Al Rawiya

Samir Kassir Award: Mahmoud El Sobky

Interview translated from Arabic to English by Cendrella Azar.

On June 5, 2023, Al Rawiya had the chance to be present at the Samir Kassir Awards held at the Sursock Museum in Beirut, where three journalists were given awards in three separate categories for their submitted work.


Mahmoud El Sobky, Winner of the Samir Kassir Award in the Investigative Journalism Category for his article “Migration with Look-Alike Passports…Smugglers and a Black Market for the European Travel Documents,” which sheds light on the hidden world of migration and the trade of European travel documents.  

About the Winner: Mahmoud is an Egyptian investigative journalist with a background in multimedia journalism. He is an expert on Middle Eastern issues, and has worked with several international news channels and agencies.


What does winning this award mean to you?

This award holds significant prestige for any journalist in the Arab world. Today, this honor serves as a major motivation for me to pursue more cross-border investigative reports, which I am currently working on. 


How can you describe the perception of those around you towards investigative journalism? 

There’s a saying I always reiterate: investigative journalism truly makes a difference. It has the power to hold the corrupt accountable, defend the rights of the marginalized, and bring to light numerous topics that are often kept silent. The role of investigative journalism is crucial. It initiates discussions and addresses a variety of issues, particularly significant ones involving corruption or human rights violations. Investigative journalism has the unique ability to shed light on these matters.


What was the driver behind you working on this report?

The issues concerning immigration and immigrants, particularly those who are marginalized and vulnerable to exploitation, are always at the forefront of the cross-border issues I am keen to explore, among others.This interest was recently manifested in an investigative report I conducted in Belarus about the country’s immigration crisis. Towards the end of that investigation, I realized that whenever one path is closed for immigrants [by a bureaucratic process], another one [magically] opens. This happens, not out of love and for immigrants and their well-being: it’s about money and their interests.

During my investigation, I stumbled upon the world of counterfeit passports. I found it to be a much larger issue than I had initially anticipated. Being immersed in smuggling networks for months on end and coming to this realization was particularly surprising. Being a journalist in this field poses a significant challenge; it could lead to severe problems if my profession was discovered.

The issues concerning immigration and immigrants, particularly those who are marginalized and vulnerable to exploitation, are always at the forefront of the cross-border issues I am keen to explore, among others.


What do you believe are the roles that the Samir Kassir Foundation and the Samir Kassir award play in achieving the freedom of press?

The Samir Kassir Award holds great significance for any Arab journalist and serves as an immense source of encouragement. Today, I am truly honored to receive this award, which will inspire me to engage in more cross-border investigative journalism and produce more ground-breaking work. The role played by the Samir Kassir Foundation is substantial, offering immense support to many journalists. Their commitment to upholding press freedom is widely recognized. We all know who Samir Kassir was. I am grateful for their tireless efforts to support journalists and preserve the freedom of the press.


How do you manage as an Arab journalist, especially in the context of the recent crackdowns on journalists in the Arab world?

The profession of journalism is difficult, especially in the context of being an investigative journalist and always on the move. The limitations are especially prevalent for journalists in the Arab region who do not enjoy the freedom of access to information or press freedom. Any journalist who attempts to practice genuine journalism or addresses a topic considered as taboo in Arab society risks imprisonment. However, let me share something about my role as an investigative journalist whose work often crosses borders. I have a profound love for investigative journalism. I’ve publicly declared this passion, especially for cross-border investigations. Winning this award will further motivate me to produce even more work. I aspire to be present next year and hopefully win again.


Did you ever imagine standing here today and receiving an award for your work?

I am passionate about my work, and it is this unwavering belief in what I do that has brought me here. Of course, I did not arrive at this point alone. I am grateful for the colleagues who have assisted me along the way. I would like to extend my special thanks once again to my dear friend and colleague Zuhair Al-Hamdani at Al-Jazeera. I also deeply thank my family and all the people who have supported me.



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