Her winning stories chronicle the impact of the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and analyse the flooding in Sudan and its relation to the global climate crisis.
In an interview, she said that a highlight of winning was reading the line on her certificate that praises “balanced reporting”, something she has always prioritised when writing.
“I was very happy, and it was a joyful surprise for me to get awarded in three categories,” she said, adding that she was delighted to be recognised for giving people a voice and reporting an important story.
On being a science journalist
“I have loved writing since I was in school. I always was curious and asked lots of questions. However, I never thought I would be a journalist and wanted to be a doctor like my dad. That didn’t work out, and journalism came along. After all, reading and writing had always been heaven for me. Now I feel that this is what I was meant to do all along”.
Journalism, in general, is a challenging profession, and to be a journalist in a third world country and reporting on regional issues means overcoming many obstacles. But Rehab is up to the challenge. “The issue I often face is gaining the trust of experts and scientists – who sometimes have experienced being misquoted by the press – but that’s usually solved with credible reporting.”
Working as a female journalist has not posed many hurdles to Rehab. “I can’t think of a time I was discriminated against or treated differently for being a woman,” she said.
Yet the main challenge for her, and many other working mothers, is caring for her son when she has to travel for work, which she often does.
Rehab acknowledges the need for more female journalists in the region. She thinks that a female reporter would cover many issues with a gender aspect more effectively.
“Issues like sanitation or water scarcity in less privileged areas, and the struggle of women to access water for household use is very different from men’s struggles. Another example is traditional agriculture practised by women who also have other domestic responsibilities. Those issues are viewed differently by female journalists and reported with a better view on the full human story”.
For journalists, succeeding in writing balanced stories alone deserves an award.
Rehab started working on water-related issues in 2011 when she wrote an article tackling data limitations on water issues in the Arab region. The case gripped her from the onset: “I highlighted the lack of data and how is it treated as a national security matter. When I went home that day, I told my mother that I want to be a science journalist specialising in water reporting.”
She then started to focus on environmental issues, and in 2013 she began investigating topics related to the GERD. By following the studies and the updates about the dam, she produced many balanced and scientific-based articles over the years, making her one of the most distinguished water reporters in Egypt today.
“I know journalists often have national concerns and political views, but it’s important to put those aside while covering transboundary issues. For journalists, succeeding in writing balanced stories alone deserves an award.”
Probing the truth, unraveling lies
As a journalist devoted to fighting misinformation, it was fake news that initially motivated her to write her first winning story regarding the impact of the GERD on Sudan and Egypt. At the time, many reports were linking the floods and water shortages in the Blue Nile in Sudan with the second filling of the GERD, so she started searching for the truth and interviewing scientists from the three states: “I wanted to write a story that puts things into a scientifically credible perspective,” she said.
“After publishing the story, many people from the three countries shared it, indicating that it reflected all viewpoints. The story was the most read on the website for many months, and the international union of scientific journalists shared it. I really care about this while reporting Nile Basin issues. I try to write stories that a reader can’t guess the nationality of the writer when reading them.”
Her second award-winning story was to raise awareness of the causes of the flooding disaster of 2020 in Sudan. It was part of a series investigating the reasons behind the floods and showcasing its linkage to the international climate crisis.
Reporting on the Nile
By reporting Nile Basin issues regularly, Rehab communicated with all parties involved in different topics: scientists, experts, politicians, and people from the civil society in the different Nile Basin countries. That process highlighted a severe problem.
“There’s a lack of cooperation in our region: internal cooperation within each of the Nile Basin states, between the various governmental institutions, as well as between the different countries. We need mutual think-tanks that leverage scientific research that enlightens us regarding the future of the region,” she said.
She thinks that the media in the region needs to address the Nile Basin nations together, not just as individual local and national platforms. From her travels to many states across the region, she noticed that people from different countries are keen to learn more about their neighbours. This need should be addressed through cooperation and international media outlets that build bridges among Nile Basin people.
“We need our media to steer away from political, nationalistic speech and isolation and go towards science-based and balanced reporting. That will forge a sense of togetherness and collaboration. Media houses and journalists need capacity building and training in this regard,” she said, adding that employing the essential tools of journalism can help, such as representing all the views and avoiding bias, especially on transboundary issues.
But balanced reporting is not only the job of journalists, Rehab said, rather scientists and researchers also need to cooperate with the media to fight fake news and eradicate politicised reporting.