August 3, 2021

the information factory from Ramallah


“How do you want to tell the world and this region in one minute?” It’s impossible. ” It was, however, the job of Marine Vlahovic, a freelance journalist and correspondent in Ramallah, the political center of the occupied West Bank, in Palestine, between 2016 and 2019. In five episodes of approximately twenty minutes, she tells these stories in the first person. three years during which she crisscrossed the occupied Palestinian territories to turn-edit-give news, mainly to listeners of Radio France, while testifying uncompromisingly behind the scenes of a risky profession and a precarious condition.

“The Middle East is the archetype of all the fantasies one can have about journalists in a“ conflict zone ”, she says. I wanted to tell this complex region through humans, through its inhabitants, but I got swallowed up by the machine. “ Far from hackneyed stories and without boasting, she delivers a fascinating because lucid column on the professional practices of hard news, behind the scenes of the “machine”.

Over the course of the episodes, behind the scenes comes to life. Without sensationalism and yet in a bubbling way, it transforms a gigantic sound material – thousands of hours of rushes – into a “Other story”.

“Manly environment”

Between extracts from reports, exchanges – sometimes a little tense – with the editorial staff for which she works, and everyday situations that are not ordinary, Marine Vlahovic first sets the scene: her installation in the city of Ramallah, the hell of waiting at checkpoints, the “Manly environment” journalists on site. “The first year you hate the Israelis; the second, the Palestinians; the third, yourself ”, usually say the correspondents. “I often got carried away with one or the other, but deep down, I didn’t hate anyone”, she says, showing the pressures she was subjected to from all sides.

Always oscillating between the ups and downs of current affairs and everyday life, she navigates between religions and experienced friendships.

In the second episode, she reports on her recording conditions, the expectations and whims of editorial staff far from the field, the crazy cadences of the news. “I run on coffee cigarettes and I gain 10 kilos by the way”, tells the one that takes us with pedagogy in the heart of this complex region. When President Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Hebrew state in December 2017, there was a rush: many editorial staff sent journalists to await the “Promised war” ; but the death of Johnny Hallyday eclipses the subject in French newspapers. To regain energy and overcome weariness, she goes out, drinks and tells us about the nightlife in Ramallah.

Without bulging her chest, she says, in the fourth episode, how, grazed by the shooting of an Israeli sniper during a report on the “return march”, at the end of 2018, on the border between Gaza and Israel, she “Spin”, in a state of shock. Always oscillating between the ups and downs of current affairs and everyday life, she navigates between religions and experienced friendships. It is exhausted by her working conditions that she will end her correspondence. “In this media conflict, journalists are working under supervision and marching in step”, she concludes in the fifth episode. One of his latest reports will not be broadcast.

Correspondent notebooks, documentary series by Marine Vlahovic, directed by Arnaud Forest (Fr., 2021, 5 x 20 min). Available on demand on Arte Radio.