By Saifullah Muhammad
I had an opportunity to interview Peter Akman, Toronto Bureau Reporter, CTV National News. First Akman shared about his personal background that he was born in St. John’s, N.L., and raised in Ottawa. He received an Honours Degree majoring in English and Communications from Simon Fraser University (SFU).
He started his journalism career as a Video Journalist for CTV in Timmins, ON, before moving on to the role of Video Journalist for CTV News Edmonton from 2004 to 2006.
Prior to his return to CTV News in June 2013, Akman spent nearly eight years with CBC News, first as a Reporter and Backup Anchor stationed in Calgary, and later as Reporter, VJ, and Anchor for CBC Local and The National based in Montreal and most recently Toronto.
Akman was nominated multiple times; he was awarded an RTDNA for his continuing coverage of the Richelieu River Flooding in 2011, the overland flooding disaster in Quebec that affected thousands of area residents for months.
Akman’s journalism career has taken him across Canada and around the world. In recent years, his reports have brought him to the heart of conflict unfolding in Northern Africa and the Middle East. He reported during the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya; he was in Egypt during the Tahrir Square revolution and the eventual fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; and spent two months embedded with Canadian Armed Forces, reporting from Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. Akman has also covered the White House in Washington and reported before and during the 2012 Olympic Games from London.
When asked, “What was one of the single challenging dilemmas he had ever faced during his journalism career?” “I think every time when I travel to places, people address ethical questions that how much can you help them. I think that always been challenging,” Akman wondered.
Then he expressed one of the most unforgettable dilemmas he had ever faced was in Bangladesh. Akman said, he recently returned from the Rohingya refugee camp, based in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. He along with his team drove two and half hours to the BaluKhali refugee camp. The temperature was about 40-degrees and that has humidity. He saw people with no money, starving without food, no clean water.
“When we went to a refugee school, we saw the children were very hungry and most of them are not healthy. The real dilemma came up when we talked to their parents and their caregivers who are supporting them. They said they have no food and nothing to feed and they need something for the children,” Akman said. We listened and walked away. That kind of situation is very challenging, emotional and upsetting. I felt like I was there to help them and I should be there to help more than words and information. When I go back to the hotel; I have all the food, water, and medication I need. My biggest dilemma was that how much I can help those people in need.”
Akman found the same situation when he was in Afghanistan. People were struggling for their daily survival and he wished he could help them and make them happy. One help is coming from reporting what he is doing now.
When asked, “How he resolved that dilemma?” Akman responded, “The situation is so bad where I helped them as much as I could in Bangladesh. We push Canada and people all over the world to donate money and people donated millions of dollar. Most of the people are supporting with aid. We will continue to do that all the backs of our stories that enlightening toward what is going on. There is no any resolution you ended up having to pack up.”
Akman wants to go to Bangladesh again to report the current situation as people need help there. When asked, what does he sees the future of those people and resolution turn out to be, Akman shared his feeling, “When I was in Bangladesh, I personally donated some food to the children and bottles of water to the kids. We were telling them many people care about them and think about their future and advised them not to lose hope.” The situation is dire in the refugee camp and they are in need of help and support from us, he added.
“A few days ago, a couple hundreds of people came up to listen what happening to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. They all bought their own tickets and showed a great support for those people. I gave three hours of time to shed more lights on the refugee situation. If I would be wealthy enough and no issue to survive, I would probably do what I could do to help those people in need.” Akman shared.