RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Ma'an celebrated in Ramallah on Tuesday the 10th anniversary of the Palestinian online, TV and radio network's beginnings during the second intifada.
A black-and-white photo exhibition at the Movenpick Hotel narrated the history of Ma'an from its conception to its founding and work on the ground.
The 50-image display documented a decade of field and conflict reporting as well as the network's early days and later success stories.
Ma'an general director Raed Othman addressed dignitaries at a reception at the hotel and described Ma'an's humble start. At that time, several local TV stations were facing financial difficulties and decided to create a joint body they called Ma'an TV.
Othman said neither he nor his colleagues thought the idea would materialize in days or even months: "We fought for two successive years until we managed to get funding to establish Ma’an News Agency."
Ma'an published its first news report on May 26, 2005. Today, the website receives 5 million visitors every month and is by far the most popular Palestinian source of news.
The general director recalled giving a talk about Palestinian media in Germany, where a journalist told him the world did not know what Palestinians were saying.
"I kept thinking of those remarks and discussed them with my colleagues when I went back home," Othman told attendees. "A few days later, I met with the representative of the Dutch government to Palestine and asked him where he would look if he wanted information about Palestine.
"'Unfortunately, to (Israeli newspaper) Haaretz's English website,' answered the representative. That was a red light to me, and I started to tell my colleagues that we ought to establish a source for Palestinian news."
"The dream was not over as it was necessary to have radio and TV wings, so we established Ma'an Radio Network and Ma’an TV Network; then the dream was crowned with Maan-Mix satellite," Othman explained.
He announced that Ma'an-Mix would soon become solely Ma'an after the network completed its purchase of shares owned by the Haifa-based network.
Ma'an chairwoman Nibal Thawabta described Ma'an's vision as seemingly "too big a dream" at the time.
"When Raed Othman posed the idea of creating an independent Palestinian news agency to a number of young enthusiastic male and female journalists, they thought it was too big a dream. However, year after year, and challenge after challenge, the dream was materialized and became a reality," she said.
Thawabta acknowledged criticism over the years about Ma'an's claims to independence, but she defended the network's willingness to accept advice to develop successfully.
"The mild friendly reproach we hear from some people is painful at a professional level, and it makes us feel that maintaining a balance is a hard job, and being objective is still harder, but at least we try to present our opinion and listen to others' opinions appreciating everybody," she said.
Later a short film narrated by renowned Palestinian journalists Ahmad Rafiq Awad and Yousuf al-Mahmoud detailed the network's history.
"The dream which the young founders had has become a reality and a big success story. In that story, awareness, belief and will were more influential than planning and strategies set in advance," Awad said.