MU Director Speaks on Media/Migrant/Refugee Coverage, Presents Award

International organizations and government officials are paying attention to the need for collaboration with media on the migrant/refugee crisis to mitigate a rising tide of xenophobia egged on by false and toxic reporting.

The International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), partnering with the European Union (EU), Euro Mediterranean Migration IV (EMM4) and the government of Malta, organized the “Director General Conference: Balancing the Narrative on Migration, The Role of Media and Policymakers” in Valetta in June 2017 aimed at balancing the narrative on migration.

Narrative on migration and media conference

Topics included a panel on the role of the media and migration reporting in informing the public during which Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil presented a Lebanese social media case study of politics, sectarianism, xenophobia, hate speech, a counter-narrative, and, pushback from maligned parties.

The conference grouped policymakers, media representatives and academics who discussed how media and different stakeholder groups, including policymakers, communicate on migration, how the media gather, use and convey migration-related data, and how this ultimately influences the narrative and public opinion on migration.

 

Magda Abu-Fadil presents Lebanese social media case study

Abu-Fadil also spoke of the importance of promoting critical thinking, and reinforcing awareness to combat online hate speech and fake news against migrants and refugees through media, information and news literacy.

 

Organizers, along with Open Media Hub hosted in Valetta the first Migration Media Award for journalistic excellence on migration in the Euro-Mediterranean region. It’s an EU-funded journalism competition for which Abu-Fadil served as one of the judges.

 

Migration Media Award recipients and judges

It recognized 35 journalists from 16 countries for their journalistic excellence in reporting on migration in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

Abu-Fadil handed the first prize in the print category to Moroccan journalist Salaheddine Lemaizi for his winning entry “Right to Asylum: What to do with Syrian Refugees?”

 

Abu-Fadil hands Migration Media Award to Salaheddine Lemaizi

The winning entries featured fact-based and impartial reporting on the complexity of migration, its many challenges and opportunities.

UNESCO/IFJ Launch Journalists Safety University Course

UNESCO’s Beirut office and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) launched the “Model Course on Safety of Journalists,” to help lessen dangers to media workers by incorporating a safety course in university curricula across the Middle East/North Africa (MENA).

The course covers: a broad introduction to journalism safety and threats to media workers; planning for personal safety; personal health care and trauma in hostile environments; risk assessment; travel security; digital security; gender and safe reporting; covering demonstrations and civil unrest; human rights and humanitarian law; ethics; and, safety and investigative journalism.

IFJ’s Anthony Bellanger, Lebanese Education Ministry’s Ahmad Jammal and UNESCO’s Sylvie Coudray and George Awad

It was published and launched in Beirut, Lebanon in May 2017 in hard copy in English and Arabic. It is available as downloadable PDFs in both languages as a gift to academics and students.

Arabic version of safety course

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil, Michael Foley, and Clare Arthurs prepared the 174-page English version to shed light on fatalities, injuries, and disappearances that are at record highs in the MENA region and prepare students for dangers they’re likely to face.

Lebanese University professor Hassana Rachid translated the book to Arabic.

Foley is a former journalist who moved into academia, as did Arthurs, a BBC journalist-turned-instructor and trainer.

 

Magda Abu-Fadil presents lessons in safety for journalists course

Abu-Fadil is a veteran journalist who has worked in the staid halls of academe, where media curricula in the MENA countries have not always kept pace with the skills needed and job market requirements.

Abu-Fadil Raises Media Ethics Issues at COPEAM 2017 Confab

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told a Beirut conference the issue of fake news may cause extensive damage and provided examples of how Photoshopped pictures and distorted videos go viral on social media.

RAI President Monica Maggioni, Anna Lindh Foundation Executive Director Hatem Atallah, Media Unlimited Director Magda Abu-Fadil and AFP video journalist Will Vassilopoulos

“Professionalism and media ethics equal a winning equation in the 21st Century,” she said at the “Mediterranean Storytelling: Complexities, Media Response and Public Opinion” event, adding that today’s wars and crises are defined as social media and fabricated news conflicts.

Abu-Fadil was speaking at the at the 24th Annual Conference and 23rd General Assembly of COPEAM, the Permanent Conference of Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators in Beirut, Lebanon, in May 2017.

