PETALING JAYA: The Star senior writer Shahanaaz Habib, who was the first Malaysian journalist to enter Baghdad at the start of the Iraq war, has returned to a warm welcome and commendation for her courageous reporting of the conflict.
A surprise “welcome home” ceremony and tea reception were held at Menara Star yesterday to honour her for a job well done.
Shahanaaz, who arrived in Baghdad on April 1, filed stories detailing how the Iraqis coped with the heavy bombing and disappearance of law and order.
Managing director Datuk Steven Tan congratulated Shahanaaz for her excellent performance and expressed his relief that she had returned safely.
“War has never been an alternative but only the last resort to resolving problems. As a news organisation, The Star has the duty to provide coverage, especially on the humanitarian aspect, which Shahanaaz has done well.
“What others deemed as a dangerous war zone, she embraced and did in the fine and true tradition of journalism.
“Her work is a display of courage, professionalism and sensibility,” he said.
Tan, who called Shahanaaz The Star's first war correspondent, also commended her dedication to the profession by taking up the assignment voluntarily.
“While others could only dream of being a war journalist, she already made it and set a fine example.
“Perhaps, when she took a year off from work (in 2001) to venture alone around South America, that was to prepare her for her destined role as our first war correspondent,” he said in a lighter vein.
Against the backdrop of a giant signboard bearing Shahanaaz’s picture and the words “Welcome Back, We Are Proud of You,” Group Chief Editor Datuk Ng Poh Tip commended her for her “incredible” journey into Iraq.
“It was not easy selecting and sending a journalist into a war zone, more so a woman.
“Thank you for doing us proud and setting a fine example for Malaysian journalists,” said Ng.
Shahanaaz, who had been kept in the dark over the grand welcome, said she was pleasantly surprised by the reception from her colleagues.
“I think credit lies not with the reporters but should go to the newspaper, which had the foresight to send reporters to Iraq well before the war started.
“I am also grateful that there was no gender discrimination in the paper’s choice. It practised equality,” said the Universiti Sains Malaysia graduate.
Shahanaaz also thanked associate editor P.K. Katharason, who was part of the war team, for guidance and practical advice, which she said helped to keep her safe during her time in Iraq.
At the ceremony, Shahanaaz was presented with a bouquet of flowers, a token of appreciation and a framed mock The Star front page with the headline “First in Baghdad.”
The Star decided to send its own writers to report from the ground as the Iraq crisis escalated in mid-March.
Before the United States’ 48-hour ultimatum to Iraq ended, Katharason and Shahanaaz were already on their way to Amman, Jordan from where they were to attempt to reach Baghdad.
Shahanaaz’s first story datelined Baghdad appeared on April 5 entitled “A Taxi Ride From Amman to Baghdad.”
Her despatches provided a unique perspective on the developments in Iraq.
Related Story:Brave Yasmine cheerful despite 10-hour journey