Hadja Lahbib: Journalist of Algerian Origin Turned Belgian FM

Illustrated by Jeannette Khouri

Hadja Lahbib, a television journalist of Algerian origin and former reporter on Afghanistan and the Middle East, was appointed in July as Belgium’s new Foreign Minister in a move that surprised the political world.

After her appointment, Lahbib said that she was shocked, but she would take on the job as someone "without political baggage... neither of the left, nor of the right."

"History knocks on our doors, and it's up to everyone to respond in their own way," she said.

Georges Louis Bouchez, the leader of Belgium's Reformist Movement, said she was appointed because the country "needed someone who already knows international affairs."

"Lots of our fellow citizens know her from the TV news," he said. "But she has a much wider experience because she has been in many international settings, whether in the Middle East and Afghanistan, covering foreign elections, for example in the US, and terrorist attacks around the world."

Lahbib was born on June 21, 1970, in the town of Boussu near the city of Mons in Belgium, to a family from the Kabylie region of Algeria. Her biography indicates that she lived most of her life in the capital of Brussels.

Lahbib received her education in Belgium and enrolled in the Free University of Brussels in 1989, from which she obtained a degree in media and communication in 1993. Her thesis was on "The History of the Algerian War: The Silence of Memory."

In 2019, she received a diploma in Digital Leadership from the Solvay Institute in Belgium. In addition to French, she speaks English and is familiar with Arabic and Farsi.

Lahbib began a journalistic career at an early stage in her life. She joined Belgian TV in 1993 and worked there for 5 years.

In 1997, she joined the Belgian national French-language television RTBF, where she worked for 23 years as a presenter, field reporter and film director.

She assumed other responsibilities in the cultural and media sphere, as she held the position of Vice-President of the Supreme Council for Media Education, chaired the Liege Theater Festival, and managed the project "Belgium as the European Capital of Culture in 2030."

On July 15, 2022, the Francophone Liberal Party chose her to fill the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs, International Trade and Federal Cultural Institutions and she was sworn in on the 20th of the same month.

Al-Habib's biography indicates that she has accumulated a strong journalistic experience. For 30 years, she has been in the depths of journalistic work in its various branches and related matters, as she has provided news bulletins for many years, covered wars and crises, completed reports and produced and directed many films.

On various occasions, she would disappear from the television screen as a presenter only to reappear as a field reporter.

Lahbib, who accompanied previous foreign ministers on trips abroad, took on the job after predecessor Sophie Wilmes resigned to take care of her sick husband.

Making her first appearance at an EU Council meeting last month, she joked she was "thrown straight into the deep end." Ms. Lahbib spoke of showing continued support to Ukraine and increasing pressure on Russia to call off its invasion.

She said sanctions "must become even more effective" as the EU debated new measures, including a ban on Russian gold to "end the unacceptable suffering and gross violation of human rights" in Ukraine.


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