She joined experts seeking solutions to coverage of complex issues, notably migration, terrorism, fake news, their impact, and audience behavior.

COPEAM is a non-profit association devoted to the promotion of dialogue and cultural integration in the Mediterranean region through the involvement of the audiovisual sector’s major players.

 

COPEAM conferees discuss their roles and responsibilities

These include public service radio and TV broadcasters of 26 countries, as well as professional and cultural associations, higher education institutions, and, independent producers and local authorities from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Rome-based COPEAM groups 60 members. It acts on a multilateral cooperation formula aimed at enhancing and exchanging expertise within its network.

MU Director Addresses Online Youth Violent Extremism at Beirut Conference

Reforming religious curricula is incomplete in the Arab world and must be revisited, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told a Beirut conference during a panel on incitement to violence on social media and youth radicalization.

 

Religious teachings and academic curricula need revisiting

“There’s an urgent need to change and modernize school and university curricula in the Arab world,” she said about media, information, news and religious literacy. “We should encourage critical thinking at all levels, particularly in the use of social media.”

Abu-Fadil was speaking at “The International Conference on Youth and Information and Communication Technologies: Preventing Violent Extremism in Cyberspace” in May 2017.

 

Magda Abu-Fadil urges curricula reform and modernization

It grouped academics, media, security, development, and other specialists to discuss, recommend and share tangible solutions to the spread of aggressive behavior in reality and through various online platforms.

Understanding the discourse involves clear definitions of key words and the loaded meanings used to describe what we face, experts said.

 

Key words, loaded meanings

They include violent radicalism, radical Islam, extreme Islamic radicalism, national terrorism, national threat, extreme violence, jihad, indoctrination, terrorism, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, extreme right, extreme left, religious extremism, fundamentalism, anti-Semitism, nativism, Islamophobia, eco-terrorism, inspired by Al Qaeda, inspired by ISIS, and anti-capitalism.

The event, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO and the Information for All Program, was a follow-up to an earlier conference in Quebec City, Canada, in November 2016 during which Abu-Fadil spoke on female radicalization.

 

Preventing violent extremism in cyberspace conference

Participants hailed from Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, France, Ghana, Grenada, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, the Netherlands, Oman, the Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Qatar.

The conference’s principle objectives were to identify the means and ways the Internet is being used to spread, hatred, discrimination, radicalization and violent extremism.

It also aimed at identifying effective measures to prevent and counter the online propagation of violence, as well as presenting/sharing best practices in using the Internet to promote a culture of peace.

MIL to Mitigate Violent Extremism

Experts met at United Nations headquarters to discuss how best to mitigate violent extremism and incorporate their findings into viable educational frameworks against a backdrop of mounting xenophobia, hate speech, and a deficit in critical thinking.

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, High Representative for the UNAOC (UNAOC photo)

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, High Representative for the UNAOC (UNAOC photo)

The February 2017 New York forum, co-organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations’ (UNAOC) Media and Information Literacy program and the United Nations Academic Impact’s (UNAI) Unlearning Intolerance program, was themed “Media and Information Literacy: Educational Strategies for the Prevention of Violent Extremism.”

Jordi Torrent, UNAOC's Media Literacy Education Project Manager, UNAOC (UNAOC photo)

Jordi Torrent, UNAOC’s Media Literacy Education Project Manager, UNAOC (UNAOC photo)

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil was part of the event with a presentation featuring case studies of positive initiatives from the Middle East and North Africa region that succeeded in mitigating violent extremism through engagement with youth.

Magda Abu-Fadil addresses UNAOC conference in New York

Magda Abu-Fadil addresses UNAOC conference in New York

She also highlighted examples of sedition, hate speech and xenophobia that are increasingly being disseminated via social media.

Her presentation is available in her Huffington Post contribution and LinkedIn blogpost.

The forum saw the Americas’ launch of the recently published “Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy in the Middle East and North Africa,” for which Abu-Fadil was the lead editor and a co-author.

Presentation of MENA MIL book co-edited-co-authored by Abu-Fadil (UNAOC photo)

Presentation of MENA MIL book co-edited, co-authored by Abu-Fadil (UNAOC photo)

The book was co-published by UNAOC, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Nordic Documentation Center for Mass Communication Research (NORDICOM).

