encounter a backlash. I think over the first 3 years of operation, it was every 3 weeks or so that we would say “How about we try to push it a little bit further…” This way we were able to get them used to us slowly, without them thinking that there was a direct clash.
A friend of mine said the other day, “The way they operate is very similar to terrorism.” Because you don’t know when something is going to happen. There aren’t clear lines, they just suddenly decide they don’t like something. Even if the law is with us, it’s not really an issue as these are not famously countries that are ruled by law!
Essentially, they leave you constantly on edge; never knowing when you’re doing something that’s right and when you’re doing something that isn’t. We pretty much constantly operate in a grey area.
It is a sort of game and we just need to keep playing.
Q: And how have you found it, ‘playing the game’? How do you continue to work despite this constant threat?
I think it’s a combination of things.
We have a team that believes in what we’re doing. Every person in the team knows that there is a cloud above them at all times, but they operate despite that happily.
What helps also is family and friends telling us, “This is what you should be doing.” Any time I have doubts, I know this is what I should be doing because this is as important as it gets. We need to continue doing this.
And this team, we’re good at what we do. So it feels like, if you’re good at something, then you really need to continue doing it. It becomes about that. If someone else was already doing it really well, and the area was covered, then maybe I would rethink doing it. The fact that there aren’t other people doing it, it’s like, “Oh okay, well I guess we’ll do it!”
Q: Why do you think satire is such a powerful tool in what you do?
It’s about making people rethink things. It’s about giving them another angle, and it can highlight a lot of contradictions and ironies. Good satire isn’t necessarily funny, but it links things together in a way that forces you to rethink what you think you know, and that’s what we try to do.
We can take something that’s covered by serious journalists and we’ll put it in a wider context that is more approachable, so that people can relate to it. I think this is something that we do very well.
Isam will be speaking at our free event next week, Media Under Attack: How do journalists continue despite the dangers. This event will bring together journalists who have had their work restricted, censored or banned, to discuss the fundamental importance of press freedom, and how they have continued their work despite the challenges they have encountered.