Chances are you recognize her face. In fact, her phrase “I’m alive” is likely to ring a bell. Bisan Owda, a 25-year-old journalist, has been covering Israel’s devastating war in Gaza from day one.

Owda has been reporting daily from Gaza since the start of a seven-month war that has killed more than 34,900 Palestinians. Now, her tenacity has earned her a Peabody Award, one of journalism’s highest awards. Owda won it for her first video in collaboration with AJ+ about the daily lives of Palestinians under Israeli bombardment.

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“Good morning, everyone. This is Bisan from Gaza,” Owda says in the video, which has more than 1.3 million views and was published on November 3, less than a month into the Israeli military’s offensive.

“I’m smiling because I’m alive,” she says.

How Bisan Owda put a human face on the Gaza massacre

While we were all trying to understand what was happening in the Palestinian territory, the young journalist took to social media to remind the world that the victims were human beings. Her videos, widely shared, show what Palestinians are doing to survive Israel’s shelling and blockades on access to food, water, fuel, and supplies.

“Reporting from her makeshift tent outside the medical center, she shows what survival looks like for her and the masses around her, drawing on her indomitable spirit to keep the world informed of the day-to-day reality on the ground in Gaza,” the Peabody board of jurors said in a statement announcing the award winners.

For her part, Owda dedicated the Peabody Award to university students and those who have protested in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

“To all the people who took to the streets. To all the people at home who are participating in boycotts. To all the people worldwide, regardless of their religion, color, and ethnicity,” she said in a statement.

“Regardless of what makes them different, they’re united in one mission: in their demands for a free Palestine. You deserve this award. And so do we. And one day, this genocide will end. And Palestine will be free. And we will welcome you here. On Gazan soil. All of you.

“Thank you so much for this award and for always supporting us, standing by us, and for continuing to do so until we reach our demands: an end to the genocide, a ceasefire, and a free Palestine.”

But who is Bisan Owda?

Bisan Owda is a community activist, journalist, and content creator. Before Israel’s invasion, Owda volunteered with many local and international teams and institutions for climate change awareness and human rights. She even had her own show called “Hakawatia,” where she talked about social issues.

However, her face became known for her semi-regular video updates and live streams on social media. Owda showed the experiences of Palestinian civilians since Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2023. Her phrase “I’m still alive” raised worldwide awareness about what was happening in the territory. 

By October 15, 2023, Owda had amassed more than 180,000 followers on Instagram. A month later, she had 2 million, and by December, thanks to the young journalist, more than 3 million people were closely following what was happening in Palestine.

The new role of social media in activism

Owda shared the evacuation of Gaza with the whole world. Together with her parents, she moved from Beit Hanoun to Al-Shifa Hospital. Both her home and office were bombed, and Owda witnessed the airstrike on the Al-Shifa ambulance on November 3, 2023.

“Social media has become an increasingly important space where we communicate, learn, and access information. Online content plays a major role in shaping our conception of the world, opinions, and values,” she told the UN in 2023. “Through influencing public opinion, social media is also one of the most effective tools to mobilize and advocate for change.”

For his part, Tony Karon, chief editor of AJ+, recognized Owda’s work and the importance of winning the Peabody Award: “Bisan’s heroic storytelling exemplifies the spirit of AJ+ and the wider Al Jazeera network, of which we are a part.”

“We strive to tell the human story from where the missiles land, to elevate the human spirit and the hope that it brings for better days, to shine a light on places and stories those in power would rather keep shrouded in darkness,” Karon said.

“Bisan has provided a magnificent example to us and to media organizations everywhere of how to cover a war. We are honored and humbled to have her work grace our platform.”