MU Director to MCD: Newsrooms Have Ethical Duties

Legacy newsrooms face immense challenges in dealing with media ethics in the digital age, notably with competition from social networks and platforms, but have a responsibility to maintain their credibility and professionalism, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya (MCD).

“To determine the accuracy of information in digital pictures, for example, there are applications (apps) one can use to trace their origin,” she said. “Is the picture an original? Was it stolen from somewhere? Was it tampered with?”

Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya

In Part 2 of an interview on MCD, Abu-Fadil discussed the dilemma editors face in determining what photos, videos and text to disseminate when the content is sensitive, offensive and tragic.

She pointed to a number of apps and tools used in verifying content to find out if it’s plagiarized.

What’s key is to deliver information that’s accurate, balanced, that doesn’t deviate from humanity and that’s ethical, Abu-Fadil insisted, noting that critical thinking is very important but that many journalists don’t always use it in their work.

Abu-Fadil advised journalists and news organizations to be completely transparent when mistakes are made and to admit and correct them immediately if they’re to maintain their credibility.

She discussed the impact of “fake news,” “post-truth,” and “alternative facts” during a segment of the program “Digital” in February 2018 hosted by Nayla Salibi.

Part 1 of the interview can be heard here.

MU Director On Media Ethics Using Refugee, Migrant Photos

Choosing and publishing images of refugees, migrants and people in distress is both painful and difficult, notably when they’re graphic and reach various audiences across multiple media platforms in record time.

The image as symbol (courtesy “A Sea of Images”)

Weighty decisions may lead to photos becoming icons and symbols representing all other victims as that of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler lying face down on a Turkish beach in 2015 that went viral in just three hours.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil discussed the ethical implications and how such pictures can also be (mis)used by politicians to score points and advance their own agendas.

Magda Abu-Fadil (left) discusses the ethics of using photos of migrants, refugees (courtesy Tom Law)

The topic made for an animated discussion during “Movie Night” hosted by the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN)  at the December 2017 Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism’s (ARIJ) annual conference in which she participated as a panelist.

The movie in question was “A Sea of Images,” a documentary on how media tackle migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa fleeing their troubled lands in a perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

The film, produced by Misja Pekel and Maud van de Reijt, is part of a series for Dutch public television that examined the connection between media and public opinion.

How do editors decide what photos to publish? (courtesy A Sea of Images)

 Refugee fatigue, she argued in the discussion following the film’s showing, can affect journalists’ and editors’ judgment in their choice and dissemination of images, with ethics falling by the wayside.


Audience debates ethics of photo publishing (courtesy Tom Law)

Aidan White, veteran journalist and director of the Ethical Journalism Network, said three of the Aylan Kurdi pictures were published around the world, but photos could be used in different ways to tell different narratives.

“What that reveals, is that although the pictures are dramatic and important, in the end it’s the context in which the pictures are used by journalists,” White explained.

Aidan White on the ethical use of images (courtesy “A Sea of Images”)

The ethical use of images depicting migrants, refugees and vulnerable people in the media, and what impact they have on public policy, will continue to trigger debate so long as conflicts, economic and natural disasters cause massive population displacement.

Lebanese Journalists Need Training on Migrant/Refugee Coverage: Abu-Fadil

Lebanese journalists are mostly ill equipped to cover the migrant and refugee story, with reporting ranging from hate speech to a sympathetic approach, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told an Austrian newspaper.

Media coverage of migrants and refugees in Lebanon is a mixed bag: it includes xenophobia and fear mongering as well as more humanitarian reporting,” she said. “But a major problem is that journalists do this along with coverage of other news and have to juggle many priorities with increasingly shrinking resources, so it’s a challenge.”

Abu-Fadil was interviewed by the Salzburger Nachrichten on her contribution to two international reports on how media have covered the migrant and refugee crisis, notably in the Euro Mediterranean region.

“Additionally, nobody is trained to cover migrant and refugee issues,” she said. “There’s a need for such training and for understanding the consequences of the stress placed on journalists who cover this crisis.”

