Q&A with Lubna Masarwa of Middle East Eye

Highlights from our IG Live with Lubna Masarwa, journalist and Middle East Eye’s Palestine and Israel bureau chief in Jerusalem. Lubna spoke to us ahead of the Global Reporting Summit that will take place this year in Ramallah and London. Tickets are still available to attend in person or online. On Day 1 in Ramallah, Lubna will lead a session with female journalists, ‘A Day in the life of a Palestinian Reporter’, who will share their experiences of working in a challenging environment. Watch the full interview here

 

How has it been preparing for the Summit?

This is new and we are very grateful for this event, especially the local journalists in Palestine. Many of them can’t travel – they have trouble moving in the region so this is a big support to Palestinians andyoung journalists. Also for One World Media to be on the ground, to be here, to meet in person and to come to the places where journalists are working – I’m very excited for that. 

Middle East Eye organised the sessions with One World Media, . We have very good sessions hosting local female reporters to talk about being mothers, being women, being in this challenging warzone and still doing this work. And we have also another session on hope and resilience to speak about the very difficult work journalists are doing here. I can’t wait for this event, and of course, to host One World Media in Palestine is a privilege for us.

 

Tell us a little bit about who you are and your background. How did you become a journalist and what do you do now?

My name is Lubna Masarwa. I’ve been living in a neighbourhood between East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem, where one side is Israeli and one side is Palestinian, so I’m very much on the edge and so have access to different communities. I was born in a village in Israel. Like many other Palestinians, we have been born into the occupation, into the struggle. And naturally, I found myself working in human rights. From there, I also started reporting but before that, I did a lot of work with the international journalists who used to come to Palestine to cover and to report and also with politicians who wanted to learn about the place. 

I am very curious about people. I like details and the smallest story is not small, but a human story. In Israel, there are two million Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship. I was born and raised in Israel. So I speak Arabic, Hebrew and English, which gives me access to different communities. I can move in different places. I made so many interesting stories that I felt I really want to get to international media. 

 

What kind of work are you doing at the moment?

I have a big team on the ground – freelancers in different areas in Palestine and Israel. I have to review stories in different places in different languages. It’s a lot of mainly managing and consulting with the team: What is the story to commission? How do we want this region to be covered? 

I wake up every day to thousands of WhatsApp messages from Palestinian families who approach me for their stories to be covered. I enjoy being approached by these vulnerable communities that want their stories told. It’s like an ocean of different stories, and I think I have the capacity to connect these stories on different levels, connecting communities and people, not just mainstream politics of the leaders and parties. Sometimes, I just go to the market, go in the buses, speak with people and try to get the next story, the untold stories.

 

What kind of challenges do you face during your work and what are you trying to learn from those as a journalist in those communities?

Much of the international media rely on international reporters because they are English speakers. They come to Palestine and usually speak to those who speak English. So for me, the challenge was to create local, mainly female journalists in different areas in Palestine and to provide for them the facility to write in Arabic. It’s the effort to reduce the gap between the ground and the press. Thankfully, we’ve managed to build a great team in Gaza, in the West Bank in Jerusalem and also in Israel, of young women who can tell a story.

Palestine is a war zone and Palestinian journalists face violations from both sides, Israel, and from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Israel doesn’t differentiate between journalists and people who are in a demonstration. Journalists have no immunity. Every week, journalists are injured and attacked by live bullets.

We’re living in an era when journalism is being targeted.

 

In this environment, why is Middle East Eye supporting the One World Media Summit? And why did you invite One World Media to Ramallah?

We have so much in common with One World Media supporting journalists and filmmakers. I would do everything to support this organisation for it to grow. We need this group more than ever. Journalists need solidarity and representation.

 

How difficult does the situation around you make it to do your job? Do you have much hope that things might change? Do you think things are going to get better or worse?

We’re doing our duty. Things may change in my time and things may change later. But it doesn’t prevent us from doing our work. It’s exhausting. It’s not easy to put myself at risk all the time. But I wake up and I believe that something will change sometime, and it doesn’t matter for me if it will happen now or happen later.

I have trust more than hope that our work will make a difference.

 

What do you want the world to know about Palestine?

I want to explain that Palestine has so many different areas. There is the West Bank. There is the Gaza Strip. There are Palestinians inside Israel. I want the world to learn about Palestine and to know that Palestinians in the West Bank can’t access Jerusalem. Palestinians from Gaza have never visited Jerusalem. And we’re all living in one place. I want to encourage people to to read more about Palestine, to challenge themselves, to try alternative media resources and not just mainstream media.

I would also really recommend helping journalists to deal with trauma from the work they do and mental health issues.

We must speak about this and not be shy to talk about the price journalists are paying when they are covering a place like Palestine or Syria or Iraq.