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Rudaw

Opinion

Time to discuss risks journalists take reporting the war

By Judit Neurink 5/3/2017
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Kurdistan suffered a loss when Rudaw reporter Shifa Gardi got killed at the site of the biggest mass grave of the Islamic terror group ISIS outside Mosul.

One of the few female journalists who had made it to the top in the Kurdish media, with her own show and a department to lead, lost her life on the job, reporting on the war against ISIS.

She cracked the glass ceiling, as the Kurdish representative in Washington, Bayan Sami Abdulrahman tweeted, who herself has a background in journalism.

We both know that it is hard for women to climb the career ladder in the media, as well as elsewhere in the male-dominated society.

I have known exactly one woman in Kurdistan calling herself editor in chief – of a website - but the editors in chief I regularly collected to meet in the media center I led in Sulaimani until 2014, were all male.

Women have a hard time both entering journalism and working and being promoted there – and mainly due to the role of men in their lives and what society sees fit for females.

I saw young female reporters who were not allowed by their fathers to go out for interviews on their own; I even know a well-known presenter who was always accompanied by her brother when she was working outside.

I gave female reporters tips about how to interview properly without looking men in the eye, as some had been brought up not to.

But Shifa Gardi was member of the vanguard of Kurdish women who have been able to shake off those cultural weights and enter the male domain.

Doing so, she never lost the female touch; reporting about the war and interviewing commanders, but also showing the fate of civilians, and even of animals.

Her saving a white rabbit from liberated areas in Mosul was another day’s work – until her death a couple of days later.

Suddenly the rabbit became the symbol of her soft nature – in a way it never would have if a male colleague had been killed.

Somehow this symbolizes the struggle of women in Kurdish media, and even in media in general.

We somehow have to do better than our male colleagues, or at least have the feeling that we should, to be seen as equal.

And even though we make beautiful stories, scoops and headlines, it is mostly the soft stories that people remember us by.

For Shifa it is the bunny, for me it was the hijab swimming suit that I bought in Egypt and tried out at a quiet stretch of the coast there, that for a long time remained my best-read story.

What it does to us, is that we try even harder to show our muscles in the hard news arena, to get the approval for work that we feel is more important.

And I have been wondering if that is what happened to Shifa too – whom I must admit I only knew from meeting in the Rudaw newsroom, and from a training course I organized.

But when she started looking for the mass grave she knew she was after the big news that would elevate her to the vanguard of the news makers where gender has no influence.

Is that why she went into territory where mines had not been cleared yet, and let herself be lured towards the sinkhole mass grave by a commander who should have known better?

Kurdish journalists have been criticized for taking too many risks when reporting about the battle for Mosul, and I have seen footage that really made me wonder about that too.

The rule for reporting in dangerous circumstances always has to be that no story is worth your life.

But with the strong competition between Kurdish stations, as well as between reporters, this rule can easily be neglected.

I wonder if their bosses have told them, and I guess they did not, as they saw that the images had attracted viewers eager to witness the excitement of war they would not seek themselves.

Yet I would hope that the loss of a journalist like Shifa could finally set something in motion that the deaths of other colleagues sadly were not able to do.

It is time that Kurdish media take a step back and look at the way they are working in the war zones, at the support for journalists there, and the risks they are taking.

To discuss if the balance the risk and the story is not lost somehow.

We lost a colleague that cracked the glass ceiling, a rising star dimmed. And we do not want to lose any others, whatever their gender, talent or background.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.




Comments

 
Learn your job | 5/3/2017
"Islamic terror group"?? You are not a good journalist.
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