Abu-Fadil Serves on AJA Jury, Promotes Professional Journalism

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil served as a jury member for the investigative journalism category of the Arab Journalism Award (AJA) in 2018 in a bid to raise the standard of that media field.

AJA logo

The Award ceremony [AJA Supplement in Al Bayan-18-2018-04-05] usually comes at the end of the Arab Media Forum (AMF) in Dubai every year with prizes for different categories handed out to reporters, editors, columnists, photojournalists and cartoonists from across the Arab world.

Abu-Fadil is a former AJA board member and has been on several of its juries over the years.

Magda Abu-Fadil (front row far right) as an Arab Journalism Award board member in 2010 (courtesy DPC)

This year experts closely scrutinized media’s fierce competition and misleading information that causes harm at the AMF [AMF-A5 Agenda_Website_En] in April amid clamor to rectify wrongs.

“Credibility tops the agenda,” [أجندة منتدى الإعلام العربي 2018] said Mona Al Marri, the DPC president who heads the Forum’s organizing committee.

DPC President Mona Al Marri flanked by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohamad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohamad Bin Rashid at AMF 2018 (courtesy DPC)

Over 2,000 Arab and foreign media professionals, academics and corporate leaders participated in the 17th edition of the Forum organized by the DPC.

Innovation and technology also took center stage at the two-day event that packed a rich and forceful program that also focused on errant media and the negative impact of social media.

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.