Abu-Fadil stressed the crucial need for media and information literacy (MIL) worldwide as well as the necessity for news and religion literacy to combat today’s toxic environment.

Regina de Assis, former Secretary of Education, Ministry of Education, Brazil (UNAOC photo)

Regina de Assis, former Secretary of Education, Ministry of Education, Brazil (UNAOC photo)

She’s been trying to create awareness on the subject in the Middle East and North Africa region for decades.

In 1999, a colleague from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and Abu-Fadil designed a cross-cultural media project.

In 2007, she presented a paper for a UNESCO world literacy conference in Doha, Qatar entitled “Media Literacy: A Tool to Combat Stereotypes and Promote Intercultural Understanding.”

Guy Berger, UNESCO's Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development

Guy Berger, UNESCO’s Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development

These are just two of the many articles, chapters in books and blogposts she’s published. She’s written, spoken, and trained extensively on the subject.

#SpreadNoHate Brussels Confab Strikes Timely Note

News of a U.S. travel ban on citizens from mostly Muslim countries, revved-up populist rhetoric and anti-migrant/refugee campaigns snowballed as an international symposium tagged #SpreadNoHate offered an opposing scenario with recommendations to fight the venom.

“When one minority comes under attack, everyone’s freedom is at stake,” said Federica Mogherini to a symposium in Brussels in January 2017 hours before the travel ban took effect. “When people are discriminated (against) because they look different, it’s not only a violation of their human rights, but an attack against the very fabric of our societies.”

Federica Mogherini's video message on hate speech

Federica Mogherini’s video message on hate speech

Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, told conferees in a video message that the rise of hate speech was a global phenomenon requiring global awareness and local mobilization.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil moderated the first session and asked if media and information literacy could mitigate the damage of hate speech and if so, how?

Magda Abu-Fadil (center) moderates #SpreadNoHate panel

Magda Abu-Fadil (center) moderates #SpreadNoHate panel

She also stirred the debate pot by wondering whether governments, Internet service providers, and social media should control the message, if legacy media should be restrained in what they publish once offensive content has gone viral on social media, and, who else was to blame for fanning the flames of populism.

The event organized by the European Union External Action and United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) focused on hate speech against migrants and refugees in the media and grouped experts, journalists, academics, government officials and members of NGOs from across the globe.

Hate speech debated at Brussels symposium

Hate speech debated at Brussels symposium

“Hate speech is a violation of freedom of expression,” noted Cécile Kyenge, a member of the European Parliament and a former minister of integration in Italy, adding that that freedom was a pillar of all democratic societies.

MEP Cécile Kyenge (courtesy Virginie van Elbmt)

MEP Cécile Kyenge (courtesy Virginie van Elbmt)

Kyenge, an ophthalmologist who was born in the Congo, has experienced racism and hate speech first hand. A former government minister called her an orangutan and detractors tossed bananas at her while on a podium to speak, according media reports.

Spread No Hate publications

Spread No Hate publications

The UNAOC symposium was organized within the framework of its #SpreadNoHate initiative given the rising rhetoric of hate speech and incitement against migrants and refugees across Europe and elsewhere.

The daylong event’s themes were: media and the rise of populism; triggers and mechanisms of hate speech against migrants and refugees; improving the quality of media coverage about migrants and refugees; promoting ethical journalism; strengthening partnerships between media and civil society to promote balanced narratives; and providing recommendations on next steps to sustain the initiative.

MU Director on Arab Media Coverage of Migrants, Refugees at Brussels Press Club

Arab media’s coverage of the migrant/refugee crisis has seesawed from humane to atrocious, with Lebanon providing case studies of how ethical reporting hasn’t always been a priority.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil spoke at the Brussels Press Club on the need for better training of journalists who cover this expanding beat, and for other stakeholders to learn how to communicate effectively about the issue.

MU director talks on Lebanese media coverage of migrants, refugees

MU director talks on Lebanese media coverage of migrants, refugees

“Policymakers have to understand the news cycle,” and newsworthiness, and not flood already over-stretched journalists with jargon-filled releases and irrelevant material, she said at the event dubbed Towards a Balanced Narrative on Migration in the Mediterranean.

