I am a Libyan journalist: Mounir Almouhandes

July 7, 2017

Ten journalists agreed to give us a personal perspective on their profession.

This week, hear the story of Libyan activist and writer Mounir Almouhandes, a news and interviews producer for Sky News Arabia in Istanbul, Turkey.

I am Mounir.

I am a citizen, a journalist and an activist. I took part in the revolution of 17 February to overthrow Gaddafi's regime and establish democratic principles and freedom of expression.

My professional experience began at the start of the Libyan revolution. I worked for a channel that supported the Arab Spring revolutions. During that time, I got to know other Arabs from the countries in which the Arab Spring took place.

As soon as they found out where I worked, they treated me as if I were a spy, even if they said it as a compliment or a joke. I've experienced the same thing many a time since the Revolution ended. It's very frustrating. I try to keep my temper and explain my side of the story.

I always try to work in accordance with the principles of ethical, professional journalism, but that's not enough, because the mere fact of working for a media organisation with an agenda inevitably makes other people see you as part of the machine.

I was then offered a job on an Arab channel with a different orientation. I seized the opportunity in the hope of moving to another stage in my life, one in which people would accept me. Once the political game in Libya started to mature, however, they found new names to call you that were no better than the old ones. The situation was complicated by the political split, to the point that just travelling to or happening to be in a particular country was an indictment that could get you arrested and labelled as a traitor.

On top of that, there are other situations, such as talking about something that was humanly unacceptable or just a chance meeting, that can determine whether you were for or against one side or the other. All these situations brand you, with no regard for your basic independence as a citizen.

I try to coexist with all sides and behave professionally, so that I neither influence others nor let myself be swayed by their views or opinions. But this is the hardest thing, because then everybody thinks you're on the other side to them.

So basically, that's my experience. I don't support any side and I would never support any faction in Libya that fights another Libyan faction for power.

I try to do my job and earn my living with dignity. But these days, people will even judge you for having dignity if you let it show. Right now, the situation is like this: if you aren't with me, you're with my enemy. Why should I have to bend to someone else's will and be the person they want me to be?

All I want is to be a citizen in a civilised country where I can enjoy freedom of expression, criticise whatever violates human decency, uphold other people's rights through my journalism and report on real-life problems.

In order to sustain democratic debate in Libya, CFI launched Project Hiwar in early 2017 in partnership with the Crisis and Support Centre of the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs. The project creates a forum for the expression of different points of view on the Libyan press.
One session made up of four workshops was arranged in Tunisia. It was attended by twelve Libyan journalists, who travelled from Libya, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia.

This article forms part of the booklet I am a Libyan journalist, which collects a variety of pieces written by the journalists involved in Project Hiwar.