Palestinian activist Janna Jihad, the world’s youngest registered journalist, said her camera is her weapon to expose the plight of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.
The 12-year-old, who shared her inspirational story in a 20-minute session at the Arab Media Forum on Thursday, said she will continue to be the voice of the Palestinian children.
Jihad said she began her journalism career when she was seven years old after she saw that nobody was reporting on her West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. "Journalism is my only weapon to show the world what the Palestinian children are going through in Palestine," she told the audience.
Narrating her story, Jihad spoke about the struggles her community faces and how they are routinely harassed and imprisoned for peaceful marches. "I still remember when I was only three years old and was petrified when the Israeli troops attacked our home and were firing tear gas everywhere. I had to hide under the table, but the situation was getting worse. As the gas filled the house, we couldn’t breathe and had to escape through the windows to hide in our neighbours’ home," she said.
Jihad said she and another 14 children were struggling to breathe before an ambulance reached them. "This experience was traumatising to me and many of the children in my village. Then, when I was five, I lost one of my close friends. I saw him die in front of me after a tear gas bomb was thrown at him."
After losing two other family members, Jihad, who had been participating in weekly marches along with other community members, said this was the time she began narrating stories and capturing intense video footage of Israeli soldiers firing tear gas and rubber bullets at people. It was her way of speaking up against Israeli occupation.
"When I was seven, I felt that the world should know what was happening on the ground and what the children were experiencing at such a young age. The Palestinian cause was not receiving enough media attention, so I took my mother’s phone and began filming everything. My mother later uploaded it on social media."
Despite the risks of sharing videos and stories about the conditions that children live in there, and the threats she continues to receive, Jihad said: "As children, we just want to live in peace like other children in the world."
Janna, who now has a global following, has been awarded internationally for her journalistic role in covering the daily struggle of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation.
Held under the theme ‘Arab Media: From Now to the Future’, the region’s leading annual event for the media industry, brought together more than 3,000 prominent regional and international media leaders, scholars, writers and experts, who shared their views on the current state of the Arab media and the shifts that are shaping the future of the industry.