Zaina Erhaim is a Syrian journalist and the 2015 winner of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.
Erhaim was born in Idlib in northwestern Syria. She was educated in Damascus and was finishing a master’s degree in international journalism in London when the Syrian civil war began in 2011.
Erhaim spent a year or two as a broadcast journalist with BBC Arabic Television before returning to Aleppo in 2013 in order to report on the situation there. Aleppo is the worst-hit city in the civil war since the Battle of Aleppo began in 2012 it has been split between the government-held west and the rebel-held east. Reporting from within Syria, Erhaim has contributed to The Economist, The Guardian, Newsweek, Middle East Eye, Orient TV, Al-Hayat and Syria-News.
As the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR)’s Syria project coordinator, Erhaim also trained hundreds of citizen reporters in print and TV journalism whilst in Syria, notably including many women, to report “independently and accurately” on the civil war. She helped establish many of Syria’s emerging independent newspapers and magazines. She fled Syria in 2015 and continues working as IWPR’s Syria project coordinator, now in Turkey.
The Paris-based media rights group singled out Erhaim for her “determination and courage” in covering the conflict in Syria, deemed to be the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.
“After living in horror for all these years, it is normal to feel abandoned and forget there is someone listening or reading our stories,” she said while receiving the award.
“Such initiatives make me feel that my Syrian colleagues and I do matter and that our hard work is appreciated. It gives me the power to go on in my daily surviving battle,” she added.
Over the last two years, she has trained about 100 citizen reporters from inside Syria, approximately a third of them women, in print and TV journalism, and has helped establish many of the new emerging independent newspapers and magazines in the war-torn country. Erhaim remains the Syria project coordinator for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), an international organization that support journalists in countries undergoing conflict, crisis, or transition.
Many of Ms Erhaim’s students, from all walks of life, have been published in major international news outlets.