Abu-Fadil to GEN Confab: Rethink Migration Coverage

Migration, refugees and human trafficking won’t disappear as topics any time soon so media had better change their narrative and learn to cover them more professionally and less sensationally.

GEN Summit Athens

That was the thrust of a panel Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil moderated at the June 2019 Global Editors Network (GEN) summit in Athens during which she tackled the thorny issues of what people should be called when they move from one country to another for whatever reason, how the story should be framed, and what types of ethical guidelines to follow.

In an introductory presentation, she showed a brief video produced by the UNHCR about the number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries since the conflict broke out in Syria to highlight facts and figures with which governments may disagree, and to underline how this problem can mislead and confuse journalists.

How can we change the narrative on migration media coverage?

Confusion also arises about the terminology used by various international and local organizations. Who’s a migrant? Who’s a refugee? Who’s a displaced person? Who’s an expat or economic migrant?

“It has become a hot topic in Europe and America where far-right politics is driving the conversation around migration and it’s also somehow forcing coverage to follow along those lines,” said Omoyele Sowore, founder and editor in chief of Sahara Reporters (SR), adding that some of those discussions are driven by racist sentiments.

Blanca Tapia and Omoyele Sowore

An SR team set up the innovative prototype “Africana” to help newsrooms approach the topic of migration in new and innovative ways and debunk misinformation on how it’s reported in Africa, and beyond.

For Blanca Tapia, the focus was migrants’ rights in European Union (EU) countries and how her niche organization provides media with the needed information to humanize the story and respect for those who’ve been displaced, had to leave their homelands, and seek asylum.

“People talk about economic migrant; I could be an economic migrant, I come from Spain, I took a job, I ended up in Vienna, but I belong to a fantastic category called expats,” she said about the classification and stereotyping of people.

Tapia, a former broadcast journalist, is the program manager at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), one of the EU’s decentralized agencies set up to provide expert advice to the EU’s institutions and member states on the people living therein.

Screen shot of e-Media Toolkit (courtesy fraEuropa)

She introduced FRA’s new e-learning platform produced by journalists for journalists to mark World Refugee Day on June 20.

An online e-Media Toolkit developed in cooperation with the European Broadcasting Union and the Ethical Journalism Network with the support of the European Federation of Journalists provides first-hand assistance to media professionals with learning resources, training courses, and opportunities to share and interact.

Abu-Fadil said she was commissioned to write a guide by the Thompson Foundation’s Open Media Hub (OMH) and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) in English that was translated to Arabic and French.

Then Open Media Hub asked her to turn it into workshops and she trained journalists in Tunis on how to cover the topic.

OMH and ICMPD, with European Union funding, also launched the Migration Media Award, of which she’s a jury member.

OMH also asked Abu-Fadil to create an online course based on the handbook. It’s self-paced, free, and available in four languages: English, Arabic, French, and Russian.

Online “Reporting on Migration” course

You can view the whole GEN discussion on YouTube.

MU Director to Cairo Confab: Fight Disinformation With MIL

“Don’t believe everything you see.”

That’s how Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil began a presentation with a picture of Britain’s Prince William seemingly giving someone the finger.

Seen from another angle, the Duke of Cambridge looked like he was gesturing with the number three – a significant difference.

Magda Abu-Fadil to Cairo confab: “Don’t believe everything you see.”

She was, once again, beating the Media and Information Literacy (MIL) drum, this time to an audience of students, faculty members, media and others at the American University in Cairo in April 2019 as a panelist at the “Cultivating Cooperation: How Industry and Academia Can Transform Digital Storytelling” conference co-organized by AUC and the Egypt Media Development Program.

AUC-EMPD conference flyer

She told them it can be confusing when ‘information disorder’ comes from the highest authority and showed a video of U.S. President Donald Trump in an Orwellian clip telling his audience not to believe what they saw in the media.

That’s why fact-checker has become a full-time job, like that of reporter, editor, producer, and infographic designer in many news organizations.

