Lina Attalah Accepts ICFJ Knight International Journalism Award

I would like to express my gratitude and that of my team to the International Center for Journalists for this recognition, and for their dedicated team and tireless labor that got us here today.

It’s the early 2000s, and my university campus is filled with feisty students protesting; today is the anti-globalization protest, tomorrow we protest in solidarity with the second Palestinian Intifada, the day after we take Tahrir Square to protest against the war on Iraq. I am here, witnessing, and producing my first pieces of journalism. It’s now 2005, I see yellow balloons flying out of a protest at the Journalists’ Syndicate in downtown Cairo with the words “down with Mubarak” written on them. The moment was magical and the magic was recreated when we printed the story in the daily newspaper I worked for. It was like an active carving out of a reality in the making. 

I have been in the labor of journalism since 2002 for moments like these — when we can carve out new realities, realities that emanate from our ability to desire and to imagine.

Today, our ability to desire and to imagine is being systematically fought and challenged. Many around us — activists, journalists, writers, artists, professors and politicians are kept in jail in an increasingly stifled political environment. Yet, we still find a reason for bearing witness in dark times. And as Brecht has taught us, in the dark times, there will also be singing about the dark times. Perhaps in the singing about the dark times, we can find ruptures, openings, passages to walk, ways out. Perhaps in the singing about the dark times, we hold space, for those waiting for liberation from imprisonment, from exile, for new generations to come. 

We co-founded Mada Masr with a pressing need to witness a dark moment. And while not being sure of its ability to survive, Mada has become a space of possibility in a moment of impossibility thanks to the tireless and brave labor of its evolving and changing team. 

Today, we are grateful for the recognition. It gives us energy and reassures us that we are being witnessed, that we live in a broader global community committed to the power of journalism, especially in the dark times. 

We are also grateful for everyone who is reading us, supporting and carrying us, inspiring us in our community of family, friends, partners and broader audience. Tonight we ask to keep being with us, as our work only gains meaning when planted in community. 

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