Sharjah: "I'm proud of being an American and an Arab at the same time," said Octavia Nasr, the former Middle East editor at CNN, who was at the Sharjah Book Fair this week to promote her media consultancy firm.
Octavia came straight to the point when asked about her reaction to criticism over a recent workshop in which Arab journalists claimed she came across as American rather than Arab.
"It's not an insult. I am proud of who I am. I am an Arab as well [as American], and I'm playing an important role bridging the gap between the two. Those who point their fingers at me, do so out of ignorance."
Octavia recently became the subject of a story herself when she was fired for expressing her personal views on the death of the Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussain Fadlallah on her CNN official Twitter site.
"If you take for example, [Arab] women; some wear the hijab and others don't. To me, they're all the same. If I was ignorant, I would judge you [for not wearing the hijab], I would look at you and say that you're too modern or that you come from a certain sect. Judgement comes from ignorance and insecurity. I don't judge and I don't like to be judged. I believe when someone is judgemental they fail. As a journalist, I need to remain cool because that kind of passion is only good if you're an activist."
Speaking about the event that led to her forced resignation, the journalist said she always tries to do whatever she thinks best at the time.
"The past happened and I have to deal with it and move on. I was on holiday at the time I wrote about [death of the Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussain Fadlallah] on Twitter, but if I had been working, I would have written a blog about it and provided people with a link so that they could read it. What else is there left to say on the subject?"
She also addressed the issue of the ongoing conflict between the East and the West, and explained that, in her opinion, the world is becoming more extreme.
"People are becoming more extreme and are closing [their minds] instead of opening up. Each group is becoming more secluded and more unable or unwilling to meet [others] half way. And we're seeing this on all sides. It's not just one way.
She says that although most parties want a resolution to the conflict, there are, "forces of evil pushing in the other direction, so it's going to be interesting to see what happens."
"The East has responded passively to some very strong terror attacks [on the West], when it needed to respond [aggressively], and that caused a lot of mistrust [on the part of the West]. The West thinks all Arabs are terrorists and that all Arabs support terrorism, and this comes from the [East's] silence after major terrorist attacks," she said, pointing out that by the time the Arab world condemned the attacks it was too late.
"By then, the West was acting aggressively and the East [thought] it was just another crusade."
Although Octavia has been busy, setting up her new business, she also found the time to work on a book, which highlights world events she experienced throughout her career.
"I have seen so much and want to write something that lots of people will want to read. It's more thought-provoking [than anything]. It's not about me, but more about the events [that have happened], as seen through my eyes. I represent so many different sections of society, especially in the US. I am an immigrant; a female; and I have had a long, successful career in journalism. I've witnessed history from the point of view of a journalist so I have a lot to offer. I'd like to sit down and focus myself on this [project] because that's also something that's important for my business, which will add to my credibility," she said.
"I am not rushing into anything, and its not something that has to happen now. It's really a long-term project."
Strong online presence
On the establishment of her own media consultancy company, Bridges Media Consultancy, Octavia explained that it advises media companies on how to have a strong online presence, in addition to focusing on the importance of having multi-functional journalists.
"You need to strategise and you also need to re-work your newsroom. If you have a crew, there's no reason why you shouldn't have a video piece of the interview. As a journalist you can be multi-functional, instead of just writing a print piece that goes into a newspaper and is published online. You're going to be able to blog, write a print article, do a television piece, and you might even create a whole gallery of photographs with it."
It all started at Lebanese Broadcasting
Born and raised in Lebanon, Octavia has lived in the US for more than 20 years.
Prior to establishing her consulting firm, she worked at CNN and led the network's integration of social media and international newsgathering.
She served as CNN's senior editor of Middle East affairs for more than ten years.
Octavia's career began at the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) where she reported from the front lines of Lebanon's civil war. She also served as executive producer of the LBC nightly news while she contributed reports to CNN during the most dangerous times for journalists in that country.