Abu-Fadil provided various case studies of MIL, the importance of critical thinking and that in an age of “fake news” and alternative facts students need to grasp the concept of media and information literacy to understand news as a means to detect ‘information disorder’ in obvious and subliminal messages.

UNESCO’s MIL concept

She presented the different types of literacies under the MIL umbrella as defined by
UNESCO: Information literacy, library literacy, freedom of expression and freedom of information literacy, digital literacy, computer literacy, internet literacy, games literacy, cinema literacy, television literacy, news literacy, advertising literacy, and media literacy.

Abu-Fadil said in 2016, UNESCO, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, published the “Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy in the Middle East and North Africa” yearbook for which she was the lead editor and key co-author.

Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy in the Middle East and North Africa

A newer book she co-authored for UNESCO is “Journalism, Fake News & Disinformation.” It’s also a university course that can be taught during a whole semester, or as modules in other courses.

Journalism, Fake News & Disinformation

The MU director spoke about entering dangerous territory in the digital era with artificial intelligence (AI), notably deepfake. She showed how a deepfake video is produced and how misleading it can be.

She said students should understand that privacy is dead and that anything they post on social media can (and very likely) will come back to haunt them.

UNESCO’s false experts chart

Another form of “disinformation” is manipulation of information with false experts: in academia, government, science, medicine, finance, the environment, and even the media.

Last, but not least, she plugged an older paper she wrote for UNESCO, “Media Literacy: A Tool to Combat Stereotypes and Promote Intercultural Understanding.”

MCD Interviews Abu-Fadil on “Fake News,” Media Literacy

Monte Carlo Doualiya radio interviewed Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil to discuss her take on mitigating the dangers of “fake news” and how journalists should verify sources.

Digital” show host Nayla Al Salibi dedicated a segment to Abu-Fadil’s media and information literacy chapter in the UNESCO book/course “Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation” and the tools needed to handle misleading news before it’s published.

Monte Carlo Doualiya’s “Digital” show interviewed MU director Abu-Fadil

Abu-Fadil shed light on journalists’ issues in dealing with social media and dubious platforms as well as media ethics in the digital age since photos, videos and audio content can be manipulated with ease.

She insisted the expression “fake news” should not be used since it’s been weaponized by politicians, notably U.S. President Donald Trump and others, against their adversaries.

Abu-Fadil said disinformation and misinformation in the “post-truth” and “alternative facts” age were more appropriate, depending on their respective contexts.

You can hear the interview here [ 3].

MU Director Equips Tunisian Media With Migration Coverage Know-How

Migration, refugees and human trafficking once again featured at a three-day workshop in Tunis grouping 16 journalists from various media who learned how to shape the story, focus the narrative, keep it ethical, and make it more relatable.

How to cover migration, refugees and human trafficking

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil, cameraman/editor David Hands and senior media training and exchange expert at the Open Media Hub Petko Georgiev led the mini-course.

Magda Abu-Fadil and David Hands mentor Tunisian journalists during workshop on migration and media

It aimed at helping the reporters and editors better understand the subject, identify who the stakeholders are, acquire the correct terminology to define people and their status, know where to dig for contextual information, and what traps to avoid when reporting the story.

 

Tunisian journalists complete in-session exercise

The workshop in November 2018 included journalists from Tunisia’s national television channel, newspapers, news websites, the state-run national news agency and radio stations.

They had proposed story ideas to pursue prior to the training and several went out with Hands to shoot footage and conduct interviews during the sessions.

 

David Hands helps edit footage for a migration story

On their return to the mentoring periods the journalists were then guided by Hands and Georgiev on the mechanics of assembling the elements into viable short pieces for broadcast while Abu-Fadil pitched in advice on ethics and interviewing techniques.

The previous week Abu-Fadil moderated a panel at the Assises Internationales Du Journalisme De Tunis where some 500 Francophone participants from Euromed and West African countries gathered to probe the question: Journalism Useful for Citizens?

