Abu-Fadil on Media, Human Trafficking at ARIJ Confab

Is there a right way to cover human trafficking and slavery? Are there ethical pitfalls going undercover to produce an earth-shattering investigative report on this repulsive trade that can jar the world’s conscience?

A topic that’s existed since time immemorial but has become increasingly thorny given the media attention it’s received, often tied in with the international migrant and refugee crisis.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil helped provide tips on how to cover it at a soft launch of guidelines during a December 2017 panel at the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalists’ (ARIJ) annual conference at the Dead Sea in Jordan.

 

Magda Abu-Fadil speaks on media’s coverage of human trafficking, slavery

Her presentation, animated with case studies and videos on slavery, human trafficking and prostitution, was drawn from the guidelines and other sources.

Abu-Fadil said news of human trafficking was one of the biggest and most difficult challenges facing media and an important test for media ethics.

This type of news requires attention and sensitivity, as the language, portrayal, and context used by journalists and media may cause damage, incite hatred, and reinforce stereotypes, she explained.

Media and Trafficking in Human Beings Guidelines

 It may also result in ignorance and misunderstanding that would divert attention from the root causes and hamper the public debate needed to solve this crisis, she added. 

Despite the existence of glossaries from various international organizations and NGOs, and reports documenting the facts, Arab journalists still use inaccurate language without distinguishing one term from another, Abu-Fadil said.

 

Packed session on media, human trafficking, slavery guidelines

The guidelines project was funded by the European Union, implemented by an international consortium led by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and authored by the Ethical Journalism Network’s director Aidan White.

The guidelines were written in English and will be made available for download in several languages as a useful handbook for journalists to facilitate their work.

Read Abu-Fadil’s blogpost on her presentation.

Lebanese Media Produce Hodgepodge Coverage of Migrants/Refugees: Report

Can media cover migration effectively and are adequate resources provided for such a gargantuan endeavor, notably in Mediterranean countries facing an unprecedented influx of people seeking shelter from conflicts and better economic opportunities?

 

Lebanon chapter of media migration report

“How does the media on both sides of the Mediterranean report on Migration? A study by journalists, for journalists and policymakers: Migration media coverage in 17 countries from 2015 to 2016” is a joint effort of the Ethical Journalism Network, the European Union, Euromed Migration and the International Center for Migration Policy Development.

 

Middle East map with Lebanon in the eastern Mediterranean

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil penned the report’s Lebanon chapter. It provides 11 case studies of media controversies in 2016 arising from migration-related coverage.

 

Media migration report

The Lebanon chapter, “Mixed Messages as Media Cope with Internal Stress and External Pressure,” sheds light on how Lebanese media mired in dysfunctional domestic politics, facing regional security threats and international upheavals, and troubled by their own shaky existence, have produced a hodgepodge of migration coverage since 2015.

Although glossaries of migrant-related terminology – provided by international organizations and NGOs – exist, journalists covering the story still use terms like “migrant,” “refugee” and “settler” incorrectly and interchangeably.

An executive summary of the report, released in May 2017, was presented at a pre-launch event at the Brussels Press Club during which organizers announced the creation of the Migration Media Award.

Brussels Press Club

“Moving Stories,” an earlier report by EJN, on how media cover migration worldwide, is available here [PDF}.

MU Director on Arab Media Coverage of Migrants, Refugees at Brussels Press Club

Arab media’s coverage of the migrant/refugee crisis has seesawed from humane to atrocious, with Lebanon providing case studies of how ethical reporting hasn’t always been a priority.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil spoke at the Brussels Press Club on the need for better training of journalists who cover this expanding beat, and for other stakeholders to learn how to communicate effectively about the issue.

MU director talks on Lebanese media coverage of migrants, refugees

MU director talks on Lebanese media coverage of migrants, refugees

“Policymakers have to understand the news cycle,” and newsworthiness, and not flood already over-stretched journalists with jargon-filled releases and irrelevant material, she said at the event dubbed Towards a Balanced Narrative on Migration in the Mediterranean.

Asked how to handle viral hate speech in the media, Abu-Fadil replied: “Let’s not give too much airtime to lunatics.’

The one-day symposium in January 2017 organized by Euromed Migration IV, a program funded by the European Union and led by the EU Commission’s Directorate General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations, grouped some 100 policymakers and experts.

Maltese Foreign Minister George Vella, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency and has provided shelter for countless migrants from Africa, was on hand to launch the “Migration Media Award.”

