Palestinian Diplomats Hone Digital Communication Skills

Foreign service officials must master the art and science of digital and public diplomacy if they’re to be effective abroad, but equally if they’re on home turf dealing with media, diplomats and foreign visitors.

This is doubly important for Palestinian diplomats who face tremendous odds representing a homeland under occupation in a truncated landmass and whose movements are severely restricted.

Trainers, trainees and administrators at Turin workshop

Constraints notwithstanding, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil co-trained a group of 10 Palestinian officials at a weeklong workshop on “Communication Skills & Media Relations for Diplomacy” in Turin, Italy in August 2017.

The event, organized by the International Training Center of the International Labor Organization (ITC-ILO), with funding from the Italian Consulate General in Jerusalem, was the second in which she participated as a journalist/trainer along with Abdulhamid Abdeljaber, a journalist and faculty member at Rutgers University.

 

Journalists use multiple means and sources to obtain information

Abu-Fadil and Abdeljaber showed the participants how to think like journalists and understand what media look for in news.

This included familiarizing them with converged, digital media priorities, hardware, software and applications used by journalists, skills needed to produce and publish content, cautionary notes on fake news and misleading information, sourcing, and news value.

They put the diplomats through two sets of separate rigorous on-camera interviews.

Interview skills

 

Other sessions focused on organizing news conferences, briefings and news event planning.

One of the most animated sessions was a news conference simulation with feedback from the trainers-cum-journalists and participants.

 

White House news conference simulation with Ghada Arafat, Abdulhamid Abdeljaber and Hanan Jarrar

Abu-Fadil also trained the diplomats in the art of writing news releases. The workshop was conducted in Arabic and English.

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.

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. 

 

Media Ethics: Whose Standards?

It bears repeating: media ethics aren’t a one-off endeavor and shouldn’t be a priority only when trouble brews.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil made the point during the “Radio and Television Broadcasting Conference: Policies, Transformations, Challenges” organized in Amman by the Jordan Media Institute in May 2015.

Magda Abu-Fadil speaks on ethics in broadcast media

Magda Abu-Fadil speaks on ethics in broadcast media

She said broadcast media were under intense pressure, given tight deadlines, security threats, competition and shrinking budgets.

So the key challenges are: how do we define media ethics and who sets the standards when the journalism of terror is becoming the new normal?

Abu-Fadil spoke about representatives of major Western media who addressed the issue of “The journalism of terror: How do we bear witness when everybody is a witness?” at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy in April.

Given the unstable security situation in many countries, broadcast news is relying more and more on footage and reports from alternative and questionable sources like citizen journalists, terrorists, activists, NGOs, governments and others.

Live tweeting broadcasting conference

Live tweeting broadcasting conference

Abu-Fadil cited several broadcast, online and social media case studies from Arab and Western news organizations that were clear violations of ethical standards.

She wrapped up her presentation with the “Guide to Online Media Ethics in Arabic” and the guidelines for graphic content of the Radio Television Digital News Association in the U.S.

Abu-Fadil Dissects Media Accountability in Lebanon

How much media accountability is there in Lebanon? Are media accountable and do they hold officials accountable?

It’s a double-edged sword that cuts both ways, said Media Unlimited Director Magda Abu-Fadil, adding that laws and codes of ethics are not implemented, loosely implemented, or totally ignored, depending on the issue at stake, politics involved, and persons influencing them.

Magda Abu-Fadil on media accountability in Lebanon

She dissected Lebanon’s antiquated print and broadcast media laws that require major overhaul.

In a presentation on accountability at a forum organized by Media Act in Toulouse, France, Abu-Fadil pointed to Lebanese legislator Ghassan Moukheiber’s Media Reform Bill aimed at shrinking the existing 109 provisions of the 1962 print law to 75.

According to Moukheiber, almost 80% of his draft bill’s provisions have been approved in the parliamentary committee discussing the matter.

Another draft bill on broadcast media put forward by Moukheiber would see the strengthening of the National Audio-Visual Media Council as a regulatory body.

Lebanese legislator Ghassan Moukheiber

It’s currently a toothless tiger of elected and appointed members along sectarian lines.

A very important draft bill on access to information has also passed the test, but all three bills have yet to be voted into law.

Abu-Fadil reviewed media-related events in 2012 and Lebanese print and broadcast journalists’ efforts to establish a stronger union presence.

She also discussed press freedom monitoring efforts by various local and international organizations, attempts to muzzle the media and whether Lebanon was immune to the “Arab Spring.”

The Media Act forum in January 2013 entitled “Media Accountability in Transition: Insights from the Arab World” was organized jointly by the German Erich-Brost-Institut at Dortmund University, the French Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Toulouse, and Paris II University.

Profs. Olivier Baisnée of IEP Toulouse and Judith Pies of Dortmund University

It grouped experts from Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Poland, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Lebanon who reviewed potentials for media accountability in Jordan and Tunisia as well prospects in Egypt and Morocco.