Assises Internationales Du Journalisme De Tunis drew 500 Francophone participants from Euromed and West African countries

The three-day event in the Tunisian capital – almost 50 thematic sessions, debates, exhibitions and side activities – comes at a critical time when freedom of expression is being tested and violated on a daily basis in many of the countries from which the delegates hailed.

Abu-Fadil chaired a session entitled “No Useful Journalism Without Verification: How Do We Confirm An Image, Information?” during which she also plugged the UNESCO book she co-authored “Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation” .

 

Abu-Fadil (right) chairs panels on verification

The Assises Internationales Du Journalisme De Tunis is supported financially and programmatically by the Open Media Hub, which is implemented by the Thomson Foundation.

Abu-Fadil Teaches OMH “Reporting on Migration” Course

Journalists wishing to hone their skills on the issues of migration, refugees and human trafficking may take Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil’s online Open Media Hub course in English and Arabic.

Open Media Hub course sign-up page

The free, self-paced interactive “Reporting on Migration” course is divided into an introduction, three modules, and a wrap-up.

Module 1 focuses on migration terminology, key international organizations and NGOs involved in the issue. There’s a section on international and national legislation on migration. Participants are tested on what they’ve learned.

In module 2, participants learn the key steps to covering the migration story: research, data analysis, interviews, choosing visuals, the economics of migration, and, are shown case studies of good and bad reporting. They’re tested on what they’ve learned at the end of the module.

 

OMH “Reporting on Migration” course structure

Module 3 aims at ethics in reporting on migration with an emphasis on humanizing the story. Participants are taught the importance of verification and contextualization, the ethical use of photos and videos and their impact, obtaining consent before using people’s information and visuals, covering celebrities, and activism. Participants are tested on what they’ve learned at the end of the module.

The wrap-up consists of a final knowledge quiz, a summary and a list of further reading.

Open Media Hub falls under the Thomson Foundation umbrella and is funded by the European Union.

MU Director Trains Arab Media on Migration Coverage

Don’t take migration issues lightly, do proper research, never assume, avoid hate speech, stick to the facts, use visuals ethically and tell a good story.

That’s some of the advice Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil gave journalists at a three-day workshop in Tunis in September 2018 organized by the Open Media Hub, a European Union-funded initiative administered by the Thomson Foundation.

 

Magda Abu-Fadil explains the ethics of shooting photos and videos of migrants and refugees

The production-led training grouped print, radio, TV, online and multimedia journalists from Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Syria and provided them with tools aimed at improving their reporting on migration.

Cameraman/editor David Hands, senior media training and exchange expert at the Media Hub Project Petko Georgiev and Abu-Fadil were the instructors.

Migration and media – a complex topic to cover

They aimed to reinforce the journalists’ knowledge and abilities to help them achieve balance in their stories and provide unbiased public perception of migration.

Participants were asked earlier to submit a pitch for the story they intended to finalize during the workshop sessions.

Petko Georgiev, senior media training and exchange expert at Media Hub Project and cameraman/editor David Hands

The stories will be broadcast/published in their respective news outlets and made available on the Open Media Hub’s platform and website, for exchange between participants locally and internationally.

The workshop was built on a text Abu-Fadil wrote, “Migration and Media: A Journalist’s Handbook” – a cooperative project of the Open Media Hub, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), and Euromed Migration with funding from the EU – that will be available online in English, Arabic and French.

Migration and Media: A Journalist’s Handbook

The handbook was also turned into an OMH online course in the three languages.

 

The importance of visuals in media coverage

The objective was to ensure journalists have a basic firm understanding of the complex issues of migration, refugees, and human trafficking and their impact on the politics, economics, demographics, environment, security, education and cultures of affected countries and beyond.

The trainers spent half the workshop mentoring their charges by helping them fine-tune proposals to produce viable reports and provided useful technical tips on video and audio production.