This is a [PDF] of the article, including views from various experts.

Magda Abu-Fadil: Journalists Over-Stretched, Underpaid

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told the Open Media Hub over-stretched and underpaid Lebanese journalists find covering the migration and refugee story challenging.

Magda Abu-Fadil on Lebanese media’s coverage of migration-refugee story

“Journalists quite often have too much on their plate…they don’t have a regular beat called migration or refugee problems,” she said of reporters having to cover several different stories on a given day.

She was interviewed about the challenges of reporting on migration at the launch of the 2017 Migration Media Award, on which she served as a member of the jury.

The interview can be viewed here.

The Assault on Journalism: Building Knowledge to Protect Freedom of Expression

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil wrote a chapter in “The Assault on Journalism: Building Knowledge to Protect Freedom of Expression.”

The book was edited by Ulla Carlsson and Reeta Pöyhtäri and published in May 2017 by Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

The chapter, “Journalism Schools Must Include Safety Courses in Curricula,” was based on an urgent call she made at the 2016 UNESCO World Press Freedom Day conference in Helsinki, Finland.

Too many journalists are victims of violence and impunity, and more should be done in academia to prepare media students for the perils they are likely to face.

I urge all faculty members at this conference to incorporate a course on safety for journal­ists in their curricula. It’s not a luxury; it’s an urgent necessity.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), one journal­ist is killed every five days in the line of duty and the impunity of such acts is unabated.

Unlike the issues of journalism and freedom of expression, journalists’ safety has not been a popular topic of academic research. It has rarely been discussed as a specific research question, much less in practical courses….

The “Model Course on Safety of Journalists” on which she worked is now in print in English and Arabic and will be online on the UNESCO and IFJ websites.

Arab Journalists Learn Religion Coverage

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil helped train Lebanese, Jordanian and Iraqi journalists in Beirut on the mechanics of covering religion, religious diversity and freedom of expression during a much-needed five-day workshop.

They had been given a solid dose of religious, philosophical and academic arguments and definitions in previous days by men of the cloth, university faculty members and other experts in a mini-course organized by the Adyan Foundation, an organization promoting interreligious studies and spiritual solidarity.

Abu-Fadil on how to cover religion

Abu-Fadil on how to cover religion

Abu-Fadil’s sessions in October 2016 focused on the essence of covering religion, the research involved, the fieldwork, the critical thinking needed for such assignments, and the hazards involved.

Videos included how sectarian provocation in the media was monitored in Lebanon in 2015, how religious differences are interpreted by children (based on their upbringing), how to detect bias in reporting, religious forgiveness, and tolerance.

The tips she provided included reporting accurately about religious groups and matters, not assuming anything, being fair and balanced, familiarizing oneself with religious laws where they apply, providing the necessary context to any story and adding the economic, political, social and cultural dimensions to reports.

Religious and sectarian differences in Lebanon

Religious and sectarian differences in Lebanon

She also cautioned them about politicians’ use of religious verses to further political and possibly nefarious agendas.

Abu-Fadil moreover focused on media ethics in the religious context with countless caveats on pitfalls that could sink journalists like inciting hate, misusing social media, and disseminating rumors.

Abu-Fadil Trains Libyan Journalists in Conflict-Sensitive Reporting

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil pulled all the stops to familiarize Libyan journalists with the concept of conflict-sensitive reporting aimed at producing a code of ethics for their country’s media.

MU director explains the impact of deadly rumors

MU director explains the impact of deadly rumors

During two training courses, Abu-Fadil focused on definitions of conflict-sensitive reporting and bias, propaganda, hate speech, rumors, pictures, images, and video clips, the pros and cons of online and social media, religious incitement, and peace journalism.

Propaganda stokes conflicts, journalists told

Propaganda stokes conflicts, journalists told

The final event, a workshop grouping some of the participants from the second training and others who complemented the assemblage, focused on hammering out a code of ethics to be adopted by Libyan media.

