April Feature - Amani Abu Hantash

Amani Abu Hantash (1973) is Print Unit Coordinator at the Media Development Center. In April she celebrates her third year with the Center, and as one of the first trainees from the MDC, Hantash has first-hand experience with how MDC trainings can be the first step to a life as an award-winning journalist.Though born in Araba, a village close to Jenin in the northern part of the West Bank, Hantash’s family are originally refugees from the demolished village, Qaqun close to Tulkarm. Hantsch’s academic background is Arabic Literature, which she studied at the University of Jordan. After returning to Palestine, she began working for the Ministry of Culture. But Hantash felt an urge to tell about the stories of the Palestinian people and thought journalism seemed the right path to take.”It is hard work, but I fell in love with telling the truth - daily touching stories of people, get to know more about the Palestinian issue and showing the facts about this issue. It is a difficult mission, but feasible,” says Hantash.From radio to TV – and from the field to the officeDuring her time at the Ministry of Culture, Hantash assisted in preparing programs for the radio station, Voice of Palestine. In 1997 she was picked among 20 aspiring journalists to be a part of one of the first training programs at the MDC (then named the Media Institute). And after four months of intense training, Hantash was not only among the first trained journalists at the MDC, but also the first trained journalists in Palestine as media houses were not permitted in the Palestinian Territories before the Oslo Accords.Hantash was immediately employed as a correspondent of Abu Dhabi Satellite Channel covering mainly topics related to economics. She thereafter worked for more than ten years as a reporter for major regional TV stations such as Dubai Business Channel, Iqra, Al Majd TV and not least Dubai TV for which she won the Golden Award at Al Jazeera’s first international festival for her stories covering children’s issues and the Israeli separation wall.And after a year as producer and executive director at Al Jazeera, Hantash was in 2009 recruited to manage the MDC’s Print Unit. At the MDC, she applies her extensive in-field experiences when coordinating high-quality hands-on trainings for mid-career journalists and recent graduates in the field of print journalism.Inspiring female journalistsAs a leading female journalist in Palestine, Hantash hopes to set a good example for Palestinian female aspiring journalists. ”I think I inspire the female trainees here just by them seeing that a woman can work as a journalist and also have a family. I am working hard, but I am managing and succeeding – this inspiress others,” states Hantash, but emphasizes that journalism takes dedication.”When I went into labor with my first-born child, I was in the field shooting. And in the car to the hospital, I was giving instructions to the camera man and actually imagining that I would be able to finish the story later,” she says smiling.In the past few years, Hantash has again made it to the front of the camera: in 2010, in a Palestine TV series called ’Cultural Spots’ talking about Palestinian cultural issues; and in 2011 as the lead reporter in the MDC’s series of investigative reports, ’Happening in Palestine’. Throughout the series’ 12 episodes she dug into stories of drug abuse, medical errors, low sanitary conditions in public schools and water scarcity in Gaza. ”I have always had a weakness for working in TV. Being a part of the production of the investigative reports was a nice change from the more administrative work,” says Hantash. But she makes it very clear that one of her main sources of inspiration is seeing the effect of her efforts at the MDC.”When I see good reports being done here by trainees, I become happy – the voices of these journalists will grow louder and will hopefully lead to better reporting on Palestinian issues both locally and internationally,” says Hantash.On April 1, Amani Abu Hantash will celebrate her three year anniversary as the Print Unit Coordinator at the MDC. Throughout 2012 she will additionally be involved in the productions of a series of cultural programs on Palestine TV.