Maltese Foreign Minister George Vella announcing Migration Media Award launch

Maltese Foreign Minister George Vella announcing Migration Media Award launch

The event also saw the release of preliminary findings of the Ethical Journalism Network’s (EJN) 17-country study on migration in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Abu-Fadil wrote the report’s Lebanon chapter.

EJN’s draft migration and media report

EJN’s draft migration and media report

EJN director Aidan White presented initial findings and recommendations of the report commissioned by the International Center for Migration Policy Development.

EJN Director Aidan White

EJN Director Aidan White

The study reveals how journalism in the countries surveyed is a distorting lens: a magnifying glass…exposing inhumanity and corruption in the way migrants are treated, and following an agenda triggering discrimination and hate to compound the suffering of migration victims.

Media, migration report at Brussels Press Club

Media, migration report at Brussels Press Club

 

Abu-Fadil Pens Lebanon Chapter in EJN Migrant Report

Media worldwide are failing the professional coverage test of the migrant/refugee story, with Lebanese journalists providing examples of what not to do in broaching the topic.

In a scathing indictment of how journalists are following the issue internationally, the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) documented the practices of media’s shortfall in the European Union, Bulgaria, Italy, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, China, The Gambia, India, Lebanon, Mexico, Nepal, South Africa and the United States.

Moving Stories Cover (courtesy EJN)

The EJN’s Moving Stories: International Review of How Media Cover Migration launched in December 2015 showed how journalists in those countries have, for the most part, flunked on several fronts.

Lebanon, which is hosting over a quarter of its population in Syrian refugees – added to earlier asylum seekers and migrants from different countries – is equally culpable, but NGOs are stepping in to mitigate media’s poor job of covering the story.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousefzai visits Syrian refugees in Lebanon (courtesy Eason Jordan)

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousefzai visits Syrian refugees in Lebanon (courtesy Eason Jordan)

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil contributed the chapter Lebanon: Media Put Humanity in the Picture as Refugee Crisis Takes Hold to the EJN report highlighting the failure to provide accurate, fair, balanced, and ethical coverage of the refugee and migrant issue. 

 

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 Trains Lebanese, Syrian Journalists in Beirut

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil trained two groups of Lebanese and Syrian journalists in a follow up to earlier courses organized by BBC Media Action.

Lebanese journalists learn how to tighten their copy

Lebanese journalists learn how to tighten their copy

Key expert and BBC veteran Russell Peasgood provided guidance on how to improve their TV and radio reporting and editing skills.

Russell Peasgood explains fine points of good TV coverage

Russell Peasgood explains fine points of good TV coverage

The consecutive May 2014 workshops in Beirut included reporters and bloggers from various print, broadcast and online media in Lebanon and Syria as well as Syrian journalists in exile.

Magda Abu-Fadil shoots training session video

Magda Abu-Fadil shoots training session video

Stories ranged from hard news coverage and feature articles on the conflict in Syria and Syrian refugees, to the work of municipalities, water policies in the Middle East, university curricula, and women’s electoral rights and empowerment.

Syrian journalist's report appears on Aljazeera

Syrian journalist’s report appears on Aljazeera

The Syrian journalists discussed obstacles they faced in verifying information about casualties, obtaining accurate data from opposing sources, and assorted dangers while reporting from the field.

Syrian reporters and mentor attend Beirut follow-up workshop

Syrian reporters and mentor attend Beirut follow-up workshop

The European Union-funded workshops are part of a program run by a BBC Media Action-led consortium covering 17 countries in the “European Neighbourhood.”

Abu-Fadil (left) with Peasgood (center rear) and Lebanese journalists

Abu-Fadil (left) with Peasgood (center rear) and Lebanese journalists

 

 

 

Abu-Fadil Co-Trains Libyan Journalists

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil helped eight Libyan journalists better understand solid reporting in a final workshop to assess their coverage of European Union-related issues.

MU director critiques Libyan journalists' work

MU director critiques Libyan journalists’ work

She joined BBC veteran Russell Peasgood to train the reporters from Tripoli, Benghazi and Ajdabia.

The training took place in Tunisia due to the unsettled situation in Libya.

BBC veteran Russell Peasgood (left) reviews Libyan reporter’s article

BBC veteran Russell Peasgood (left) reviews Libyan reporter’s article

Government security forces, opposing warring factions and militias systematically target Libyan journalists. The journalists’ work for the course reflected the threats under which they  operate.