Ethics, media and conflicts

Ethics, media and conflicts

UNESCO’s Division for Freedom of Information and Media Development in collaboration with the Tunis-based UNESCO Libya CI focal point commissioned the work that was conducted in Amman, Jordan in April 2016.

UNESCO's Raja'a El Abasi at training workshop for Libyan journalists

UNESCO’s Raja’a El Abasi at training workshop for Libyan journalists

The event followed earlier efforts by UNESCO to establish a base for media ethics in Libya. The Amman program was co-funded by the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

Michael Croft, UNESCO Head of Office and Representative in Libya addresses participants as US Public Affairs Officer Stephen Ibelli (center) looks on

Michael Croft, UNESCO Head of Office and Representative in Libya, addresses participants as US Public Affairs Officer Stephen Ibelli (center) looks on

The journalists came from Libya, Tunisia and Egypt to Jordan. Some of the participants were already in Amman, since they work for Libyan media based in the Jordanian capital. They represented print, broadcast and online media.

Abu-Fadil describes causes of conflicts

Abu-Fadil describes causes of conflicts

The program sought to change behavior and practice in Libya’s media sector. It drew on frameworks the journalists had established and adopted in the Madrid Declaration of July 2015 issued by Libyan media managers in talks facilitated by UNESCO in Spain.

Abu-Fadil and El Abasi with Libyan journalists in Amman

Abu-Fadil and El Abasi with Libyan journalists in Amman

The journalists are expected to work with their peers, civil society, and local and national authorities to establish a national consensus on media practice, freedom of expression, and the role of the media in Libyan society.

Amal Alwerfali receives workshop certificate

Amal Alwerfali receives workshop certificate



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 Conducts Professional Development Workshop for Qatar’s “Al Sharq” Journalists

To meet 21st century audiences’ and users’ needs, journalists and newsroom managers must be fully engaged, must capitalize on social media, and must update their news gathering and production operations, Qatar-based journalists were told.

Abu-Fadil provides editing pointers

Abu-Fadil provides editing pointers

The advice was part of a two-day workshop Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil provided at a workshop in Doha at the headquarters of Al-Sharq daily newspaper and news portal.

The October 2015 event aimed at providing professional development advice and practical training to writers, reporters, editors and the daily’s portal content producers.

Al Sharq editors and writers attend professional development workshop

Al Sharq editors and writers attend professional development workshop

Abu-Fadil showed participants how the editorial departments of the newspaper and a common newsroom could be turned into a control center complemented by mobile journalists, user-generated content and social media.

Q & A on media ethics

Q & A on media ethics

She also engaged them in a lively presentation and discussion on media ethics.

U.S. Embassy Information Officer Sacha Fraiture and Abu-Fadil

U.S. Embassy Information Officer Sacha Fraiture and Abu-Fadil

A second component of the workshop zeroed in on digital-first journalism with case studies on how best to implement it.

Al Sharq journalists, Fraiture and Abu-Fadil

Al Sharq journalists, Fraiture and Abu-Fadil

The State Department’s U.S. Speaker Program, in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy in Qatar, organized the workshop.

Lebanese Freelance Journalists Hanging by a Thread: Abu-Fadil

Freelance journalists, notably in Lebanon, face countless difficulties, not least of which are steady assignments, benefits and proper protection in conflict zones.

“Print, broadcast, online and multimedia news organizations in Lebanon are cutting down on field crews for various reasons, notably economic shrinkage and reduced administrative budgets, in addition to political pressures making freelancers more attractive and cheaper than their full-time counterparts,” said Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil.

Old fashioned freelancer

Old fashioned freelancer

Media prefer such an arrangement to avoid paying social security, transportation expenses, medical costs, education benefits, life insurance and end-of-service indemnities, she told Al Modon.

As media increasingly employ contractual reporters, photojournalists and multimedia journalists to cover events, there are a growing number of journalism school graduates every year facing a tight job market and low salaries.

Here is a [PDF] of the article.