Abu-Fadil Speaks At Media Neighborhood Journalism Awards

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told an audience in Brussels that training journalists should be given adequate time to improve their skills, in all fairness to them and their instructors.

Abu-Fadil (center) discusses training successes and challenges

Abu-Fadil (center) discusses training successes and challenges

She was referring to a series of brief workshops for traditional journalists and bloggers from Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Georgia in which she co-trained with BBC veterans Russell Peasgood and Jim Fish.

Abu-Fadil spoke at the Media Neighborhood Journalism Awards in the Belgian capital in February 2015 – a culmination of a project funded by the European Union and delivered by a consortium led by BBC Media Action.

Abu-Fadil was involved in the latter part of a process that provided initial training and subsequent writing and producing assignments for various media.

bbc-media-neighbourhood-logo

Being fully functional in English, Arabic and French enabled her to assess the final products in those languages, with the majority being in Arabic. But in the case of Georgia, it was a bit challenging since print, online and broadcast reports were in Georgian or Russian, forcing her to rely on English translations.

On the plus side, Abu-Fadil and her colleagues emphasized and instilled in the trainees a sense of what solid journalism is, and should be.

They hammered away at the importance of proper and diverse sourcing, balance in presenting various sides in a story, ethical considerations, newsworthiness and accuracy.

They also stressed the importance of the correct use of language, grammar, attention to translated material, ensuring numerical data are presented in the proper context, writing strong leads and avoiding opinions in hard news reports.

Trainer Ali Khalil and team leader Jean-Michel Duffrene (background)

Trainer Ali Khalil and team leader Jean-Michel Duffrene (background)

Abu-Fadil reviewed obstacles journalists and bloggers faced in the countries they represented and how constraints were reflected in their work.

The Syrians encountered problems in verifying information and assorted dangers while reporting from the field in their war-torn country.

Lebanese media saw a decline in their ability to function freely while Palestinian journalists also faced safety and access to information problems.

Jordanian journalists also had to deal with increasingly stricter rules and laws, notably those related to online media.

Egyptian journalists had to contend with the country’s roller coaster ride from a 30-year dictatorship to interim leaderships and elected presidents, which resulted in an interesting mix of reports mirroring the state of affairs.

Trainers, trainees and mentors at awards ceremony

Trainers, trainees and mentors at awards ceremony

Ditto for Tunisian participants who hailed from the trigger of the so-called “Arab Spring.” They had also been conditioned to think and operate a certain way and were adjusting to their own transitional phase of government, which came out in their reports.

The Moroccan journalists had their own set of political issues but were also cautioned to avoid bias, to focus on the real story, and to sidestep long-winded rhetoric.

The least fortunate were the Libyans whose freedom had been locked up for four decades as was their lack of understanding of what journalism is.

The awards program was held at the European Commission and grouped trainers, trainee award winners, mentors, and consortium representatives.

The full training project targeted journalists from Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Moldova, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine.

MU Director on Veracity of U.S. Journalists’ Beheadings

Aljazeera’s Arabic website published a story ridiculing the beheadings of US journalists, to the dismay of their loved ones, thereby prompting a debate on media ethics.

The report said the executions of James Foley and Steven Sotloff that were posted on social media were unconvincing, were akin to a Hollywood production, and created a pretext for Western intervention in Syria.

Screen shot of Al Arabiya's Take on Aljazeera's Beheading Report

Screen shot of Al Arabiya’s Take on Aljazeera’s Beheading Report

“In a court of law, one would need solid data, not just circumstantial evidence,” Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told Al Arabiya’s English website, asking whether Aljazeera’s reporter had solid proof the beheadings were bogus.

Read more on Abu-Fadil’s interview and comments on media ethics, news fabrication and journalism. A [PDF] version is available here.

Arabic Online Media Ethics Guide Launch Covered

Lebanese print, broadcast and online media covered presentation of an Arabic-language ethics booklet aimed at netizens in the Middle East/North Africa region.

Maharat coverage

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil launched the Arabic Online Media Ethics Guide at a conference in Lebanon in a bid to create awareness about digital freedom and responsibility.

Abu-Fadil edited the guide which journalist/educator Rouba El Helou translated from a similar booklet produced by Andrea Gallo, a student at Louisiana State University.

Annahar article [PDF]

Maharat article [PDF]

Abu-Fadil Launches Arabic Online Media Ethics Guide at MSF14

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil launched the Arabic Online Media Ethics Guide at a conference in Lebanon aimed at creating awareness about digital freedom and responsibility.

Charbel El Kareh listens as Abu-Fadil launches the guide

Charbel El Kareh listens as Abu-Fadil launches the guide

She presented the guide at the Media Studies Forum MSF14 at Lebanon’s Notre Dame University (NDU) which faculty member/journalist Rouba El Helou translated from a similar booklet edited by Andrea Gallo, a student at Louisiana State University.

