Nahlah Ayed, LL.D., October 29, 2008
Nahlah Ayed
B.Sc.(Hons.), M.A.(Man.); M.J.(Car.)

Today we honour Nahlah Ayed, an award-winning journalist and a distinguished alumna of this university. She is a familiar face and voice to Canadians, recognized for her journalistic excellence and integrity. Ms. Ayed is CBC Television's Middle Last correspondent based in Beirut covering events in various Arab countries including Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. She has covered the invasion of Iraq and the fall of Baghdad, the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, and the historic elections in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Her coverage in Iraq was nominated for a Gemini Award, and her 2002 series on living conditions in Canadian women's prisons won a citation for the Michener Award for Meritorious Journalism. She has also received the President's Award from the Canadian Press and the LiveWire Award for her coverage of the Afghanistan conflict, as well as several Story of the Year and Story of the Month Awards from the Canadian Press.

Ms. Ayed is a first generation Canadian of Palestinian parents, born and raised in Winnipeg. Her passion for journalism was sparked when she worked as a reporter for the Manitoban and a researcher with the Public Affairs Department here at the University of Manitoba. She finished two degrees at this university, an Honours Bachelor of Science majoring in Human Genetics in 1992, and an Independent Interdisciplinary Program Master of Arts (Philosophy, Genetics, and English) in 2000. In between those degrees, she also completed a Master of Journalism degree at Carleton University in 1997.

While working on her journalism degree, Ms. Ayed was a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen. Later she worked as a producer for Canadian television in Ottawa and Toronto, and then a parliamentary correspondent for the Canadian Press, where her duties including covering Canada's policy in the Middle East. During this time she reported on the war in Afghanistan and Canada's military contribution. She joined the CBC in November, 2002, and was posted to Jordan, where she set up a one-person bureau in Amman as a satellite to the main office in Jerusalem. Soon after she traveled to Iraq to cover the lead-up to the invasion. Fluent in Arabic, Ms. Ayed covered the fall of Baghdad, reporting from Firdos Square as celebrating Iraqis toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein. Ms. Ayed continued to cover the ongoing violence, making the difficult trip overland back to Iraq several times to cover the war's aftermath for both CBC television and radio. Her reporting has been technologically ground-breaking, as well. In her coverage of the referendum in Alexandria, Egypt in March 2007, she was the first correspondent to use digital video reporting over a webcam-equipped laptop, now a common method of receiving live reports from the field.

A courageous journalist who provides the highest level of journalistic quality in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, Ms. Ayed has established herself as a highly regarded and respected correspondent among her peers, who call her work courageous, smart, and tireless, 'and have referred to her career thus far as distinguished.' While many correspondents are compelled or choose to report from the safety of protected zones, her stories come from the streets and the front lines, often at great risk to herself. In her line of duty, she has been physically attacked, threatened with firearms, and survived the bombing at the Kahadimiya Mosque in Baghdad, which killed over 80 people.

Reporting from a part of the world where coverage often lacks depth or content, she challenges our conventional wisdom and broadens our knowledge of the complexities of a region largely misunderstood. Her stories reflect the humanity of the places she visits and tell the tales of the people who are all too often overlooked in the grander scheme of things - the men, women, and children who live in circumstances we could not imagine. "I am not on a personal crusade," she has said, "I just believe that perhaps, with my background, I may be able to have better access to Arab society, and perhaps impart a little better knowledge and explanation of the complexities of the Middle East, and Arabs in particular." For someone who has accomplished so much in a relatively short career thus far, she is clearly a role model and an inspiration for us all.

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour and privilege to ask you, in the name of the Senate and the University of Manitoba, to confer upon Ms. Nahlah Ayed the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.