” A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.” – Albert Camus
During the “Battle of the Camel” in Egypt’s Tahrir Square in 2011, I came across Robert Fisk, he asked me why the square was named Tahrir and I replied, ‘I do not know’. He then explained the history of the square. From that incident, I learned that to be a journalist I have to expand my knowledge of the history of the place and its people. For me, journalism is love, passion, curiosity, wisdom and knowledge – the more knowledge I have, the more curious I become, the more I have curiosity, the more I know who I am.
I began my career in 2002 by covering human rights abuses committed by Mubarak’s regime in Egypt. In 2004, I witnessed, for the first time “dozens” of Egyptians protesting against Mubarak as they were surrounded by “hundreds” of police officers. After participating as a protester in the 16-day uprising against Mubarak’s regime and chanting the slogans for “Bread, Freedom and Social Justice,” I returned to work as a correspondent for The Washington Post, covering the hotspots from the front-lines.
In the beginning of the Libyan revolution in 2011, I was on a reporting assignment with The Washington Post to cover the Libyan uprising. As I approached the Egyptian-Libyan border, I wrote my will and left it with the Post’s car driver to give it to my two brothers in case I did not return. Reminiscent of Egypt’s Friday of Rage on January 28, 2011, I saw Libyan protesters setting the fire in security buildings and the conflict went viral and still going viral.
In the aftermath of the Rabaa massacre in August 2013 in Cairo, described by Human Rights Watch as “one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history”, I tried to enter the battle scene, holding a camera in one hand and a notebook, on the other hand, policemen barred me from entering. Yet, I saw snipers on rooftops firing indiscriminately into the crowd on the scene. The following day, I stumbled over dozens of corpses, some of them were charred remains, lying at a nearby mosque, so many fans and incense did not deter their stinky smells. I recognized some of the bodies were people I spent hours interviewing at their tent two nights before the police’s raid, including Ahmad Abdullah, a 13-year old student who had just come to accompany his mother.
I have sat, on reporting assignments, with Bedouins in their marijuana and poppy fields in Sinai, a stronghold of ISIS militias, drinking tea, smoking hookah and listening to their stories about arms dealings. They were smiling and boasting that they smuggle arms to Jihadists that are “used to attack the infidel coup makers” (referring to Abdul Fatah el-Sisi’s government).