 

Mentoring journalists on how best to cover the topic

Another hitch is the lack of adequate resources and support from news organizations, so the Open Media Hub has stepped in to help defray the cost of travel and local coverage to journalists pitching credible stories that may then qualify for the EU-funded Migration Media Award (MMA). 

 

EU Ambassador to Tunisia Patrice Bergamini at the Migration Media Award

Several of the workshop participants were winners of the 2018 MMA in its second edition and hope to secure financial backing for follow-up stories.

As a member of the jury for Arabic-language media, Abu-Fadil presented the first prize in print to Egyptian journalist Ibrahim Mustafa whose story “Europe is Not Paradise” was published in the daily Al Akhbar.

 

Abu-Fadil handing Arabic Migration Media Award first prize in print

The MMA for print, radio, TV and multimedia stories in Arabic, English and French was launched in 2017 to recognize excellence, relevance and newsworthiness of journalistic pieces dealing with migration in all its aspects in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

 

End of a successful workshop

This year’s awards focused on diaspora, labor migration, vulnerable groups, and legal and irregular migration.

Abu-Fadil Pens MIL Chapter in UNESCO “Fake News” Course/Book

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil wrote a teaching module on media and information literacy in a course aimed at creating awareness about “fake news.”

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization supported the initiative as part of UNESCO’s Excellence in Journalism Education Series for the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

The result: “Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation” published in the summer of 2018.

She joined a stellar group of journalists, academics and media experts in producing the course that can also be used by newsrooms and anyone concerned by the distortion of information.

This handbook for journalism education and training is a 128-page compendium of seven modules comprising lessons, exercises, assignments, activities, materials, and resources to create awareness about an increasingly relevant topic. The full text can be downloaded here.

It explores the very nature of journalism with modules on why trust matters; thinking critically about how digital technology and social platforms are conduits of information disorder; fighting back against disinformation and misinformation through media and information literacy; fact-checking 101; social media verification and combatting online abuse.

Abu-Fadil’s contribution, Module 4 “Combatting Disinformation and Misinformation Through Media and Information Literacy (MIL)” can be downloaded separately here.

MU Director Boosts LAU Marcom Team Skills

A two-day strategic communications workshop helped staffers at the Lebanese American University (LAU) beef up their writing and editing skills by thinking like journalists.

Good writing tips from Magda Abu-Fadil

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil put members of the Marketing and Communications (Marcom) team through the paces of researching, reporting, editing, visualizing and engaging through social media in August 2018 to boost the LAU brand across multiple platforms.

She created a newsroom environment simulating fieldwork that requires on-the-scene reporting, shooting pictures and videos, and interacting with newsmakers in their academic world.

LAU’s Marcom editorial team sharpen writing-editing skills

The intense sessions focused on what skills journalists need to operate in a digital-first environment where search engine and social media optimization can determine what news attracts the requisite attention.

The workshop examined the very essence of news and its sources, the key to writing strong leads, fine-tuning quotations, and using contextual details to bolster elements of a story.

Abu-Fadil dedicated a session to media ethics, the need to be mindful of proper sourcing, and how to avoid the dissemination of mis- or disinformation.

The power of headlines

Each session included exercises and quizzes to test participants’ grasp of the topics.

The Marcom staffers also learned how to hone their headline writing skills by using action verbs, word association, quotes from stories, substituting words with punctuation marks, ensuring the story title leads readers into the main text, and optimizing it for search engines and social media.

Abu-Fadil gave trainees a general knowledge quiz, cautioned them about oxymorons, and refreshed their memories on the importance of correct grammar and punctuation, with case studies of common errors as well as good writing examples.

Covering academic news like a professional journalist

Given Marcom’s mandate, participants also worked on the public relations aspect of communication by improving their writing of news releases and how best to pitch stories to various media.

The MU director helped the trainees better craft their coverage of speeches, meetings, and news conferences. She also provided tips on how to write solid feature stories.

The importance of accurate visuals in storytelling

LAU’s campuses in Beirut and Byblos provide an ample supply of events and people to highlight.