Asked how to handle viral hate speech in the media, Abu-Fadil replied: “Let’s not give too much airtime to lunatics.’

The one-day symposium in January 2017 organized by Euromed Migration IV, a program funded by the European Union and led by the EU Commission’s Directorate General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations, grouped some 100 policymakers and experts.

Maltese Foreign Minister George Vella, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency and has provided shelter for countless migrants from Africa, was on hand to launch the “Migration Media Award.”

Maltese Foreign Minister George Vella announcing Migration Media Award launch

Maltese Foreign Minister George Vella announcing Migration Media Award launch

The event also saw the release of preliminary findings of the Ethical Journalism Network’s (EJN) 17-country study on migration in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Abu-Fadil wrote the report’s Lebanon chapter.

EJN’s draft migration and media report

EJN’s draft migration and media report

EJN director Aidan White presented initial findings and recommendations of the report commissioned by the International Center for Migration Policy Development.

EJN Director Aidan White

EJN Director Aidan White

The study reveals how journalism in the countries surveyed is a distorting lens: a magnifying glass…exposing inhumanity and corruption in the way migrants are treated, and following an agenda triggering discrimination and hate to compound the suffering of migration victims.

Media, migration report at Brussels Press Club

Media, migration report at Brussels Press Club

 

MU Director on Female Internet Radicalization at UNESCO Quebec Meet

Why do young people, including girls and women, turn radical and what role does the Internet play in their radicalization?

A question Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil tried to answer in the workshop “Gender Perspectives and the Process of Radicalization” at the UNESCO conference “Internet and the Radicalization of Youth: Preventing, Acting and Living Together“ in Quebec, Canada in November 2016.

Abu-Fadil on female Internet radicalization

Abu-Fadil on female Internet radicalization

She referred to research by Lebanese sociologist Mona Fayyad who said high crime rates in crowded urban areas, notably poverty belts surrounding major cities, often go undetected by social monitoring and supervision, leading to an increased possibility of crimes and violence alongside a collapse of traditional structures.

Fayyad focused on Syrian refugees and migrants in Lebanon and their exposure to untold horrors and injustices possibly leading to deviant behavior. Lebanon hosts upwards of 1.5 million Syrian refugees and migrants who escaped the war in their country, depending on whose figures one believes.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon may add to security threat

Syrian refugees in Lebanon may add to security threat

According to women experts on a BBC Arabic TV show, many of the recruits fighting in Arab countries come from abroad. While home grown female jihadists in Iraq exist, for example, many others hail from Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Europe and Russia.

One researcher said women recruits exhibited character weakness, a proclivity to violence, a need for escape (from their reality), and were in search of alternatives.

Sadly, authorities in many countries treat the symptom, not the cause, of radicalization, Abu-Fadil said.

What draws women and girls to extremist organizations? Females join ISIS ranks to follow boyfriends, husbands, siblings or other family members.

Female jihadists duped

Female jihadists duped

In most cases, it’s under the false pretense of a better, holier and more exciting life. To their horror, they discover it’s all a hoax.

Among the non-Muslim-majority countries, Russia, France, and Germany supply the largest numbers of ISIS’ foreign workforce, a World Bank study said.

Recommendations on tackling female radicalization

Recommendations on tackling female radicalization

A writeup of Abu-Fadil’s presentation is available here.

Abu-Fadil Edits/Co-Authors Media & Information Literacy Book

Do Middle East/North Africa (MENA) consumers and producers of media in all their permutations and across countless platforms fully comprehend what they’re doing and how they fit in the larger scheme of things?

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil traced her trajectory into the realm of media and information literacy (MIL) in Lebanon dating back to 1999 in a virtual cross-cultural academic and journalistic experiment with a professor and his students from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.

MENA MIL book (Abu-Fadil)

Abu-Fadil has contributed various chapters to books and has written articles on the subject, all of which were summarized and compiled in a chapter in the English/Arabic book “Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy in the Middle East and North Africa,” published by the International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth & Media at Nordicom, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, with support from UNESCO and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations).

