In an interview with Vice magazine, filmmaker Matthew VanDyke was asked:
What do you have to say to those in the journalist community who are angered about you switching between being a journalist and being a freedom fighter when it suits you? You know, the Committee to Protect Journalists lobbying for your release [while he was held prisoner for six months by Gaddafi’s forces in Libya] under the asumption you were a freelance journalist, then you returning to fight as soon as your release had been secured.
Please don’t call me a journalist. People still do that, even though I’m not. And the journalist community isn’t irritated. There were, like, ten people who were irritated to bicker and bitch and a lot of them have their own reasons for doing it. The fact is that I’ve been balefully accused for two years now and it causes me such immense emotional distress. These people try to destroy me.
The reason they still call me a journalist is that they are looking for a one-worder that fits in a headline. My family argued with journalists not to call me a journalist when I was missing, and they still did it. When I escaped prison and found out that I was a journalist, it was news to me. I’m not unbiased, not impartial like journalists should be. I don’t report news. When I was in Syria, partly because of my actions in Libya, I had access to things that I would see in the news weeks later, but I did not report on them.
Why did you actively choose not to be a journalist?
Because I don’t cross lines—don’t mix things. I don’t think journalists should be pro-revolution; journalists should show up, report the news and not take a side. I’m so determined not to cross lines that I take financial hardship for it, I risk my life for it. I was wearing a uniform while I was making that film—sometimes with a Free Syrian Army flag on my arm—to make it clear that I’m not a journalist. The consequence of that could have been that, if I’d have been captured, I would have been tortured to death.