Lebanese Media Ethically Unmoored Covering Revolution: MU Director

Lebanese media seem ethically unmoored amid a revolution that began in October 2019 with the spread of misleading, suspicious and unverified news via WhatsApp and other means, Magda Abu-Fadil told Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya’s “Digital” program.

“Unfortunately, traditional and social media platforms are used as weapons to launch verbal wars among parties, individuals and political groups,” said the Media Unlimited director.

She said countless journalists acted unprofessionally and lacked the requisite background in history, geography, economics and politics in which they’re mired and which they don’t fully comprehend.

Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya’s “Digital” program

“They’re spoon-fed by politicians and they’ve been bred on this,” she said, adding that she wouldn’t generalize because there are professional and articulate journalists.

Since the uprising began on October 17, there’s been an abnormal slide downward, and journalists working for TV channels, for example, have been using hashtags to attack assorted and sundry on social media, Abu-Fadil noted.

“That’s unacceptable, it diminishes their credibility,” she said.

Journalists have also been seen arguing heatedly, or practically fighting, with demonstrators in Lebanon live on the air over political and other issues.

“Journalists should not become the news,” cautioned Abu-Fadil. “Journalists cover the news, but some of them have over-inflated egos and consider themselves newsworthy, which is a big mistake because there’s a red line they shouldn’t cross.”

Another issue she touched on was the upsurge in coverage of humanitarian cases with the growing impact of the economic crisis in Lebanon and TV channels competing to show the most misery by barging into people’s homes with their microphones, lights and cameras to highlight the decrepit houses and horrible conditions in which they live.

“They ask questions like ‘how do you feel living in a house that’s crumbling over your head?’ It’s shameful,” she said. “There’s people’s dignity to consider.”

Abu-Fadil said it was the responsibility of the journalists and those who direct news teams to demonstrate more sensitivity and ethics in such reporting, adding that there’s an obvious lack of training.

“Quite often it’s also because there isn’t enough time: Journalists tell me ‘you train us and give us advice, but the boss says we can’t do it, or the editor says there isn’t time,’” she said. “That’s unacceptable, there’s such a thing as media ethics.”

A sad case study she mentioned reflects the reality of the situation.

A veteran journalist wrote an op-ed in a major Lebanese Arabic-language newspaper which he plagiarized in its entirety from an article that appeared earlier in English, also in Lebanon.

When the original author exposed him on Twitter, the journalist apologized, but it was a lame regret.

Magda Abu-Fadil’s reaction to a tweet about the plagiarized article

“It’s clear the person who plagiarized, who stole the article, has no ethics, is lacking in creativity, because he reached a dead end, where he couldn’t write any more,” Abu-Fadil said. “It happened to me years ago when I was a correspondent in Washington and the bureau chief used to steal my articles and delete my byline from stories or scoops and reports to make it appear as if he wrote them.”

Abu-Fadil said journalism education must keep up with the state of the industry and technology and journalists should attend regular workshops to update and upgrade their skills to be fully functional in a digital multimedia ecosystem, notably when faced with crises such as the one Lebanon is experiencing.

Abu-Fadil Draws Line Between Free Speech, Insults in Lebanese Media

A two-month-plus revolution in Lebanon has brought out the worst in people, with countless traditional and social media spreading hate speech, insults and instigation to violence, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told Medi1Radio.

“The very thin line between insults and freedom of expression in the media is when you violate other people’s rights and don’t give them the opportunity to express their views, as often occurs in traditional and social media in Lebanon,” she said. “Unfortunately, we see politicized and biased media.”

Correspondent Khaldoun Zeineddine reported that freedom of expression was enshrined in the preamble to the Lebanese constitution but asked if the protesters against a corrupt system and failed economic policies had contributed to confusing freedom with insults.

“Some protesters have contributed to mixing between freedom of expression and abuses, given their lack of arguments and critical thinking, and the culture of civilized debate, but that doesn’t apply to everyone,” Abu-Fadil added.

The brief interview can be heard below.

 

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 to MCD: Newsrooms Have Ethical Duties

Legacy newsrooms face immense challenges in dealing with media ethics in the digital age, notably with competition from social networks and platforms, but have a responsibility to maintain their credibility and professionalism, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya (MCD).

“To determine the accuracy of information in digital pictures, for example, there are applications (apps) one can use to trace their origin,” she said. “Is the picture an original? Was it stolen from somewhere? Was it tampered with?”

Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya

In Part 2 of an interview on MCD, Abu-Fadil discussed the dilemma editors face in determining what photos, videos and text to disseminate when the content is sensitive, offensive and tragic.

She pointed to a number of apps and tools used in verifying content to find out if it’s plagiarized.

What’s key is to deliver information that’s accurate, balanced, that doesn’t deviate from humanity and that’s ethical, Abu-Fadil insisted, noting that critical thinking is very important but that many journalists don’t always use it in their work.

Abu-Fadil advised journalists and news organizations to be completely transparent when mistakes are made and to admit and correct them immediately if they’re to maintain their credibility.

She discussed the impact of “fake news,” “post-truth,” and “alternative facts” during a segment of the program “Digital” in February 2018 hosted by Nayla Salibi.

Part 1 of the interview can be heard here.