Abu-Fadil (center) and international experts launch MENA MIL book in Amman

Abu-Fadil (center) and international experts launch MENA MIL book in Amman

In the introduction to the book, Abu-Fadil also wrote:

There has never been a more propitious time than the present to promote, teach, and engage with media and information literacy (MIL) in all its permutations across the Middle East/North Africa region, notably the Arab states that are undergoing tectonic changes.

The very notion of MIL is nascent in most of the countries surveyed herein and the application of programs falling under the MIL umbrella varies from almost non-existent to relatively dynamic, albeit on a limited scale. 

That is due, in great measure, to the variety of educational systems across the Arab world, although there is also common ground in that the top-down imparting of information (not always knowledge) has been the rule rather than the exception and can still be seen in schools and universities. 

Critical thinking has yet to take root across the board. There are examples of educational institutions where it has been encouraged but various factors come into play in its application.

Abu-Fadil is the lead editor of this reference and a key co-author. She helped launch the book in Amman, Jordan in October 2016.

MU Director on Journo Safety, Disinformation & Freedom of Expression at Helsinki WPFD

Too many journalists are victims of violence and impunity and more should be done in academia to prepare media students for the perils they’re likely to face.

“I urge all faculty members here to incorporate a course on safety for journalists in their curricula,” Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told academics and media experts in Helsinki. “It’s not a luxury, it’s an urgent necessity.”

Magda Abu-Fadil on safety for journalists

Magda Abu-Fadil on safety for journalists

Abu-Fadil was addressing the UNESCO Research Conference on Safety of Journalists in connection with World Press Freedom Day in May 2016 the Finnish capital.

According to UNESCO, one journalist is killed every five days in the line of duty and the impunity of such acts is unabated.

One journalist is killed every five days in the line of duty

One journalist is killed every five days in the line of duty

Unlike the issues of journalism and freedom of expression, journalists’ safety has not been a very popular topic of academic research. It has rarely been discussed as a specific research question, much less in practical courses.

Guy Berger, UNESCO’s director of the Division for Freedom of Expression and Media Development

Guy Berger, UNESCO’s director of the Division for Freedom of Expression and Media Development 

“Press freedom depends on safety,” noted Guy Berger, UNESCO’s director of the Division for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at the opening of a parallel research conference, adding that 95% of attacks on media staffers are never resolved.

UNESCO WPFD parallel conference on journalists' safety

UNESCO WPFD parallel conference on journalists’ safety

Abu-Fadil participated in another session on new frontiers in disinformation and the use of propaganda.

Panelists discussed various aspects of media’s misleading messages, hate speech, phony photographs and visuals, manipulation by terrorist groups, and, the proliferation of news websites as a counterforce to government-controlled media and corporate monopolies.

Abu-Fadil (second from right) tackles new frontiers in disinformation

Abu-Fadil (second from right) tackles new frontiers in disinformation

This year’s WPFD coincided with the 250th anniversary of the world’s first Freedom of Information Law in Sweden and Finland. Finland was part of Sweden at the time.

The “Freedom of the Press Act 1776” passed by Sweden’s parliament abolished preventive censorship and made political debate – including criticism of the country’s rulers – permissible. But religious texts remained subject to prior censorship.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour chairs plenary on “Protecting Your Rights - Surveillance Overreach, Data Protection, and Online Censorship”

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour chairs plenary on “Protecting Your Rights – Surveillance Overreach, Data Protection, and Online Censorship”

“We need governments to be accountable and transparent,” said CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Freedom of Expression and chair of a plenary session entitled “Protecting Your Rights – Surveillance Overreach, Data Protection, and Online Censorship”.

Last, but not least, Abu-Fadil took part in “Promoting Freedom of Expression: A Public Seminar on UNESCO’s Impact in the Arab Region.”

The session focused on the importance of freedom of expression for sustainable development, democratic governance, and intercultural dialogue, notably in post-conflict environments.

The three-day conference, including off-site activities, was packed with sessions focusing on media coverage of the refugee crisis, artistic freedom, whistleblowers and source protection, hate speech and ethics, gender issues, and freedom of information.

The conference culminated in the Finlandia Declaration on Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms.