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MEE Gaza journalist Maha Hussaini wins at Courage in Journalism Awards

Recognition from the International Women’s Media Foundation honours Palestinian reporter's 'remarkable bravery in the pursuit of reporting’
Maha Hussaini (L) interviewing a Palestinian boy in the Gaza Strip in June 2023 (Supplied/Mahmoud Mushtaha)
Maha Hussaini (L) interviewing a Palestinian boy in the Gaza Strip in June 2023 (Supplied/Mahmoud Mushtaha)

Palestinian freelance journalist Maha Hussaini has had her reporting for Middle East Eye on the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza recognised by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF).

Hussaini was one of three recipients of the Courage in Journalism Awards, announced by the Washington-based foundation on Monday, which it says honours remarkable bravery in the pursuit of reporting.

Since the assault began in October, Hussaini has published dozens of stories, including a report uncovering Israeli field executions of Palestinians, which was used as evidence by South Africa at the International Court of Justice in the case accusing Israel of genocide.

Reacting to the award, Hussaini told MEE she was both happy and sad at recognition for her work. 

"I am happy because it is another effort to recognise the work of Palestinian journalists and make them heard and seen," she said. "But I am saddened because I know the cost of such recognition in a place where over 150 journalists have been killed over the course of eight months."

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The IWMF recognised Hussaini, who was a resident of Gaza City before the war, for working under strenuous circumstances during the conflict. 

The Israeli attacks have posed daily threats to her life, forced her to move location multiple times and to live in desperate conditions, along with almost all of Gaza’s 2.3m Palestinian population. 

At times Hussaini has been forced to work without access to electricity and internet during Israeli-imposed power outages. Her freedom of movement within Gaza, including access to her home, has also been restricted by the Israeli siege and checkpoints.

'I worry that if I am killed, another voice would be silenced, another pen would be broken'

- Maha Hussaini, Palestinian journalist

"Since the beginning of the Israeli war, it has become increasingly clear to me that journalists are targets for the Israeli army. Many of the journalists who have been killed while reporting were colleagues with whom I closely collaborated," Hussaini told MEE.

She said that each morning she faced the possibility that she could be killed next, and quietly recited the Shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith often pronounced before death, each time she went out to report. 

"I understand that my work carries immense risks, but I cannot say that I’m scared to be a journalist," Hussaini added. "I have never felt hesitant to go to the field or cover any story. But I however worry that if I am killed, another voice would be silenced, another pen would be broken."

Hussaini said she hoped that by winning the award, light would be shed on the work done by Palestinian journalists, especially when "many international media outlets choose to overlook their stories and reporting".

She added that it was particularly important now as Israel bans international journalists from entering Gaza.

'We need women’s voices in news media'

Hussaini won the award alongside Lauren Chooljian, a senior reporter and producer at American radio NHPR, and Monica Velásquez Villacís, an investigative journalist and presenter at Ecuadorian digital media outlet La Posta

“We need women’s voices in news media to keep the press free and we need to fiercely protect women like Lauren, Maha, Mónica, and Shin to ensure that power is held to account and that equitable values survive,” said IWMF Executive Director Elisa Lees Muñoz

David Hearst, MEE's Editor in Chief, said: "To live under conditions where there is no safe haven from drones and missiles for eight months is unbearable.

"But to report under conditions where you as a journalist are deliberately targeted, and where you witness your colleagues being killed, is a feat few other journalists can imagine. Maha deserves the highest award for her work."

Maha Hussaini (R) interviewing Palestinian girls at a displacement camp in the central Gaza Strip on 3 June 2024 (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)
Maha Hussaini (R) interviewing Palestinian girls at a displacement camp in the central Gaza Strip on 3 June 2024 (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)

Lubna Masarwa, MEE’s Palestine and Israel bureau chief, said no words can describe how much Hussaini deserves recognition. 

“Despite everything she endured - the bombs, displacement, and seeing her colleagues killed - Maha has remained resilient, professional and true to her mission of giving a voice to the Palestinian people,” Masarwa said.

The Israeli military has killed at least 150 journalists out of an estimated 37,000 Palestinians in Gaza since 7 October, according to local officials. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has reported that it has been the deadliest period for journalists since the NGO began gathering data in 1992.

“It’s wonderful seeing Maha’s work, and by extension, that of Palestinian journalists in Gaza, being recognised by the world,” Masarwa added. 

“But truly no amount of awards and words can begin to express how much she deserves recognition.” 

Among Hussaini’s stories recognised by the IWMF is a report on the reality of women giving birth at home in Gaza and another featuring a girl who had to carry her paralysed six-year-old brother for miles while fleeing bombing.

Hussaini's decade as reporter

Hussaini began work as a freelance journalist in July 2014 during the Israeli offensive on Gaza, producing, preparing, and presenting reports on the conflict that resulted in the deaths of more than 2,200 Palestinians and around 60 Israelis. 

She has been writing for MEE since 2018 and has covered hundreds of stories focusing on human rights and armed conflict.

In 2020, she won the Martin Adler Prize, awarded by the prestigious Rory Peck Trust, for her reporting for MEE from Gaza.

She was shortlisted for the 2023 Local Reporter Award granted by the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund.  
Hussaini also works as the strategy director of the Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.

IWMF’a Courage in Journalism Awards is given annually to women journalists who “are not going to step aside, cannot be silenced, and deserve to be recognised for their strength in the face of adversity”. 

Shireen Abu Akleh, a renowned Palestinian-American journalist, posthumously won the award in 2023 after being shot and killed by Israeli forces a year earlier.

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