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Walaa Hussein on why she writes

Al-Monitor contributor Walaa Hussein shares her thoughts on journalism.
A fisherman rows his boat with his family on the river Nile in Cairo October 30, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany (EGYPT - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR4C8V2

Walaa Hussein has been writing for Al-Monitor since September 2013; she is the editor-in-chief of the parliamentary news division at Rose al-Yusuf. An expert in African affairs, Hussein has collaborated with the Nile Channel, writing and preparing newscasts.

Al-Monitor:  Why did you decide to become a journalist?

Hussein:  My passion for adventure and love for travel made me learn about different cultures and pushed me to be a journalist at first. It then developed into a passion for searching for facts, discovering and analyzing them, especially when it relates to corruption issues. I believe I have accomplished a lot in my career, which I adore. I enjoyed the adventures I had during my repeated trips to a number of the Nile Basin countries. I enjoyed sleeping in a hut in the Hydra forests in Tanzania, and spied on the work of an astrologer at the headwaters of the Nile in Uganda. I was held hostage for hours at the hands of the insurgents in South Sudan, and I had fun taking "selfies" at the confluence of the White and Blue Niles in Khartoum. I have enjoyed winning prizes and being honored.

Al-Monitor:  Did you have female role models to look up to when you were first starting out? Who?

Hussein:  When I was a student, I wanted to be like the journalist Sawsan, a character played by Athar al-Hakim in the Egyptian comedy "Paper Hero." She was bold and did not mind getting into trouble for the sake of a scoop. This developed as I engaged in journalism and today, I consider one of the most prominent women in Egyptian journalism Fatima al-Yousef (Rose al-Yousef), to be my role model. She made a bright name of herself in the history of Egyptian journalism. She contributed to campaigns against corruption and in 1925 founded Rose al-Yousef magazine, where I currently work. She is also the mother of the famous novelist Ihsan Abdul Quddus.

Al-Monitor:  It seems that there are more and more women covering the news out of the Middle East, what do you think is contributing to that trend? What changes have you noticed in your career?

Hussein:  I do not care much about comparing my work with others'. I think I will continue to work on presenting something that is not limited to a particular field. I look for what gives justice for the marginalized, or what changes the wrong conditions. I also seek the analysis of local or international political issues to highlight the implications of the facts, whether they were absent or simply need to be highlighted. I think my work is different because I write about matters that I am not fully aware of. That is how I enjoy searching for information before analyzing it. I write so I can enjoy what I’m writing.

Al-Monitor:  What is the most memorable moment (good or bad) that you’ve had while covering a story?

Hussein:  I once almost drowned in the Nile after water severely flooded the boat I was on with my photographer friend on the outskirts of Cairo in 2010. We were taking pictures of an area in which the then-Egyptian prime minister illegally drained the Nile water to build a rest stop and squash courts for his family. I was really upset when the newspaper’s management refused to publish the story, but I got really happy when the article was finally published following the January 25 Revolution. The Egyptian attorney general opened the investigation after a number of men affiliated with former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak filed a report — an issue that the media covered under the title “Stealing the Nile’s Property.”

Al-Monitor:  If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring journalist, what would that be?

Hussein:  Maintaining credibility and respecting the reader might cost the writer more time to reach success. But it is the kind of success that lasts and allows you to reach the top. However, the kind of success that comes from running after a [simple] media "scoop" will not bring the writer self-appreciation or self-respect; it would only kill his/her love for the career and life.

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