Arabic Online Media Ethics Guide

Arabic Online Media Ethics Guide

It was well timed in May 2014 with the forum’s theme, “Ethics of Digital Media and Online Knowledge Production.”

Abu-Fadil raised issues like misattribution of sources, manipulation of visual content and accepting gifts during a panel entitled “Online Media Freedom and Ethics.”

Abu-Fadil and El-Helou at MSF14

Abu-Fadil and El Helou at MSF14

She showed a report that was the top story on a Lebanese TV newscast of a woman committing suicide by jumping off a balcony while her husband filmed it on his mobile phone to jolt the forum’s audience and sensitize participating students to what is and isn’t acceptable.

Since videos and photos can easily be manipulated, Abu-Fadil made a point of demonstrating how Tungstène, the fake photo finder used by Agence France-Presse, and other software can detect inaccurate visual data.

The Verification Handbook was another excellent resource to which she referred.

Screen shot of Verification Handbook

Abu-Fadil pointed to the dangers of “remixing,” what the code of best practice for fair use is, and what the School of Communication at her alma mater, American University in Washington, DC, did to explain it in a very handy video.

Jordanian, Palestinian Journalists’ Output Evaluated

Fourteen Jordanian and Palestinian journalists sat through two days of intensive evaluations in Amman, Jordan where experts judged their print, broadcast and online output for various media as a follow-up to earlier training workshops.

Amman trainees present their work for evaluation

Amman trainees present their work for evaluation

The November 2013 workshop aimed to improve participants’ reporting skills in covering topics such as the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, a popular movement to set up tent cities where Israeli settlements are being planned, child labor in the Jordan Valley, and Jordan’s handling of Syrian refugees,.

BBC veteran and lead trainer Russell Peasgood provided solid advice on how best to prepare and present radio and television packages as well as reporting for newspapers.

Peasgood points to Gaelle Sundelin’s (right) Jordan Times article

Peasgood points to Gaelle Sundelin’s (right) Jordan Times article

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil contributed to the assessment sessions by judging print, online and broadcast content.

Reports in Arabic and English also focused on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, the commemoration of (Ard) Land Day, how the Israeli occupation distresses Palestinian children, restoration of Jordanian relics and historical sites, eco-friendly coal mining in the West Bank town of Jenin, as well as threats to the Zarqa second-hand market in Jordan.

Abu-Fadil assesses online content

Abu-Fadil assesses online content

The workshop was part of a project funded by the European Union and delivered by a consortium led by BBC Media Action.

Some samples of the participants’ work:

http://al-shorfa.com/ar/articles/meii/features/main/2010/03/26/feature-02

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHfju-MQ1N4

http://jordantimes.com/as-prison-doors-open-into-freedom-inmates-find-helping-hand-to-survive-in-not-so-friendly-environment

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fua0n56ZWBM&feature=youtu.be

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1cVHFz5pAk&feature=youtu.be

Anba Moscow/Ria Novosti Journalists Upgrade Agency Online Skills

Seven journalists at Anba Moscow’s Dubai bureau underwent intensive training to upgrade their skills for the website maintained in Arabic by the Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

The journalists, who come from diverse backgrounds, attended a five-day workshop in October 2012 conducted by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil on the needs of an international news agency, evolution of the media, and story structure in an online environment.

Anba Moscow trainees upgrade news agency online skills

Also on the agenda was the importance of solid headlines and leads, sources, types of wire stories and integration of social media into the mix for better audience engagement.

Magda Abu-Fadil with Anba Moscow team in Dubai

Abu-Fadil reminded the journalists of the need to maintain high ethical standards in their coverage.

They were provided tips on crises, sudden events, fieldwork, means of communication, safety measures and coordination between correspondents and their newsrooms.

Not to be overlooked, the Anba Moscow team was encouraged to make good use of infographics, photos, videos and audio clips, and develop interest in multimedia.

MU Empowers UAE WAM Journalists With New Skills

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil spent two weeks in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, respectively, with journalists of the United Arab Emirates’ WAM news agency to help them upgrade their skills

The training included best practices for news agencies, the integration of social media and the importance of media ethics.

The first week of workshops in September 2012 was at WAM headquarters and involved morning sessions with one group from the Arabic desk, with mentoring in the afternoon inside the newsrooms of the Arabic and English desks.

WAM workshop opening in Abu Dhabi with U.S. Ambassador Michael Corbin

The second week grouped journalists from the other emirates of Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Al Ain, Ajman, Fujairah and Um Al Qaiwain.

The U.S. Embassy in the UAE and the Emirates’ National Media Council (NMC) organized the workshops which were opened in Abu Dhabi by Ambassador Michael Corbin and NMC Director General Ibrahim Al Abed.