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 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.

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

MU Beefs Up Al Arabiya English Journalists’ Abilities

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil drilled four members of  Al Arabiya’s English website team in journalism basics, components of news stories and tested their general knowledge in politics, geography, history and mathematics.

Exercises included strengthening story leads, avoidance of redundancies, aversion to oxymorons, and common errors journalists make when writing English copy.

Magda Abu-Fadil and Al Arabiya English website team

She conducted the four-day course in intensive journalism for select members of the satellite news channel  at their Dubai headquarters.

The budding journalists learned about setting news priorities by understanding newsworthiness and how to categorize stories in their daily lineups.

Members of Al Arabiya English web team

They also picked up tips on good feature, long story and series writing, as well as efficient ways of digging for information using traditional and online resources.

Abu-Fadil reinforced their ability to find, cultivate and use sources for their stories and how to measure the sources’ credibility.

Profiles, news conferences, speeches, meetings and interviews were part of the October 2012 workshop, as was beat reporting and editorializing.

The journalists were also urged not to overlook media ethics and to engage their audiences more actively through social media.

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.