Huddle 2018 - Content Hub

I’m a journalist, not an activist

CNN’s multi-award winning Senior International Correspondent, Nima Elbagir had heard the rumours several times, but she originally dismissed them – there was no way it could be true. African migrants were being sold as slaves in Libya. But then she kept hearing it again and again; and the same slave traders were being named each time she was told the horrifying tale.  

At the CNN session “Media as a force of nature” multi-award winning Senior International Correspondent, Nima Elbagir explained how the Libya slave story was an “old fashioned story” where she heard whispers that something was happening, and she had to follow the trail. In the end she was able to report the story due to the brazenness of the slave traders who were publicly auctioning slaves for $400 each and even allowed one of Nima’s undercover associates, who was posing as go between for a potential buyer, to film the auction.  

Nima’s Libya slavery investigation immediately led to demonstrations in France and a lot of African capitals. Ultimately the story resulted in sanctions (for the first time) being placed on the actual slave traders who had been identified and were living lavish lifestyles with homes in Italy, Saudi Arabia and Malta.  

CNN Digital’s EMEA Director Blathnaid Healy explained in the session how CNN believed that the story would go viral (in part because of the chilling video of the slave auction) and shared the techniques used to make sure that they could create cut-though, including making the story mobile first and easy for their audience to share. Blathnaid explained how CNN try to be proactive in understanding how the stories they put out are going to be consumed to make sure that they are reaching the right people, at the right time and in the right environment.   

Nima and Blathnaid also shared other stories they had worked on together including saving a woman from death row in Sudan and getting Tesla and Mercedes Benz to admit to their use of child labour. Despite the humanitarian angle to a lot of the stories that Niam reports on, she was keen to stress that she was not an activist but a journalist who has the responsibility to expose the truth – whatever that might be.