My love for the legend: Robert Fisk

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Robert Fisk is renowned globally as a diligent and honest journalist, one of a dying breed. For those that don’t know Fisk, he is a British Middle East correspondent for the Independent and is arguable one of the world’s most experienced and most acclaimed western reporter. He has won the British Press Awards’ International Journalist of the year honour seven times. Amnesty International and the United Nations have given awards to Fisk who speaks often at Harvard, Princeton, MIT and other prestigious American universities.


Fisk has lived in the Middle East for 30 years, has engulfed the problems of the Middle East and writes what he experiences firsthand. Robert Fisk is distinctively pugilistic and holds nothing back; never hesitates to fingerprint in stories. In his own words: “Surely there must be a way in which a reporter is honoured and privileged to absorb so much information, to express what he thinks about it.” 


I was speaking to one of my lecturers the other day, and he asked me a question about my ardour for Fisk. He asked: “What’s this love for Fisk about, is it his journalistic competence, or just because he tells you what you want to hear.” For some reason it took me quite a while to respond. Then it came to me. In many ways I would say that my admiration for Fisk stems from his journalistic dexterity, and it proliferates to his ongoing battle to expose what we all want to hear: the truth.


For every journalist to say something positive about him, there is another with a handful of negatives. Some critics complain that he is not objective and detached; he is subjective and engaged. But what exactly is wrong with that? Is the purpose of Journalism not to challenge the centres of power, and to describe with our own vividness the tragedies, injustices and viciousness of the world?


Journalists are there to make people think, Fisk lives and writes by this principle. He may not always be objective, but he exemplifies opinions that many people hold and we can agree or disagree. Fisk reports a fresh, unique and human dimension, and is not afraid to say what he really thinks; he is a profound writer and knows he is right. He may come across as being quite arrogant. Naturally, journalists are people who are insecure and have huge egos, which is a dangerous cocktail. I think a fair few good journalists are slightly arrogant – you need to be to get the story and to have the bottle to write it.


In his work, it is clear that Fisk goes to great lengths to side with the perceived victim. And what’s wrong with siding with the victim anyway? Just say you cover a rape trial, you’re not going to give equal space to the rapist as you are going to give to the victim, you’re not going to stand there impassively, and you’re going to write more about the victim and what s/he has suffered. There comes a time when journalists cannot be impartial. Of course we cannot stand in the middle, and the time has come when journalists must stand on the side of the victims and we’ve got to stand up against injustices and give a voice to people who wouldn’t ordinarily have a voice.


Orwell once said: “Telling the truth becomes a revolutionary Act.” Fisk brings this reality home. Journalists shouldn’t be completely ‘neutral’ – most journalists I have spoken to accept this. I for one don’t read his work for a “balanced” account. I read his work for his account, the account of a man who has heard both sides of the story, has been actively engaged in the middle east for 30 years and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. This is far more than can be said of the news desk team reading off the teleprompters. Sadly these very critics who condemn Fisk would like to believe that these mediums are the holy source of all truth.


Fisks work can be found on this link.



Written by Magda M Ali

January 24, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Comment, Features, Heartland

3 Responses

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  1. I too love fisk. His piece “At war with Lebanon” was remarkable. May he prosper.



    January 24, 2009 at 2:30 pm

  2. solid tribute magz.


    January 24, 2009 at 2:43 pm

  3. Peace

    Max- At war with Lebanon is one of my all time favourite. The great war for civilisation was an excellent read as well…
    Marrie – RB is a legend, it’s the very least i can do.

    And thank you both for commenting.


    Magda M Ali

    February 10, 2009 at 6:38 pm

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