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 Award held at the Sursock Museum in Beirut, where three journalists were given awards in three separate categories for their submitted work.
Mohamad Chreyteh, Winner of the Samir Kassir Award in the Audiovisual News Report Category for his short film, “Lebanese Drag Queens Brave Social and Political Pressure,” which unveils the raw reality of insecurity and self-reliance faced by drag queens and the vibrant queer community in Lebanon
About the winner: Mohamad is an award-winning journalist, filmmaker, and digital storytelling trainer, specialized in covering current affairs, politics, conflict and terrorism, minorities, refugees, and war-reporting in the Middle East, as well as human-interest stories. He is currently the Beirut Bureau Chief and bilingual correspondent at Deutsche Welle.
What does winning this award mean to you?
The Samir Kassir Award holds tremendous personal significance for me. I believe it has grown into one of the most important recognitions granted to journalists in the Middle East. Receiving this award brings me immense joy. This marks the third time I have reached the finals, but the first time I have secured first place – a fact that fills me with immense happiness.
What led you to become a journalist and working on such topics?
Firstly, my passion lies in journalism. The path that led me to the media and the press was, in fact, triggered by the assassination of Samir Kassir. This event stirred me, leading to my decision to study media and journalism. I deeply value my profession, viewing my role as a journalist to extend beyond mere analysis. My goal is to amplify voices that need to be heard, accurately representing people and offering them a space for expression. This is particularly important for marginalized groups, individuals who are often unheard. They must be provided with a platform to voice their concerns and share their experiences.
Can you tell us a bit more about your report?
The report focuses on a marginalized group, the LGBT community, which includes homosexuals and transgender individuals. Any discussion pertaining to their meeting places or gender identities is not covered in my report. Instead, the report emphasizes the public and private freedoms that all Lebanese individuals should enjoy without exception. Everyone should be allowed to protest. Artistic performances should not be prohibited, while other military performances or exhibitions are allowed under rule of law. Unless we’re informed that we live in a police state, where security dictates who can do what, we should be aware of the battleground we are in. The values established by Samir Kassir are of prime importance, and I hope we can pay due attention to these values.
Do you see the Samir Kassir Award as a contributor to press freedom in the region?
I have been participating in this award since 2018 and have been following it even before that. The topics that make it to the finals, are showcased and promoted, and eventually win prizes, often address taboos or progressive subjects that are not typically discussed in everyday news bulletins. These subjects do not find much space in our daily lives, be it in newspapers or audio-visual media. As such, this award serves as a fundamental platform for anyone who submits material and desires widespread reach through the Samir Kassir Award.
How do you manage as an Arab journalist, especially in the context of the recent crackdowns on journalists in the Arab world?
Journalism is inherently a perilous field. Without taking risks, one cannot truly portray the depth of the crises that individuals face in stories. Hence, risk-taking is an integral part of our work, though of course, they should be calculated risks. A seasoned journalist knows how to prepare for these risks and navigate through them. Regrettably, there are times when the issues exceed his or her capacity. However, the worst scenario is when a journalist hesitates over how to present a story out of fear of assassination, bullying campaigns, or exposure to criticism. This hinders the accomplishment of their work, which is a grave matter. Reading Samir Kassir’s work leaves a profound impact, one that isn’t easily shrugged off.
What is the project that makes you proud the most?
To be honest, as I mentioned before, I’ve been nominated three times for the Samir Kassir Award, and I take pride in all the reports that made it to the finals. They are some of the best pieces I’ve worked on.
Did you ever expect to be working in this field as a journalist?
Currently, I can’t see myself working in a field other than journalism. However, when I initially decided to enter the media field, it hadn’t been on my radar at all. I come from a different background, with no relatives, family members, or friends in the media profession or journalism field. The events that occurred in Lebanon in 2005, during the time I was developing my political consciousness, specifically the assassination of Samir Kassir, provoked me and spurred me to join this field.