Our EDITOR TO EDITOR series honours  WAN-IFRA’s 2024 Women in News Editorial Leadership Award Laureates, announced this week.

Arab region Laureate Dima Khatib, Managing Director for AJ+, oversees the award-winning digital channels in English, Arabic, Spanish and French.

Al Jazeera’s first female executive, Khatib is a Syrian-born Palestinian journalist, poet and translator. She has reported from more than 30 countries, and was once classified as “the most connected woman on Twitter in the Middle East.”

Under her leadership, AJ+ amassed over 55 million followers, tens of billions of views and won prestigious international awards.

Khatib is also an amateur classical pianist and a polyglot, now learning her 10th language. Love Refugee is a collection of poems she has published in Arabic; she has also co-authored a book in Spanish about Arab revolutions.

She shares her challenges and triumphs with us, on the eve of WAN-IFRA’s World News Media Congress in Copenhagen, where she and fellow laureate Beatrice Bandawe will discuss why Authenticity Matters: The Power of Inclusive Media in Building Audience Trust with Editor in Chief of Daraj Media, Diana Moukalled.

You’re a poet, former educator, and a linguist who speaks eight languages, writes in four… Why journalism?

Journalism was my way of thinking that I could make a difference. I studied languages, and first worked as a translator/interpreter at the UN in Geneva; it was a good job, well paid, at an early age, but I felt that I was simply repeating other people’s ideas, and I wondered how that was going to make a difference.

At the time, I was working on the Rwandan genocide; I was translating everything happening in Rwanda – and I didn’t see anybody was making any difference with my translation.

‘I wanted to do something where I would be able to express my own ideas, and try and make a difference in people’s lives.’

Over the past two decades, you’ve reported from more than 30 countries, including covering the Iraq war, which brought Al Jazeera+ international recognition. What has been the most difficult coverage you’ve had to work on?

The current one. Palestine is especially the most difficult, and the most challenging time in my career. It is difficult emotionally; it’s difficult for me as a journalist, but also for me as a Palestinian.

‘It is difficult for me as a woman to see how these women in Gaza are left behind and suffering, and I’m unable to change that story, except by keeping on telling it; keeping the story alive.’

It is empowering to be able to tell this story, and to know that while you are relentlessly trying to follow the story, trying to understand and transmit it in different languages, you are somehow at least doing something…

It feels like everything I had done in the past; in my life, career, the languages… have had a purpose – and that purpose would be today, and it would be this story, that I believe is changing the world.


Palestinian journalists are the best at telling their story to the world. They need PROTECTION. A record number of over 140 journalists and media workers have been killed in Gaza in the past 7 months. This is the deadliest attack on journalists ever documented. It is a massacre,… pic.twitter.com/K4gqWZ3BPr

— Dima Khatib (@Dima_Khatib) May 14, 2024

You’ve played a crucial role in telling Palestine’s story, especially across social media; talk to us about the efficacy of this media platform as a narrative tool.

Social media has been incredible for the Palestine story. Back in 2021, a video showing an Israeli settler from New York being interrogated by the woman whose home he was occupying in East Jerusalem, went viral. Muna al-Kurd, whose house it was, got him to acknowledge the ethnic cleansing and historic theft happening – and that sparked a movement online that got the attention of a lot of youth.

This humanised the Palestine story, which had been dehumanised for decades by mainstream media. That’s the start of the narrative changing.

Then the genocide started and then these young, amazing journalists showed up on everybody’s feed, telling the story. They are hungry, bombed, deprived – yet they are reporting like professional journalists, without protection or crew…

That re-humanised Palestine, and made people listen.

The videos that made the change have prevailed, and thanks to people who have joined the struggle of telling the Palestinian story, it has resonated with millions of people around the world.

‘Across social media, you will see the disparity in numbers between pro-Palestine and pro-Israeli videos: it is huge – despite all the censorship, all the pressure from the powers that be…

‘The narrative has changed on social media. It has changed with the youth, and therefore it has changed on the street.’

As one of few female leaders in the Arab media sphere, you launched the first show dedicated to women in the region; what does being a symbol of women’s empowerment mean to you?

It means there should be many more of us!  

I have to say I’m uncomfortable with being called a symbol. I’m just like many women – and you can see them, leading now in Palestine, telling the story…

Shireen Abu Akleh, in her own way, is a leader, even after she was shot by an Israeli sniper two years ago (11 May 2022). She was one of the first war correspondents in a conflict zone; a female, Arab, in an Arab world. She led the way, opened the path, and kept her grace. She is just one example; there are so many of us, leading in a big way – not all of us get the privilege of a title.

SEE: On 2nd anniversary of Abu Akleh killing, press advocates push for justice

In the media, of course, I’ve seen how women’s roles have evolved. Now, I look at all the female leaders in AJ+ newsroom, and I’m so proud at how far we’ve come.

‘We still have a long way to go, and we still have a lot to do: we still have to change policy; we still have to change mindsets. 

We still have to guarantee that in the future, we will not be having this conversation – we should not be talking about gender; we should be talking about merit.’

What does Leadership mean to you?

For me, leadership is about sharing. Rather than being a top to bottom experience,

Where you have authority and power, it’s all about providing the space, the knowledge, the experience so that everybody can have power – in the sense that they would be empowered.

At some point, they will go out, all alone and when you see people grow, and fly…That’s when you feel: “Well, I did my job as a leader.” I see people leave Al Jazeera, and watch them from afar, and I think: “Wow, the great things they’re doing out there in the world.”

That’s how I like to see leadership, and that’s who I strive to become. Obviously, it’s a work in progress, all the time.

What is your focus right now?

It’s difficult to think of anything in my life when this genocide is happening, and I have to admit my life has been put on pause.

Before the genocide, I became an Associate Certified Coach via the International Coaching Federation, because I wanted women who are going through what I went through when I was younger, to not be alone. 

I had the support of my family, especially my father, who was an amazing inspiration and motivation for me. But the struggles of me being a woman were unaccompanied, and I thought I’d love to accompany women so they don’t have to go through this loneliness. 

Because it is one thing to face all these challenges, and it is another to see them along with someone who actually knows, and understands what you’re going through.

It makes a big difference. This solidarity is why I wanted to become a coach.

‘It is rewarding to accompany somebody on a journey of change, of self-exploration… a journey of finding out who you are, so you can actually define what you want.’

Women in News Editorial Leadership Award Laureates Khatib, Bandawe, and Paw Gay will be recognised at WAN-IFRA’s World News Media Congress, taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 27-29 May 2024.

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