Libyan journalists learn to sharpen skills

Libyan journalists learn to sharpen skills

Abu-Fadil stressed the importance of writing strong leads, avoiding opinions in hard news reports, verifying all information, using proper attribution, and being mindful of media ethics.

BBC Media Action training of Libyan journalists in Tunis

BBC Media Action training of Libyan journalists in Tunis

The European Union-funded workshop in April 2014 is part of a program run by a BBC Media Action-led consortium covering 17 countries in the “European Neighbourhood.”

MU Director Tutors Moroccan Journalists in Avoiding Pitfalls

Twelve eager journalists from across Morocco returned to a Rabat workshop to present work they had produced following earlier intensive training led by BBC Media Action.

Analysis of Moroccan journalist's EU-related article

Analysis of Moroccan journalist’s EU-related article

The March 2014 training, conducted by BBC veteran Jim Fish and Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil centered on a review of print and online articles, as well as radio and television reports covering crimes, the controversial Sahara issue, protesting judges, and projects funded by the European Union (EU), to name a few.

BBC veteran Jim Fish (far right) with pointers on good reporting for Moroccan journalists

BBC veteran Jim Fish (far right) with pointers on good reporting for Moroccan journalists

The trainers went over several samples of work, critiquing content, sourcing, accuracy, style, presentation, and ethics.

They also cautioned participants to avoid bias, focus on the real story, sidestep long-winded rhetoric and remember the context.

Jim Fish (left) & Magda Abu-Fadil (right) with Moroccan journalists

Jim Fish (left) & Magda Abu-Fadil (right) with Moroccan journalists

The journalists hailed from Rabat, Sale, Casablanca, Meknes, Tetouan, Laayoune, and Sidi Ifni.

The workshop is part of a journalism training project funded by the EU and run by a BBC Media Action-led consortium covering 17 countries in the “European Neighbourhood.”

MU Director Contributes to UNESCO Elections Coverage Book

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil contributed to a UNESCO publication on elections coverage that featured the media’s mixed bag reporting of Lebanon’s presidential, parliamentary and municipal balloting.

The booklet entitled “Elections Reporting in the Arab Region” [PDF] is a handy collection of articles encapsulating the proceedings of an experts meeting in Amman, Jordan during which participants exchanged views on how the media tackled elections in their respective countries.

Elections Reporting in the Arab Region

Elections Reporting in the Arab Region

The seminar in November 2013 grouped Jordanian journalists who had attended training workshops on elections coverage with counterparts from Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Palestine and Iraq who, in turn, had covered elections in their own countries as well as regionally and internationally.

The seminar was funded by the European Union and organized by UNESCO’s Amman office.

Abu-Fadil Helps Georgian Journalists Hone Skills

Keep it simple, don’t assume, remember accuracy, ethics are key, and avoid wordiness, was some of the advice provided by BBC veteran Jim Fish and Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil to 12 Georgian journalists attending a booster course to hone their reporting skills.

Georgian journalists advised never to assume anything

Georgian journalists advised never to assume anything

The reporters at print, broadcast and online media presented samples of their work in the final phase of training organized by BBC Media Action and funded by the European Union in Tbilisi.

Review of TV report elements

Review of TV report elements

The reports included focus on a special needs school, internally displaced persons, the decriminalization of marijuana, homeless senior citizens, victims of hurricane damage, and an embargo on dairy products, to name a few.

Fish and Abu-Fadil cautioned the journalists not to be swayed by officials’ statements and to cut through the haze of government, corporate and NGO news releases.

Trainers Jim Fish, Abu-Fadil (center) journalists, mentor Akaki Gvimradze and interpreters

Trainers Jim Fish, Abu-Fadil (center) journalists, mentor Akaki Gvimradze and interpreters

Akaki Gvimradze, deputy editor-in-chief of the Georgian daily “Resonance,” helped with logistics and served as a mentor to the younger journalists.

Georgian journalist-mentor Akaki Gvimradze

Georgian journalist-mentor Akaki Gvimradze

While most of the three samples each journalist produced were of a serious nature, a few TV reports touched viewers’ funny bone and provided a fresh approach to otherwise mundane subjects.

The intense two-day course in January 2014 is part of a series of workshops covering partner states of the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument, an initiative that targets several Eastern European and Mediterranean countries.