Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 6 August 2020

Body of renowned TV journalist Najwa Kassem flown home to Lebanon

Former colleague says Ms Kassem's burial will take place in her hometown, Joun, on Saturday

(FILES) This file photo taken on May 25, 2001 shows Lebanese Future TV presenter at the time Najwa Qassem (Kassem) reporting from the southern Lebanese border town of Kfarkila during a live broadcast on the first anniversary of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the border strip on May 25, 2001. Al-Arabiya announced the death of Qassem, 52, at her residence in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on January 2, 2020, without giving any further details. / AFP / RAMZI HAIDAR
(FILES) This file photo taken on May 25, 2001 shows Lebanese Future TV presenter at the time Najwa Qassem (Kassem) reporting from the southern Lebanese border town of Kfarkila during a live broadcast on the first anniversary of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the border strip on May 25, 2001. Al-Arabiya announced the death of Qassem, 52, at her residence in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on January 2, 2020, without giving any further details. / AFP / RAMZI HAIDAR

Colleagues, friends and prominent politicians including Saad Hariri, have paid tribute to renowned broadcast journalist Najwa Kassem, who died in Dubai on Thursday.

Twitter was flooded with comments over the weekend as many mourned the loss of Ms Kassem, a Lebanese news anchor who worked for Arabic news channels, Al Arabiya and Al Hadath.

On Thursday, the network released a statement confirming the death of the well-respected reporter.

"Al Arabiya network mourns Najwa Kassem, our colleague and journalist, who died this morning at her home in Dubai," it read.

A close friend of Ms Kassem's said she died of a heart attack.

Noted as a "star TV presenter", the 51-year-old was known for her news reporting from the Middle East and covered regional conflicts, including the Iraq war and the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005.

Speaking to The National on Friday, Paul Haddad, editor-in-chief at Al Hadath, said her body was transferred to Lebanon on Friday and was due to arrive in Beirut at 5pm. He confirmed the burial would take place in her hometown, Joun, on Saturday.

“The saddest thing was that her siblings came from Beirut to spend Christmas with her,” Mr Haddad said.

“She had just moved to a new house and she was very happy, they barely spent one week with her.

“They slept after spending the night out together and woke up to find her dead; she slept and never woke up.”

On his official Twitter account, former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri described Ms Kassem’s death as a “real saddening shock”.

He said she passed away “during the peak” of her career.

“It [her death] is a great loss for us and the Lebanese and Arab media.”

Ms Kassem began her career at Lebanese Future TV, before she moved to Al Arabiya news channel in Dubai in 2003, and later to Al Arabiya’s sub channel, Al Hadath.

“She accompanied Future TV in their journey from the start and she shone like a star on its screen before moving to Dubai where she continued her journey of success,” said Mr Hariri.

Her close friend and colleague, Rola Al Khatib, said Ms Kassem was very "healthy and active".

She told The National she had been looking forward to hosting her brother, a doctor, and two sisters at her new home in Dubai for weeks.

The day before she died, she said the prominent journalist went out with family to eat dinner and they spent the evening together.

“Then as they were watching TV she became sleepy and they told her to go to bed," said Ms Al Khatib.

The next morning, a relative found her dead in bed.

“I went to her house after my friends called me [with the news], the police were there and the doctor’s report said she died of a heart attack.

“I will not tell you about her professional life, because that is well-known, I will tell you about her humane side.

“She never ate alone, whenever Najwa ordered food she ordered for the entire newsroom to eat with her."

She also described her as “generous, down-to-earth and funny”.

Al-Arabiya TV anchorwoman, Lebanese Najwa Qassem poses at the Arab news channel headquarters, at Dubai Media City, December, 15 2009. almost seven years after its launch from Dubai in the run-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Al-Arabiya remains in tough competition with its older rival, the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, with each capturing a market share that largely reflects political and ideological divisions in the Arab world, observers say. AFP PHOTO/HO/AMMAR ABD RABBO (Photo by AMMAR ABD RABBO / BALKIS PRESS / AFP)
Al-Arabiya TV anchorwoman, Lebanese Najwa Qassem poses at the Arab news channel headquarters, at Dubai Media City, December, 15 2009. almost seven years after its launch from Dubai in the run-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Al-Arabiya remains in tough competition with its older rival, the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, with each capturing a market share that largely reflects political and ideological divisions in the Arab world, observers say. AFP PHOTO/HO/AMMAR ABD RABBO (Photo by AMMAR ABD RABBO / BALKIS PRESS / AFP)

On a professional level, Ms Kassem was highly regarded by many.

“She was the only one I trusted to give me honest advice from the heart,” said Ms Al Khatib.

Another colleague, Husam Jubali, called her his “mentor”.

“We were colleagues for 13 years and she accompanied me through many stages of my career,” he said.

“I always turned to her for advice. She was a person who loved life and joy.”

He said his last encounter with her was during a desert trip in Dubai just 10 days ago.

“She was expressing her love for nature,” he said.

A news package published by Al Arabiya after her shock death said she was originally an architect but “her passion was media”.

“She was a [like a] rock at home and the foundation of her family,” the article read.

“She was the first one to go to the borders and interview the Lebanese people who were living under Israeli occupation, she produced a package on Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons and she was one of the first journalists who appeared on Future TV.”

A number of media entities and figures also posted their condolences on Twitter, including the Mohammed bin Rashid School for Communication.

Ali Jaber, the dean of the school, quoted a verse from a song by one of her favourite singers, Lebanese artist Fairuz.

“Oh my heart I fear growing up in this diaspora and my country no longer recognises me.”

Updated: January 4, 2020 01:47 PM

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