Tragedy had profound effect both personally, professionally

September 11, 2011

For Jalil Omar, the former editor at Al Ayam and editor-in-chief of Bahrain Tribune, the date of September 11, 2001 will always be etched in his memory for personal and professional reasons.

“In the course of our lives, we go through unusual times that are so significant that they take a life on their own,” says the veteran journalist. “The tragic date of September 11, 2001 was outstanding both personally and professionally. It was a tragedy against humanity and an attack on innocent lives. It was a violation of every precept of Islam, a religion that highlights, more than others, the sanctity of human and animal life. Professionally, it was an event with global consequences and we had to live up to our promise to offer our readers the most important insights.”

Jalil recalls that he was on his way to work after a short lunch break when he received a phone call from a friend telling him about the attack on the first tower of the World Trade Center.

“I was listening to some easy music when I got the call. When I heard the news, I was suddenly speechless and my mind started racing. As a journalist with many years in the sector, I thought I had seen it and heard it all. I thought I had some kind of immunity that made sure I had no immediate reaction to anything I hear. I was wrong. The impact of the news was really strong and after the initial shock, I started to review who could possibly be behind the attack,” he says. “Deep inside I was praying it would not be Arabs or Muslims because I was concerned about possible reactions in a world that would not successfully make the crucial distinction between a group of extremists and the whole nation.”

Once in the office that was only a few metres away from the US naval facility, the home to the US Fifth Fleet, Jalil called for a special meeting.

“Once the core editorial team was around the table, we started evaluating the situation and the steps that the newspaper needed to take. All other international and national news paled in comparison with the tragedy in New York and, we were to learn later, Washington and Pennsylvania.”

The front page, the team eventually agreed, had to have one large picture that would sum up the situation.

For Jalil and the team, the meeting was the first of many to be taken without respite to ensure that the coverage was deep and wide.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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