When the French journalist Sonia Dridi talks about her experience covering the past few weeks of protests against racism and police brutality in the United States, she often thinks back to another story she covered.
“The scene, seeing everyone running around Lafayette Square, really made me think of Egypt,” Dridi, a Washington correspondent for the broadcaster France 24 and other French media outlets, told me of one of the early nights of protests in the capital following the killing of George Floyd. More specifically, she said, it reminded her of the scenes she witnessed in Cairo covering the civil unrest and protests that ultimately culminated in the Arab Spring. Though those events and what is happening across the U.S. now differ in many ways, both appeared to present crucial turning points, in which each country’s population called for deep change. In both cases, those calls were met with state violence against peaceful protesters and journalists alike.
Though journalists such as Dridi might have experience with these types of situations, it isn’t a skill set one might typically associate with foreign journalism in the American capital.
Being a Washington correspondent is among the most prestigious postings available to international journalists—a reward that is typically reserved for an outlet’s most senior or highest-profile journalist. To be a Washington correspondent means keeping up with the unpredictable and tumultuous pace of American politics and, more recently, making sense of President Donald Trump’s broadside attacks on both the countries they report from and, often, the media itself.