insight - Sohail Rahman
Written by Heba Hashem
Occupation - News Anchor & Correspondent – Al Jazeera English news
A face recognised by many, award-winning journalist ‘So Rahman’ is known for ‘breaking the news’ and not just presenting it.
His caring nature and determination led him to where the average correspondent wouldn’t set foot. Moving from Manchester to Doha, Sohail Rahman’s ability to put fear aside has taken him far – but is it far enough for him?
You have worked for some of the world’s largest TV networks. How did it all begin?
News, crime, holiday shows, and special projects, like the 50th anniversary programmes commemorating Independence for India and Pakistan, all came my way. Speaking five languages and having family connections to both countries in South Asia was very useful. My body of work over this period of time culminated in winning the prestigious Royal Television Society Award (RTS). During this period I was approached to host a whole range of major network television shows in the UK, including debate programmes as well as the national news, making me the first British Muslim man to do so for ITV. Noticed by the Al Jazeera Director of News in 2004, I was invited to join the company in November 2005 as a news anchor and correspondent based in Doha.
How does your experience with Al Jazeera differ from your previous one with Granada?
You are highly recognised for your exclusive coverage in danger zones during extremely sensitive periods. How are you able to focus on your mission as a reporter when your life is constantly at risk?
Whatever the reason, be it fate, destiny, good luck, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I’ve been able to witness these historical moments. I think I’m just humbled to have been able to tell the story and leave in one piece. My only sadness is leaving the people it affects behind to pick up the pieces.
Having worked with the television sector for over 20 years now, do you think this medium has changed much over the past two decades?
What effects have your exposure to charitable foundations through BBC’s Children in Need, and as ambassador for The Prince’s Trust, had on you?
I see myself as being very lucky to be where I am, and if my fame can help others, then great. The Bihari children I visit and help in Bangladesh are the third or fourth generation of refugees caught up in camps established after the liberation war from Pakistan in 1971 when Bangladesh, formerly known as East Pakistan, was created. School books and pencils are an essential tool their parents can barely afford.
I’m very proud to be an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust set up by Prince Charles. The organisation aims to help adults who’ve fallen out of mainstream society, or haven’t been given the opportunities they would have hoped for – given a second chance by building their own businesses. It’s all about giving people hope and a sense of belonging to a community.
Do you think that Qatar is emerging as a political hub for the region?
That extends to the man at the top. You have to take your hat off to the Emir and the government who continue to play an important role as honest brokers in some of the world’s longest standing and politically divisive issues, be it the Palestinian–Israeli conflict or the factions fighting in Sudan, to name but two. Qatar is trying to make a difference, trying to work the problem out with the parties at the heart of the trouble. Others may disagree, others might say the cards to solving the problems may be held by politically bigger international players… but regardless, at the end of the day it’s about making a difference. It doesn’t really matter who we are, big or small, we can all make a difference.
Launched on Wednesday November 15, 2006, Al Jazeera English (AJE) was first called Al Jazeera International, but the name was changed at the last minute, on the day of the launch. AJE is the world’s first independent English news channel headquartered in the Middle East. It currently broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from Doha, Qatar; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; London, England; and Washington, DC, USA.