In 2007, she began working with local party-affiliated media before moving on to television, a branch of the media she says is often more objective. Within a few short years, Sadek was able to establish herself as one of Lebanon’s premier TV anchors, known for her objective presenting style and her attempts to highlight social issues.
This interview has been edited for length.
Asharq Alawsat: Can you tell us how you got into journalism and the media?
Dima Sadek: I began working in journalism while I was still studying political science at the University of St. Joseph (USJ). Based on the advice of professors in the field, I decided to begin with print journalism, although my ultimate goal was television work. After training with the Lebanese As-Safir newspaper, I began work as an editorial assistant to the late journalist Joseph Samaha. This experience was greatly beneficial and lay the foundations for my journalistic career. In 2007, I joined OTV at the time of its debut and hosted a political program. In 2011, I moved to LBC, a move I also consider an important step in my media career.
Q: Do you ever regret choosing a career in media?
On the contrary, I love my profession and practice it with eagerness and enthusiasm. This is something I strived towards and worked hard to achieve.
Q: Would you ever consider returning to print media, or do you feel that you belong in front of the camera?
Print journalism was something I experienced at the beginning of my career; however, I am not eager to return to or practice it.
Q: What was the first investigation or interview you conducted and with whom?
The first investigation was with As-Safir and was based on field work. The first interview I conducted was with MP Samy Gemayel, who was a fellow student at the university at the time.
Q: Do what extent do you feel that you achieved your goals in life and what do you still strive to achieve?
There is no doubt that there are many goals I strive to achieve, and one of them is to become a political journalist. From there, I hope to achieve more goals, mostly linked to my work and career, and most importantly, to develop personally, since there is still much left to do to satisfy my ambitions completely.
Q: You worked at OTV, which is affiliated with a particular party, and today you work with LBC, which adopts different political views. How did the work differ between the two?
The first is known for its party politics but the second has no political identity. Today, this makes me feel comfortable working in a non-biased atmosphere and I consider it the most objective channel of the Lebanese broadcast media. Also, social and human rights issues have been recently prioritized by the channel, are these are issues that are defining ones for me, and I find myself becoming immersed in defending these issues professionally and socially. But this does not mean that I was prone to any political pressure at OTV, and I was never asked to ask particular question or avoid another.
Q: How would you describe the reality of Lebanese media in light of the divisions that govern the policy of most media outlets?
I refuse to rate Lebanese media, but what I can say is that it is greatly influenced by political divisions, sectarian instigation and violence on different levels.
Q: To what extent do you consider there to be objectivity in Arab media, and is this reflected in the institutions you work in now?
Objectivity is almost nonexistent in the media. But without exaggerating, I believe that LBC, especially in recent years, has been the most objective in Lebanon. I would like to emphasize that I work with an unbiased channel that reports the news accurately and avoids anything that could be detrimental to the public or fuel strife.
Q: Between “objectivity” and “humanitarianism,” which do you think is the most important?
Objectivity is essential in political analysis and must be maintained, but when it comes to humanity, in my opinion, there is no objectivity. This is proven by my positions and views, which I announce openly, towards the Syrian revolution—and all of the Arab revolutions in fact. For this, I thank God that I experienced liberation day on May 25, 2000, and saw the confrontation with Israel in the war of 2006. Also, I witnessed the fall of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and today I watch the Syrian people’s revolution against oppression and tyranny.
Q: It is obvious that divisions are reflected in the media in Lebanon, given the means by which they are employed. Can it be said that you protects yourself from this “scourge”? And why is there always a debate regarding your methods of “facing guests” and judgment towards your political identity?
I refuse to be judged based on my political views or sectarian identity. This is the controversy or accusations that are heaped on me every time I host a politically affiliated individual. Though it often bothers me, I believe not displaying my political orientation is a positive thing, because I defend any opposing team and its views, and this what I always hope to accomplish. Regarding my methods of “facing guests,” I use this method in order to put the politician on the spot, since I believe an interview shouldn’t be a picnic for them. . . . They should make the effort to convince the people and we place their responsibilities before them.
Q: Who is your role model in the media, either globally and regionally?
I consider Emad El-Din Adeeb and British journalist Tim Sebastian of the BBC and the presenter of Hard Talk two of the most prominent journalists. I followed them closely during my university days. Today, I can say that the Egyptian Bassem Youssef appeals to me as a journalistic figure whose contribution is unlike any other in the field.
Q: Is there a writer that you are always keen on following?
In journalism, I can’t specify one name without the other, as there are a great number of journalists whose books and article I follow consistently in the Lebanese and Arab press.
In literature, I also read the works of many authors. However, I make sure to familiarize myself with the works of the Czech philosopher Milan Kundera, Sadek Jalal Al-Azm, and Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, particularly his work on the Syrian revolution.
Q: Do you participate in preparing the news bulletins and political interviews you conduct on the program Nharkom Sa’eed (“Good Day”), or do you leave this to others? Do you face pressure or rules and restrictions with regards to the questions and issues raised?
Participating in the preparation is an important and essential part of my work, so I make sure to discuss, contribute and brief myself on all matters and topics. With this, I can confirm that I work without any pressure or “political regulations” imposed on me from the station.
Q: Does it bother you that when your name comes up, people mention your beauty before your career?
First of all, I believe beauty is relative, so some may consider me beautiful but others think otherwise. However, like any woman, it doesn’t bother me as long as it doesn’t get in the way of opinion regarding my work. I don’t depend on my looks and beauty is not a standard by which to evaluate a journalist.
Q: Do you resort to “self-criticism”? How would you criticize yourself today?
Of course I am critical of myself and I examine these criticisms with myself and with people close to me. But what I can emphasize is that I make sure to constantly develop myself regardless of my professional advancement or otherwise.
Q: How many hours do you work per week? And to what extent do you find yourself able to separate your professional life from your personal and social life?
I work 48 hours weekly, the amount of hours set forth by labor law. But there is no doubt that I “live for my work” and it is difficult to separate my career and social life in a country where political and security tensions require constant attention.
Q: How do you balance your work and family, and do you believe professional success should be at the expense of personal life?
There is no doubt that at times I feel guilty about my daughter, Yasmina. But I try as much as possible to balance family and career requirements, since the first is my life and the second is an essential part of my character and future.
Q: What do you think of modern media, and to what extent do you believe it is replacing the old ways?
Modern means of communication are becoming the foundation and source of up-to-date news. Ten years ago, we would wait until the evening or the next day to see the news. Therefore, traditional media is no longer effective in reporting news but rather searching for what’s behind the news, and this is a challenge in itself.
Q: Do you think that with such developments journalists and media professionals need to become more specialized?
There should be journalists who specialize in all kinds of subjects, and this is displayed in the media. . . . The media should be familiar with and have the ability to analyze, though briefly, all issues and subjects at hand.
Q: Is there a particular media outlet, whether written or audio-visual, that you consistently follow?
I try to follow as many media outlets as possible, depending on my time. With regards to the Syrian crisis today, I prioritize Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, Sky News and the BBC.
Q: What advise can you give to young, aspiring journalists?
It is important to love the profession and to practice it with passion, as well as perseverance and consistent follow-up to develop one self and gain the trust of viewers.
This interview was conducted in Arabic and can be read here