Interviewed by Zahira Barok-Eltohame, MA Journalism Falmouth University
This year, Maha Hussaini’s investigation into the rising rate of suicide in the Gaza Strip gave a harrowing account of the human cost of living under an Israeli blockade since 2006. Hussaini told the story of how Palestinian Wadi Jamal’s mental health deteriorated first in prison and then after his release, leading him to take his own life.
Hussaini’s journalism documents life in this Palestinian enclave, balancing an insider’s viewpoint with editorial independence; she tells stories ranging from breaking news to political analysis, hard-hitting investigations to culture. It’s a body of work that has won her a place as finalist for the Martin Adler Prize, which honours international news reporting, in this year’s Rory Peck Awards.
Gaza is a complex environment for an independent journalist to operate in. In her reporting, Hussaini navigates both the dangers of a wider conflict with Israel and internal Palestinian political struggles; this year, she covered COVID-19 as it ravaged the crowded Strip.
Hussaini started working as a journalist soon after leaving university, as Israel launched a military attack on Gaza in July – August 2014. “During this time I met many challenges, chief of which was the risk of getting killed or injured, since I had to visit the places that were targeted and interview victims and eyewitnesses,” she recalled.
Her family was opposed to her becoming a journalist, “because of the great risk this profession entails in a conflict-ridden area and also because of our conservative society,” said Hussaini. But she continued, maintaining that for her there was no other option.
“Living under occupation and blockade, journalism has been more than just a profession for me, it became a duty to be the voice of my people and a passion to make them heard.”
Hussaini reports for Middle East Eye and works as a human rights advocate for Euro-Med Monitor and the London-based ImpACT think-tank.