Elections coverage workshop

Sixteen Arab reporters and editors delved into the intricacies of a four-day “Elections Coverage” workshop conducted by the Journalism Training Program in a bid to improve their skills in questioning candidates, tracking polls, monitoring legislation, observing vote counting, eyeing funding and maintaining ethical standards.

“The workshop enriched our experience and introduced us to colleagues from Arab countries,” said Ittihad Darwish, a legislative reporter for Lebanon’s state-run “National News Agency,” adding that she hoped more such workshops would be available to journalists.

JTP, which partnered with funder “IFES” February 5-8, 2008 drew enthusiastic journalists from Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Tunisia who were briefed by Dr. Arda Ekmekji, Haigazian University’s Arts & Sciences dean, who served on Lebanon’s Boutros Commission that is proposing new electoral legislation.

Also on hand were “UPI” Middle East bureau chief Dalal Saoud, “Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections” expert Yara Nassar, pollster Jawad Adra, “Asharq Al-Awsat” editor Sanaa El Jack, “IFES” researcher Chantal Sarkis Hanna, AUB professor Nabil Dajani and JTP director Magda Abu-Fadil.

“I am now aware that one’s voting right in secret is a holy right,” wrote Norma Khansa of “Middle East Reporter” in her post-workshop evaluation. Participants had been briefed on the importance of balloting secrecy and the need for elections to be conducted in an atmosphere of safety for all involved.

Participants represented Lebanon’s “National News Agency,” Lebanese dailies “Al Mustaqbal,” “Sada Al Balad” and “Al Sharq,” newsletter “Middle East Reporter,” magazine “Al Shiraa,” pan-Arab daily “Al Hayat,” Iraq’s “Al Iraqiyya” satellite channel, Saudi Arabia’s “Al Iktissadiyya” newspaper, “Monte Carlo Radio” in Riyadh, the “Kuwait News Agency,” and “Media Sat 1” TV of Morocco.

“A good, concentrated and brief workshop during which I learned a lot,” said Tunisian newsman Makki Helal. “I hope it is reflected in my future coverage.”

“IFES’” Lebanon representative Richard Chambers said: “This kind of workshop provides a timely opportunity for journalists to share best practices and to learn more about what constitutes a democratic election process.”

The workshop is part of “IFES’” electoral reform project in Lebanon and is funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. “IFES” was formerly known by its full name, the “International Foundation for Election Systems.”