While many reporters will take extra precaution when reporting on areas of conflict, one journalist goes above and beyond to thoroughly cover even the most dangerous of places.
From Sarajevo to Aleppo, Afghanistan to Sierra Leone and Somalia, multi award-winning journalist and recent Fletcher graduate Janine Di Giovanni (F16) has reported on some of the most dangerous and conflict-ridden areas in the world. Most recently, Di Giovanni has focused on war-torn Syria, where she has completed many investigations into Syrian human rights violations - specifically rape and torture - receiving grants from the Nation Institute and the European Institute for Peace for this work.
“My goal is to bring a voice to people that are voiceless,” Di Giovanni said. Her tireless efforts to bring attention to the conflict in Syria have earned her an International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) 2016 Courage in Journalism award. The award was presented to her at both the Cipriani Restaurant in New York City on October 20, and at the Beverly Hilshire in L.A. on October 26. The award ceremony was covered by CNN and her work as the Middle East Editor at Newsweek and contributing editor at Vanity Fair was highlighted.
“I was truly humbled to get the IWMF 2016, Courage in Journalism Award…in the presence of some truly great journalists, policymakers, diplomats and human rights activists,” Di Giovanni said.
Di Giovanni attended the Fletcher School from 2015-2016 where she earned her M.A. in International Relations through the Global Master of Arts Program (GMAP).
"I honestly think I would not have the intellectual confidence to initiate the projects that I am now working on if I had not done Fletcher's GMAP. It stretched my cognitive abilities but it also honed me - made me more incisive, enhancing and surpassing my previous capacities. It made me feel that if I could do this - I could do anything. Incredibly empowering,” said Di Giovanni.
According to the International Women’s Media Foundation website, the IWMF presents the Courage in Journalism Award to those who report from areas of instability, oppression, and conflict, and who put themselves at risk to give us a window into critical global issues.
Covering international terrain and travelling to especially dangerous countries is nothing new for Di Giovanni, who has reported on conflicts across the globe for the past 25 years. While in Syria, she was often surrounded by locals – always without bodyguards or security. However, she feels as though this style of reporting allows her to connect more with her subjects.
During a recent interview with CNN, Di Giovanni stated that, “I started reporting on it because I believe it needs to be done, I believe there is a story there to be told. I see again a template of the war in Bosnia,” regarding the situation in Syria.
Di Giovanni is passionate about bringing attention to the area and even recently consulted with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the Syrian Refugee crisis. She has also worked alongside both the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Internews to consult on possible remedies to the issue, and writing crucial advocacy reports that were used at the highest level.
Much of Di Giovanni’s focus while reporting in Syria was on local women in the area and how the war is affecting them – largely in terms of sexual violence during war time and grievous human rights abuse. She tried to tell the story from the views of women on both sides of the war, striving to portray “their feelings, their sentiments,” she said.
Di Giovanni’s advice to women who are looking to follow in her career path is to “do your job - to be brave, to be courageous and to be kind.”
Her most recent book, “The Morning They Came For Us: Dispatches From Syria,” was published by Norton in March 2016, and so far has been translated into 17 languages. Di Giovanni is also the subject of a documentary currently available on iTunes, Googleplay or Amazon called “7 Days in Syria.”