We are journalists with expertise on the Middle East and North Africa, also joined by Delphine Halgand, the U.S. Director of Reporters Without Borders. There has been a lot of attention on news media and reporting in and about war zones. We are here to answer your questions on reporting in dangerous environments, how journalists can stay safe, and anything else!

Yehia has been reporting most recently on the Israel-Hamas conflict for Alhurra TV.

Elizabeth just wrapped up a five year stint as a regional correspondent from Egypt for the Voice of America, and headed VOA’s Cairo bureau.

Delphine has been working as the Director of the Washington DC office for Reporters Without Borders since December 2011. She runs the US activities for the organization and advocates for journalists, bloggers and media rights worldwide.

Here is proof that it is us!

https://twitter.com/VOAArrott/status/500024577289101312 https://twitter.com/BBGgov/status/501730480581267456 https://twitter.com/DelphineHalgand/status/501756117610151936 http://www.bbg.gov/blog/2014/08/15/reddit-ama-reporting-in-dangerous-environments/

Sadly, this Q&A falls on the eve of the second anniversary of the disappearance of Alhurra's Bashar Fahmi, who went missing during a reporting trip in Aleppo, Syria on August 20, 2012. There are currently over 25 journalists missing in Syria.

Comments: 100 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

lalagul8 karma

in war zones and countries where talking to foreign journalists about sensitive issues is basically viewed as a crime, how do you ensure the safety of your sources (both for their peace of mind and your own)?

YehiaKassem8 karma

This is a complicated issue. As a journalist you have a right in Israel, that you don't have to reveal your sources. The courts in Israel take it very seriously. As a journalist, it is your responsibility to make sure your sources are safe.

hyuga4886 karma

Hello, and thank you all for doing this AMA. How difficult is it to get some of the governments to cooperate with you and allow you in to see some of the places the wars have affected?

YehiaKassem8 karma

An example of this is when I was covering the tunnel between Gaza and Israel. When I went to cover the story, to get access to the tunnel, I needed to be escorted by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). It is important that you tell the viewers that you are there with one side of the story. However, I can ask any question that I want to the IDF officials, but I have to make sure the viewer is aware I went there with IDF.

candleboy955 karma

When were you the most scared for your life while reporting?

YehiaKassem14 karma

It was one month ago when I was on the border between Israel and Gaza and a rocket fell next to me. Here is a youtube video from when that happened. http://youtu.be/AFIuIcZ_q_o

Beccagain3 karma

How do you stay safe when reporting in conflict zones?

YehiaKassem5 karma

It is very complicated. Each case is different, you have to work with your senses and be aware of what is going on around you. Sometimes you just need luck to say safe.

Jux_2 karma

Have you ever been given a directive by superiors or other media outlets to not report certain aspects?

YehiaKassem2 karma

No, I have never been given a directive not to report on certain parts of a story.

Mrs_Fonebone2 karma

Since you are the real deal, I can't help but ask how you feel about the famous tv "journalists"--such as news anchors--who make cameo type appearances on the scene just for the cred?

YehiaKassem3 karma

Of course it is easier for journalists who work from a particular location or cover a specific topic to report on that issue, because they understand every aspect of it. As for international journalists who come to Israel, it depends on the journalist and their knowledge of the topic they are covering.

IchLeibeDich2 karma

How exactly did each of you end up where you are? Were you given the assignment or did you volunteer? Would you change it if you could?

YehiaKassem7 karma

My entire career I reported from Israel, even before I worked for Alhurra. As for working somewhere else, there are many places that I would like to report from. I enjoy working in a conflict zones, but my background is in international relations, so I would like to work in diplomatic assignments as well, such as the United Nations.

odsdaniel2 karma

what's the most common misconception people have about your job?

YehiaKassem6 karma

The biggest misconception is that people feel that you would take sides regarding the conflict. However, as a journalist I am objective and my reporting is unbiased.

drcorndog2 karma

Do you think journalists can become targets in conflict zones? Especially in conflict zones where it benefits one or both sides for certain stories not to break?

YehiaKassem2 karma

Absolutely. The problem is not the journalist, but extremists who do not agree with our reporting and feel that we are not showing their side.

ShowerQuestions2 karma

For Elizabeth, do you put in conditioner or shampoo first when you shower? For Yehia, do you listen to music in the shower? If so, what kind?

YehiaKassem1 karma

I don't listen to music in the shower, because I don't have loud speakers there. I wish.

ClamThe1 karma

Thanks for taking the time to do this! Have you ever reported the whole story, only for pieces to be omitted when it "hit the press?" Have those omissions ever changed the frame of the story? How do you feel about the state of journalism today?

YehiaKassem2 karma

No, my reporting has not been altered by Alhurra. I am the person responsible for my story.

40Brown11 karma

What do you wish people knew about reporting from conflict zones?

YehiaKassem1 karma

On conflict zones, people could easily take sides and some media outlets in the region due just that. I recommend you are concerned about the objectivity of the media outlet you watch, listen to or read, you should look for more than one source to get your information.

YehiaKassem1 karma

Thank you all for this opportunity to talk to talk to you directly. If you speak Arabic, I invite you all to watch Alhurra's objective reporting at alhurra.com

YehiaKassem1 karma

Signing off now

PaulOfPauland1 karma

Hey, I'm Lebanese living there now. I have a few questions.

-Have you been forced to report false news by some natives to get the public on their side?

-Have you experienced racism or xenophobia?

-Have you ever though about reporting on the archeological digs and ruins, that are being destroyed during these conflicts?

-What and where was your most interesting experience so far?

-Do you ever report about the innocents who want an actual better life, or the media just loves seeing war and conflict ?

Thank you

YehiaKassem3 karma

No, I have never been forced or asked to report on something that is not true. I am a journalist and report on the facts.

I have been working in the field for 14 years, it is hard to pick just one event. But recently, I was able to report from a tunnel between Gaza and Israel. We were the only Arabic network reporting from there. Another recent highlight was interviewing former Israeli President Shimon Peres

Jarmey0 karma

Have either of you signed an agreement with the Israeli government to comply with that countries military censorship? Are there other countries that require journalist to agree to official censorship?

YehiaKassem3 karma

No, definitely not.

Jarmey1 karma

I am curious and I do not mean to be rude but in an article publish in the NYtimes Aug 4th 2014 by Jodi Rudoren it states:

"Like every other journalist who works here, I had to sign a form agreeing to comply with the censorship system in order to get a government press card"

Is this inaccurate OR is there some way around the military censorship in Israel?


YehiaKassem3 karma

Thank you for the clarification to the question. This is a standard GPO (Government Press Office) card that any journalist who works in Israel must have. We sign for this card and there many terms and conditions that come with it. However, I have never felt censorship in my day to day reporting.

karmanaut-3 karma

Do you think that social media has marginalized the role of on-the-scene reporting to any extent, because organizations can get their reports directly from locals?

YehiaKassem4 karma

Social media does get out the news faster, but there always needs to be a concern about accuracy. As journalists we always need to check the sources.