An important part of the training included mock TV interviews with staffers acting as reporter and interviewee while Abu-Fadil shot sequences that were later evaluated for strengths and weaknesses.

Trainees go through the paces of on-camera interviews

Equally vital is the use of visual elements like photos, videos, infographics, and illustrations. Trainees sharpened their caption-writing abilities and learned how to turn photo captions into mini-stories.

 

Abu-Fadil on Media Literacy at GEN-Organized “Unconference”

Four speakers, including Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil, challenged participants at an “unconference” to help promote media literacy and mitigate damage from disinformation, social media abuse and various forms of manipulation via news and other outlets.

Magda Abu-Fadil on importance of media literacy at International Journalism Festival (courtesy Bartolomeo Rossi)

The “unconference” – different from a classical conference where speakers and sessions are defined – allowed participants to set the agenda and contribute solutions to problems.

Abu-Fadil’s challenge: How to find resources for media literacy courses. Who will pay and/or wants to pay for them?

 

IJF 2018 speaker

Her frame of reference was Lebanon in particular and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region in general with a need to provide such skills in multiple relevant languages.

The Global Editors Network (GEN) organized the “unconference” at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy in April 2018.

 

GEN CEO Bertrand Pecquerie guides media literacy “unconference” (courtesy IJF)

It grouped GEN CEO Bertrand Pecquerie as moderator, Dan Gillmor, a digital media literacy and entrepreneurship professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, George Brock, a journalist, consultant and visiting professor at London’s City University, Barbara Huppe, chief marketing officer at Hubii, a local news aggregator-cum-blockchain technology firm, and Abu-Fadil.

Pequerie facilitated a discussion with the audience asking participants to provide ideas, recommendations and various options for the four challenges.

The full “unconference” can be viewed here.

MU Director Contributes to UNESCO Internet Universality Indicators

How can one establish indicators for the Internet and make them universal when governments can’t agree on the degree of freedom and access their citizens should have online, and, whether doing so is a human right.

 

 

Defining Internet Universality Indicators

A daunting task UNESCO has been undertaking in a bid to produce a document member states will approve after which comes the equally formidable mission of implementing what’s been agreed upon.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil pitched in after receiving the second of two drafts that came up for discussion at an invitation-only roundtable, and open follow-up session, at the annual International Journalism Festival (IJF) in Perugia, Italy in April 2018.

UNESCO, the UN agency with primary responsibility for media freedom and journalists’ safety, is consulting worldwide on what’s worth counting when assessing the Internet. The final ‘indicators’ will form an international standard for mapping national experiences – and for identifying where there are shortfalls.  But where do journalism and the news media fit in within UNESCO’s paradigm called “Internet Universality”? UNESCO uses the acronym ROAM to identify the key principles of Internet Universality. R for Rights, O for Openness, A for accessibility and M for Multistakeholder participation in Internet governance. In terms of R(ights), how should assessments consider press freedom, journalists’ digital safety, and confidentiality of journalists’ sources and investigations? What indicators relevant to journalism come under O(penness) – encompassing open and transparent standards, markets and content? In regard to A(ccessibility), to what extent can news literacy and access to the Internet for researching and publishing journalism be included as issues worthy of attention? And, for (M)ultistakeholder participation in Internet governance issues, how significant is it to assess processes as to whether journalists are actively involved? 

Abu-Fadil (front row shooting video of women foreign correspondents session) at IJF in Perugia (courtesy Silvia Mazzocchin)

The second phase kicked in from December 2017 to March 2018, with a final report submitted to UNESCO at the end of April for consideration in September.

Julie Posetti, senior research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) at Oxford University, led the roundtable that grouped Dr. Alexandra Borchardt (RISJ), Prof. Jeff Jarvis from City University in New York, and Prof. Chris Anderson of Leeds University as the other three speakers assigned to provide key input.

Julie Posetti, senior research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University

 Sixteen other international experts shared invaluable comments and insights at that gathering.