As a roving reporter covering the Syrian conflict and other major stories for Al Aan TV, Jenan Moussa has to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Her work bag, which she keeps packed at all times, contains two essential items of kit: her camera and her Thuraya satellite phone.
“You could have the greatest story in the world but it is useless if you can’t get it out there,” said Jenan. “I carry a Thuraya SatSleeve+ because I need to be able to report from any location at any time.” For Jenan “any location” means exactly that: a rebel camp; a roadside in no-man’s land; a basement in the middle of a barrel-bomb attack.
The last of these was in 2012 in the town of Jarjanaz, about 40 miles south-west of Aleppo. A rebel group told Jenan it was safe to go into the town to conduct interviews, but soon after she arrived a heavy bombardment began.
“Everybody ran for cover and the people I was with took shelter in a bombed-out basement. It was terrifying because the whole building was shaking and there were people screaming and shouting, including a lot of children. Despite all this chaos, I was able to use my Thuraya satphone to Tweet throughout the attack and tell the outside world what was going on.”
Jenan has been a Thuraya user since covering the anti-Gaddafi uprising in Libya in 2011. It was then she realized she needed a satphone to report the news as it happened, to keep in contact with her studio in Dubai and to phone home to reassure family and friends. Working in countries where the infrastructure may be devastated by conflict, she cannot rely on terrestrial phone networks. A mobile satellite link is the only guaranteed way to stay in touch.
Her Thuraya satphone gives her a real edge in the race to report the news first. Soon after she got it, other journalists began asking how she managed such a high output of work, Tweeting and blogging continuously on top of her regular news reports. It was the satphone that made the difference. When there is no time to record a piece to camera, Jenan will often use the satphone to call her studio and deliver an audio-only report, relying on the Thuraya voice channel for broadcast-quality sound.
This often happened in Libya when she was travelling with anti-Gaddafi rebels as they pushed back the government forces, using her Thuraya satphone to file reports as they moved from town to town. One particular occasion sticks in her mind. The rebels had just driven Gaddafi troops out of the coastal town of Ras Lanuf when she arrived. “The Gaddafi troops had literally just left when we entered the building they had been using as their base. Their slogans were all over the walls and their coffee cups were still on the table. It was a scary experience and still potentially very dangerous. I just got out the Thuraya satphone and used it to phone in my report, which was probably the first saying the town had been taken.”
Now she has a SatSleeve+ she loves the flexibility it provides, enabling her to make satellite calls and send messages from her iPhone, with access to all her usual contacts and speed dials. It is compact and lightweight, and so fits easily into a backpack. This is an important factor because she often has to travel extremely light, as when covering the refugee sea crossings from Turkey to mainland Europe.
It was while covering the refugees’ story that Jenan realized how many people in the region rely on Thuraya for essential communications. “Virtually every refugee I spoke to was aware of Thuraya. Before they got into a boat for a crossing they would ask the pilot ‘do you have a Thuraya satphone?’ because they knew it was the only reliable way of contacting the Greek or Italian coastguards if an emergency happened during the crossing. Their lives could depend on it.”
Jenan’s own life is in danger every time she enters Syria, so she takes meticulous precautions over her personal security and the safety of the people around her. “Thuraya have told me there is no way that people who want to harm me can trace my position by locking in to the satphone signal, which is reassuring.” In the race to report first on some of the world’s biggest stories, Thuraya satphones are nothing but an asset.
Thuraya SatSleeve+: www.thuraya.com/satsleeve-plus
Al Aan TV: www.alaan.tv