Born into a family of hugely-respected journalists, it’s no wonder Yousra Elbagir’s own portfolio name-checks some of the most influential media organisations on the planet. Her work has been commissioned by the likes of Financial Times, Vice and Channel 4’s ‘Unreported World’, and she is currently a reporter for Channel 4. An expert on Africa, and specifically Sudan, her passion for telling stories that may otherwise have been overlooked or, worse still, completely ignored guides many of her undertakings.
DE: What motivates you?
My parents are journalists and I grew up watching their newspaper sort of get ripped apart, and we also moved around the world based on my father’s newspaper getting banned and his political affiliations. So I think from a very young age I saw the importance of journalism and the importance of information, in terms of dismantling the systems and allowing people to be aware of the world they are in.
So that was the initial intrigue for me, but now what I think motivates me, coming from a country that has a pariah status, I understand the role of the media in building these narratives and giving gravity to certain situations and stories.
I think it’s crucial there are people from a variety of backgrounds involved so a variety of stories can be told. And it’s not just a diversity thing, it’s about a variety of perspectives in every newsroom and at every publication to allow for nuances to come through, for stories to be told that wouldn’t even be on the radar of mainstream media outlets.
Was there a landmark moment in your career that shifted your perspective?
I think each period ends and I have to recalibrate and consider why I’m doing this. Most recently that recalibration moment came in Sudan when I was covering the uprising. That feels like a moment that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.
I have reported in Sudan for a long time, I left university in 2015 and went back to Sudan to train in the field and was working there for a year and a half, but this time felt different because it felt like impact journalism, you know? I knew that if I reported on a hospital emergency room being attacked by government forces that could impact on whether or not it happened again.
And that was the first time that I really saw coverage that I contributed to having an impact on the ground, and I think that’s when I sort of realised that you can actually make a difference with what we do, it’s not just a dream.
If you do a story, and do it well and you report on something that would otherwise not have got any media coverage then you can change things on the ground. But obviously it’s a huge team effort, it wasn’t just me, there was an amazing producer called Darius Bazargan and obviously the Channel 4 News team who were consistently supportive in giving space to the story in Sudan.”
DE: Who inspires you?
Quite a few people. It shifts. My ultimate role model was my sister, Nima, she’s a senior correspondent for CNN and I grew up watching her build her career as a journalist in international media, but after spending time in Sudan with my parents as journalists I’m now adopting them as the ultimate role models for how to cover news and how to cover stories in the most ethical and effective ways possible.
Nima looked up to them when she was training and building her career, and I looked up to her. Now I look up to all three of them. And also my brother is a media manager. So honestly, just to summarise then, my family are my role models in the way they have supported my coverage and my sister’s coverage and created a foundation of love and unending support.
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