The Daniel Pearl Foundation has selected Zeinab Salih, an investigative reporter and editor from Sudan, and Farah Ajlouni, a television network correspondent from Jordan, as its 2018 Fellows for the Alfred Friendly Press Partners program.
The fellows will spend six weeks learning at the Missouri School of Journalism from more than a dozen faculty, all professional journalists with extensive experience, and five months getting hands-on experience in premier newsrooms in the United States. They’ll return with the skills and knowledge they need to become more effective journalists and leaders in their profession.
Salih, an award-winning journalist from Khartoum, has written about women’s rights, the oppression of religious minorities and the recent wars — even though coverage of the rebellion is outlawed in Sudan and the government severely censors media reports. She has also managed to write articles about human trafficking, a cholera epidemic, environmental problems and corruption.
“My country has known decades of war and civil strife — even before independence from Great Britain in 1955,” Salih wrote in her application. “I believe the main reason for ongoing conflicts in Sudan is because we do not really know each other and lack the information that would lead to greater respect for our diversity.”
In May 2008, Salih and three of her colleagues were captured and imprisoned in Abyei, a disputed area between northern and southern Sudan, while reporting on the ethnic conflict between the Misseriya Arabs and ethnic Dinka there. They were the first domestic journalists to attempt to report on the problems and poor conditions facing the Misseriya. Neither this experience, nor subsequent arrests, could n
ot keep Salih from pursuing her aspirations.
“I want to help the Sudanese people to know each other better by enabling journalists to tell stories that haven’t yet been told,” she said.
Salih has written on political, social, and economic issues in Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Somaliland for international publications including The Guardian and The New York Times.
The Daniel Pearl Fellow will work at U.S. News & World Report in Washington, D.C., and contribute to international publications.
Ajlouni, a news anchor and correspondent for Jordan TV’s daily English news program, was raised in France, Chile and Italy as an ambassador’s daughter but went against her family’s wishes to become a journalist. She has reported on issues ranging from women’s rights to the Syrian refugee crisis, from ISIS on the border regions to farmers facing irrigation problems. She also started a handcrafted goods non-profit to benefit poor Jordanians.
Ajlouni considers herself a “global citizen.” She aspires to not just report on the struggles and desperate situations in Jordan, but to engage with her audience and inspire viewers “to overcome difficulties and become active members of the society, maximizing their potential to achieve success.”
“Over time, rather than just covering a story, I used my journalistic instinct to identify people or communities I can help, to reduce poverty and empower women,” she wrote in her application.
Ajlouni sparked a national debate on the conditions for women in Syria after the station broadcast her interview of a refugee who had been raped. “The story helped me understand I have access to a tool that could be leveraged to help others,” she said. “But I also need to improve my own skills to be able to better tell their stories.”
While journalists in Jordan face intimidation, arrest, and imprisonment for writing articles deemed unfavorable by the government, Ajlouni said there are opportunities to “soften the gag orders” and to do stories that can influence new policies and highlight injustices.
Ajlouni has contributed political and financial stories as a freelance reporter and producer for The Telegraph and Al Jazeera and for other television stations in the Middle East and Europe. She will work at a major television network in the U.S.
Five other journalists from India, Ukraine and Mexico will be joining Salih and Ajlouni in the AFPP program this year. Six journalists from Macedonia who will join them for the initial training and participate in a shorter, nine-week training fellowship program.
This marks AFPP’s 34th year and 2018 is the 50th anniversary of Alfred Friendly being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Six-Day War for The Washington Post. Friendly served as managing editor of The Post before returning to reporting. The fellowships carry on his legacy and desire for greater international understanding.