Diaspo # 8: Jamila Atif, the Moroccan journalist who's been all around the world

Jamila Atif is a journalist who accomplished a brilliant career. She is a star of the Arabic television who acquired diverse professional experiences in different countries in the world. The young Moroccan woman is a prime example of a hard worker that we all should look up to. Portrait.

Jamila Atif, a Moroccan journalist and TV presenter./Ph. Jamila Atif
Estimated read time: 3'

After spending thirty minutes on the phone with Jamila Atif, I realized the following : this globetrotting journalist is a courageous woman, and a fighter who is not afraid of pushing herself to the limits facing the unknown. Nothing, however, had per-destined this Salé-native to an international career as a TV anchor.

Jamila Atif has traveled the world, lived here and there, for a few months or a few years. Last July, she was awarded the «Queen of Arab Journalists» at the El Ismailia International Festival of Arab Press and Creators.

Nevertheless Jamila Atif had her first professional experience as a journalist in Morocco. «I made my debut at RTM (National Broadcasting Corporation) in Rabat. It was out of pure coincidence. I had not studied journalism nor communication. I studied biology and geology», she told Yabiladi.

For a graduate like her, finding a job was quite difficult especially in her field of studies. However, Jamila did not lose faith and considered all options. Everyday, she checked job offers on newspapers, «One day I came across an offer whose criteria fit me perfectly : I speak French, English and Arabic. I went to the consulting firm for an interview», she recalls. As surprising as it sounds, the company was hiring for the first national TV channel and was looking especially for «new faces».

Recruiters asked her a question she did not expect : «Can you read this text in Arabic in front of the camera ?» quickly, Jamila Atif said that she did all her studies in French but her interlocutor encouraged her to read the text. «When I read the text, they were amazed. They found that I had a very beautiful voice, and mastered pronunciation. I was very surprised at what I heard. I did not think I had these skills», explains the TV presenter. Her experience at the SNRT taught her the basics of the trade. Gradually, she began reporting, covering events and presenting a program on geology.
«I learned the ABCs of journalism during this experience. That was my real school.»

From Iran to Russia, from Lebanon to Dubai

In 2003, she was offered a job as a TV anchor in Tehran. Despite the fear of living in a country away from home , the journalist took up the challenge. It lasted one year in the country. «It did not suit me at all, it was a difficult experience. I had a lot of trouble with the language and the local culture was totally the opposite of what I was raised in. You had to put on a scarf, regardless of your religion. I had Christian and Jewish colleagues who also complied with the rule,» explains Jamila Atif. «However, the culture of Iran is very rich and historical». The Moroccan packed up her suitcase and went for Dubai, where she started a career in a Dubai-based TV channel and then got married.

A prime-time news anchor

In 2006, her life took a new turn. Jamila Atif and her husband were traveling to Moscow, Russia, where she had the job of her dreams : a TV presenter in the most watched channel RT (formerly Russia Today). For six years, Jamila Atif became the face of prime-time. «All the conditions were there to be the best. I was flourishing on the channel's screen. I had realized my ambition as a journalist», she says. Faithful to herself, Jamila Atif had to go for other challenges fearing routine and boredom.

«The best journalist is the one who seeks new opportunities. When you stay for more than four years in the same country, ideas of subjects are running out of steam. Once settled in a new country, you find yourself filled with new energy to keep going,» she says.

«I was called the Moroccan Sunni Malekite»

In 2011, the Moroccan woman started a new adventure, heading to Beirut to join the team of Al Mayadine, a media that had just been launched. Jamila Atif was far from suspecting that this experience would mark her career and that she was going to go through difficult moments. «After working with Russians, the experience with Arabs was completely different, each one being catalogued according to their religion. In Russia, religion was personal, no one violates the intimacy of others, freedoms are respected. They do not judge you for that. During my experience in Al Mayadine, I was cataloged as the Moroccan Sunni Malekite. I was working for a Shiite channel, so my future was limited in the media. I left after three months», she says with regret.

«I tried to erase that image. I am a journalist who works, my opinion I keep it for myself, I just follow the editorial line from where I work,» says the TV presenter. Jamila Atif regained her glory in Orient News, which is an anti-Bashar al-Assad media. She took care of two important programs and regained the esteem and respect of her peers.

She then decided to fly to Cairo for a new experiment, but did not spend more than two months there. Since 2016, the journalist has settled in Dubai and has a life that fulfills her.«I share my experience at the American University of Dubai and help train future journalists at this institution. And since this year, I am the editorial director of a new magazine, Dubai Al Yaoum. I feel more fulfilled,» she rejoices.

Jamila Atif did not forget her native country: Morocco remains there as her safety net. «If I had a choice, I would go back to Morocco,» she said.

«I miss everything in the Kingdom, every day. It's not easy to be away from home, to be in a foreign country. You have to work ten times more to get what you need.»

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