Media Ethics in Digital Age Imperative: Abu-Fadil

Media Ethics require critical thinking, notably when social media are used to spread harmful content, Magda Abu-Fadil told Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya.

“Ethics are in a state of disarray because although digital media are good, attractive and fast as they disseminate information, visuals and sound with speed, critical thinking to choose the words, pictures, sound bites and videos isn’t as readily available as in the past,” the Media Unlimited director explained.

Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya

There’s fierce competition between legacy media and citizen journalists in addition to all other social media output, so whoever publishes material is breathless (in his/her attempt to be out there), which is very dangerous, she added.

“The result is that what’s being published, quite often, is not just unethical and disturbing, but downright criminal,” Abu-Fadil said.

She discussed the impact of “fake news,” “post-truth,” and “alternative facts” in the age of competing social platforms during a segment of the program “Digital” in January 2018 hosted by Nayla Salibi.

The full interview can be heard and downloaded here.

Lebanese Journalists Need Training on Migrant/Refugee Coverage: Abu-Fadil

Lebanese journalists are mostly ill equipped to cover the migrant and refugee story, with reporting ranging from hate speech to a sympathetic approach, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told an Austrian newspaper.

Media coverage of migrants and refugees in Lebanon is a mixed bag: it includes xenophobia and fear mongering as well as more humanitarian reporting,” she said. “But a major problem is that journalists do this along with coverage of other news and have to juggle many priorities with increasingly shrinking resources, so it’s a challenge.”

Abu-Fadil was interviewed by the Salzburger Nachrichten on her contribution to two international reports on how media have covered the migrant and refugee crisis, notably in the Euro Mediterranean region.

“Additionally, nobody is trained to cover migrant and refugee issues,” she said. “There’s a need for such training and for understanding the consequences of the stress placed on journalists who cover this crisis.”

This is a [PDF] of the article, including views from various experts.

Magda Abu-Fadil: Journalists Over-Stretched, Underpaid

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told the Open Media Hub over-stretched and underpaid Lebanese journalists find covering the migration and refugee story challenging.

Magda Abu-Fadil on Lebanese media’s coverage of migration-refugee story

“Journalists quite often have too much on their plate…they don’t have a regular beat called migration or refugee problems,” she said of reporters having to cover several different stories on a given day.

She was interviewed about the challenges of reporting on migration at the launch of the 2017 Migration Media Award, on which she served as a member of the jury.

The interview can be viewed here.

Is It Time to Teach Media and Information Literacy (MIL)?

A rhetorical question Al Ain TV (UAE) asked in a post to introduce an interview with Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil.

MU Director Magda Abu-Fadil discusses MIL on Al Ain TV

Abu-Fadil, the lead editor and co-author of “Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy (MIL) in the Middle East and North Africa,” spoke of the importance of incorporating MIL in curricula, of promoting critical thinking, and of reinforcing awareness to combat online hate speech and fake news.

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

The book, in English and Arabic, was funded by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and UNESCO and published by Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

The interview in Arabic can be viewed here.

 

Media literacy key ‘to combating fake news, hate speech’: Abu-Fadil

Media literacy in the Arab world is still “nascent,” but building awareness of critical-thinking skills can help fight fake news and hate speech, an expert in the field has said.

Arab News interview with Magda Abu-Fadil

Seasoned journalist Magda Abu-Fadil — who has worked for international news organizations like Agence France-Presse (AFP) and United Press International (UPI), and now runs workshops for journalists — was lead editor of “Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).”

The book, published late last year, is a group effort by media experts to document the state of media and information literacy — and, said Abu-Fadil, “often the lack, or scant application” of it — in this region.

The complete May 16, 2017 interview in Arab News is available here.

Media Education in Lebanon Needs Revisiting: Abu-Fadil

Media education in Lebanon needs revisiting as faculty members and curricula are often well behind the times leaving graduates unable to meet market needs.

“The gap begins with curricula that resemble poems of the Jahiliyya (pre-Islamic) era,” said Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil who spent years trying to upgrade courses at two universities in Lebanon but was often met with academic and bureaucratic obstructionists.

Al Jazeera Journalism Review

Al Jazeera Journalism Review

She said many of the instructors teaching journalism and media courses had never worked in the field and had never run newsrooms, leading to a disconnect between academia and the media to fulfill job requirements.

Abu-Fadil, who was interviewed by the Al Jazeera Journalism Review, said journalism and media studies graduates who do not acquire the necessary skills may latch on to superficial manifestations like the latest technology and social media, rather than pay attention to news substance regardless of the platform.

“Sadly, there’s a big drop in the command of languages (stressing the importance of mastering several in a globalized world), a shortage of critical thinking, little grasp of general knowledge, not to mention media ethics that’s almost non-existent, and, a problem of accuracy, balance, and verification in light of everything that’s published on social media,” she noted.

Asked whether the media weren’t also to blame for promoting journalists and presenters who were ill qualified, Abu-Fadil replied: “Everyone is responsible because media want to attract audiences, but in an era of cutbacks, sliding revenues, a switch to online/mobile/interactive digital media, there’s a great need to change employers’ mindsets.”

She said media’s role should be to benefit and enlighten readers, listeners, viewers and browsers, not just owners, adding that Lebanese media are also constrained by political, sectarian and economic factors.