The Assault on Journalism: Building Knowledge to Protect Freedom of Expression

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil wrote a chapter in “The Assault on Journalism: Building Knowledge to Protect Freedom of Expression.”

The book was edited by Ulla Carlsson and Reeta Pöyhtäri and published in May 2017 by Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

The chapter, “Journalism Schools Must Include Safety Courses in Curricula,” was based on an urgent call she made at the 2016 UNESCO World Press Freedom Day conference in Helsinki, Finland.

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

I urge all faculty members at this conference to incorporate a course on safety for journal­ists in their curricula. It’s not a luxury; it’s an urgent necessity.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), one journal­ist is killed every five days in the line of duty and the impunity of such acts is unabated.

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

The “Model Course on Safety of Journalists” on which she worked is now in print in English and Arabic and will be online on the UNESCO and IFJ websites.

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.

Abu-Fadil Provides Palestinian Diplomats With Media Skills

Ten young Palestinian diplomats sharpened their media skills in Turin, Italy, as part of a program to prepare them for the rigors of public diplomacy and exposure to the world.

The group of eager men and women attended a weeklong workshop conducted in July 2016 by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil and media expert Abdelhamid Siyam at the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) training center there.

Abdelhamid Siyam and Magda Abu-Fadil on fine points of public diplomacy

Abdelhamid Siyam and Magda Abu-Fadil on fine points of public diplomacy

Abu-Fadil’s input began with concentrated sessions on how to think and act like a journalist.

That meant understanding the rapid and major changes media and journalists have to undergo as well as the added pressures Palestinians face on their home turf, where (among other things) mobility is regularly hampered by the Israeli occupation, and abroad, where they have to compete for attention with other pressing world issues.

The diplomats were also briefed on how newsrooms and journalists have to contend with a multimedia digital ecosystem as users of countless apps and social media often outpace traditional news outlets.

Palestinian diplomats hone media skills in Turin

Palestinian diplomats hone media skills in Turin

Abu-Fadil helped them define news, news values, the impact of information they disseminate, controversy, notoriety, sources, and how to write for different media, not just their superiors and other government officials.

A major part of one session was dedicated to media ethics and the trainees were told about verification and credibility of sources, notably in conflict zones, how to minimize the risk of misinforming audiences and how to mitigate the impact of hate speech.

Siyam offers pointers on TV interviews

Siyam offers pointers on TV interviews

Abu-Fadil and Siyam walked the diplomats through interview skills and how diplomats can improve their performance on the air, in print, and in online media.

That meant the proper planning and execution of the before, during, and after parts of interviews, and the subsequent assessment of one’s performance for improved future delivery of a message or project.

Simulations and mock interviews were part of the practical work in the workshop. Siyam was the interviewer and Abu-Fadil was the camerawoman/producer.

Other sessions involved writing skills, special focus on media in the Arab world, dealing with reputation issues, and social media for diplomacy.

MU Director Discusses Media Ethics, Migrants in AUC Podcast

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil spoke with Arab Media and Society, the magazine of the American University in Cairo, about how the migration crisis has been covered in Lebanese media and beyond, as well as issues of media ethics in the Arab world.

Two recent articles and a report chapter by Abu-Fadil are mentioned in a podcast and can be found here:

Ethical Journalism Network Report.

Huffington Post Blogs – “Lebanon: Media Put Humanity in the Picture as Refugee Crisis Takes Hold.” 

“Moving Stories: International Review of How Media Cover Migration.”

Abu-Fadil Featured at Aljazeera Center for Studies Roundtable

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil spoke on the rising impact of social media on traditional journalism and how ethics can balance it out at a Qatar gathering of experts.

She focused on Lebanon as a case study in the Arab world in the wake of neighboring revolutions, conflicts and the country’s own internal problems.

Magda Abu-Fadil addresses Aljazeera Center for Studies roundtable

Magda Abu-Fadil addresses Aljazeera Center for Studies roundtable

The October 2015 event grouped researchers from Aljazeera’s Center for Studies.

Abu-Fadil shed light on how news operations had morphed in recent years to cater to how news is consumed today as well as to the changing definition of journalism.

Participants also discussed the rising impact of platforms such as the all-news/current events channel and site Aljazeera Plus on the future of news.

MU Director Helps Shape Next AFPF

Should the Arab Free Press Forum (AFPF) maintain its present format or should it change to adapt to fast-moving developments affecting the media landscape?

AFPF brochure.indd

What should the goals of such an event be, who is the audience, and what are their needs?

All legitimate questions discussed at an experts meeting in Cairo in September to help shape the next AFPF, traditionally organized by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

WAN-IFRA's Andrew Heslop on plans for next forum

WAN-IFRA’s Andrew Heslop on plans for next forum

The agenda included debate on the format and content, synergies and partnerships, financing, funding streams and promotional channels for the next event.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil participated in the meeting aimed at giving shape to a future event for the independent press in the Middle East and North Africa.

Abu-Fadil, a panelist at the fifth AFPF in Tunis in 2012 [PDF] in the wake of successive revolutions in Arab countries, addressed the question: How can the media regain public trust as a credible source of news?

Magda Abu-Fadil at 5th Arab Free Press Forum in Tunis

Magda Abu-Fadil at 5th Arab Free Press Forum in Tunis

Other participants at the Egyptian capital meeting included Egyptian journalist Fatemah Farag and Aidan White, Director of the London-based Ethical Journalism Network, to name a few.

The Arab Free Press Forum is a unique event that brings together media professionals from across the Arab world to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas, experience and best practice at every level of the news industry.

Fatemah Farag & Aidan White discuss ideas for next AFPF

Fatemah Farag & Aidan White discuss ideas for next AFPF

As part of WAN-IFRA’s ongoing commitment to supporting the independent press in the Arab region, the Forum reinforces longstanding engagements with partners from across the media industry and the freedom of expression community.

MU Presents Arabic Online Media Ethics Guide

A tweet promoting the “First-Ever Guide to Online Media Ethics” [PDF] led Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil to seek out its author in a bid to disseminate it to journalists, bloggers, trainees and students across the Arab World.


The announcement by Andrea Gallo, a Louisiana State University (LSU) student on the birth of her publication, prompted Abu-Fadil to obtain the booklet and oversee its translation into Arabic.

Various organizations have published online media ethics guidelines but few have made the effort to disseminate them in an easy-to-use Arabic-language compendium.

Rouba El-Helou, a media studies faculty member and journalist, translated the text into Arabic and Abu-Fadil edited the booklet [PDF].


The guide is well thought out and its sections cover news judgment and conflicts, transparency, sourcing ethics, knowing your audience, plagiarism, when problems arise, photos and art, and social media.

Governments, notably in the Arab World, have increasingly slapped on penalties or sentences on producers of online content they deem offensive, and have equated such content with that of print publications.

In other countries officials have begun to deal with the issue through restrictive legislation such as requiring online media to obtain a license to operate, leading to a whole set of ethical problems.

The booklet is an annual project for LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication students.

Dean Jerry Ceppos, who teaches an undergraduate course called “Media Ethics and Social Responsibility” (MC 4090), assigns his charges production of this invaluable resource.

MU Director Joins TAKREEM Selection Board 2014

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil was tapped to join the TAKREEM Selection Board 2014 that chooses candidates for one of the Arab world’s most prestigious prizes.

Lebanese TV star and talk show host Ricardo Karam founded the TAKREEM Initiative and serves as its CEO.

Takreem founder and CEO Ricardo Karam

Takreem founder and CEO Ricardo Karam

The Selection Board met in Beirut in April 2014 ahead of a final gathering of TAKREEM’s Jury Board that includes internationally renowned figures from, and interested in, the Arab World.

All nominations are non-discriminatory and are accepted independent of age, gender, national origin, religion or political affiliation.

Candidates should be of Arab ancestry for all categories except for one, the award of exceptional international contribution to Arab Society.
Karam (seated) with Takreem's 2014 Selection Board members

Karam (seated) with Takreem’s 2014 Selection Board members

The Selection Board groups individuals from various professions, renowned for their distinctions and achievements, and their responsibility is to draw up a carefully considered short-list of candidates in each award category.

The categories are:

  1. Humanitarian and Civic Services
  2. Environmental Development and Sustainability
  3. Scientific and Technological Achievement
  4. Innovation in Education
  5. Cultural Excellence
  6. Arab Woman of the Year Award
  7. Young Entrepreneur Award
  8. Outstanding Corporate Leadership
  9. Exceptional International Contribution to Arab Society.
Abu-Fadil (far right) with Innovation in Education selection board members

Abu-Fadil (far right) with Innovation in Education selection board members

The 2014 TAKREEM laureates will be announced at a ceremony in November in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh.


MU Director to Arab Strategy Forum: Social Media Aren’t Just for Kids

Catch the wave and ride it, don’t sink under it, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told participants at the Arab Strategy Forum 2013 in Dubai.

Arab Strategy Forum 2013 logo

Arab Strategy Forum 2013 logo

“We can’t operate in the media with a Stone Age mentality,” she insisted. “Social media aren’t just for kids.”

To prove the point and debunk traditionalists’ thinking, she spoke, tweeted and shot video during her session on the relationship between Arab media and social networks.

Abu-Fadil speaks, tweets and shoots video at ASF 2013

Abu-Fadil speaks, tweets and shoots video at ASF 2013

She also said there was a lot of useful information online.

But equally important is the ability to use critical thinking to filter through all the disinformation and misleading content, she added.

Arab media and social networks panel

Arab media and social networks panel

The forum, organized by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF), grouped experts from across the Arab world and United States who discussed social networks and knowledge society.

MBRF CEO Sultan Ali Lootah opens ASF 2013

MBRF CEO Sultan Ali Lootah opens ASF 2013

They included Charbel Fakhoury, Microsoft’s vice president for sales and marketing in the Middle East, Mohamed Murad from Google Gulf, Kaveh Gharib from Twitter’s U.S. headquarters and Jonathan Labin from Facebook’s Middle East and Africa arm.

Dubai TV's Zeina Yazigi (right) chairs "Evolution of Social Networks" session

Dubai TV’s Zeina Yazigi (right) chairs “Evolution of Social Networks” session

Also on hand for the two-day forum in March 2013 were Saudi bloggers Molook Al Sheikh and Abdel Aziz Al Shaalan, Bahraini TV host Khaled Al Shaer, and Kuwaiti columnist Meshal Al Nami.

Emirati speakers filled the “Tweet Positively” panel that concentrated on religious aspects and positive values in uses of social networks, as well as individuals’ roles in protecting their nation from harmful media, and how to use Twitter for good causes.

Media covered the event extensively. [“المرأة العربية أكثر نساء العالم تفاعلا على مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي – النيلين”] [“موقع جريدة الأنباء – طباعة مقالة”] [دار الخليــــج-أخبار الدار-“المنتدى الاستراتيجي” يحذر الإعلام من عدم مواكبة “شبكات التواصل””]

The Middle East in Transition: What Future for Arab Youth?

Arab Youth are more concerned about fair pay, home ownership and a decent life than democracy, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told students at Sciences Po – Menton in the south of France.

The rising cost of living was a major concern although the lack of democracy and civil unrest were also seen as obstacles to progress, she said quoting the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2012 that analyzed data from 12 countries.

The study also revealed that while a majority of young people agreed traditional values were paramount, an increasing number of them said such values were outdated and should be replaced.

Magda Abu-Fadil on Arab youth prospects with Sciences Po-Menton director Bernard El-Ghoul and students

Creating jobs for a growing Arab youth population is a major challenge for decision makers following the outbreak of revolutions in a number of the region’s countries.

Demographic issues such as high population growth and pressures on labor markets compound the problem, Abu-Fadil said.

She also discussed young people’s contribution to revolutions gripping the Arab world and what prompted them to take to the streets.

The role social media played in the various uprisings was another topic of discussion, with Abu-Fadil explaining that such tools were not the ultimate influencers in these movements given the high rate of illiteracy and uneven access to the Internet.

Although prospects may appear dim, education reform could be an answer, with emphasis on critical thinking and the revisiting of school and university curricula to meet employers’ requirements.

The discussion in January 2013 was part of a week-long orientation program at the Middle East/Mediterranean campus of Sciences Po aimed at familiarizing students with the university’s undergraduate and graduate studies, life in the Middle East, and exchange programs available to them.