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.

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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 Weighs In On Journalists’ Safety In Media Curricula

Far too many journalists in the field are endangered by their work but may not have the proper training or support to save themselves or avoid countless threats, hence the need for safety courses in university media curricula.

Short courses for professionals are inadequate and mitigating risks has become a necessity, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil and other experts in the field told academics at a workshop in Amman in January 2015.

Magda Abu-Fadil explains integration of safety course in journalism curriculum

Magda Abu-Fadil explains integration of safety course in journalism curriculum

The event was backed by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and grouped media school deans and faculty members from Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq.

George Awad on UNESCO's contribution to safety

George Awad on UNESCO’s contribution to safety

The two-and-a-half-day workshop was a team effort including journalist, trainer and safety expert Clare Arthurs, who brought a wealth of experience to the table.

Clare Arthurs explains safety for journalists in the field

Clare Arthurs explains safety for journalists in the field

Safety for journalists isn’t limited to conflict zones, wars and terrorism. There are natural disasters, epidemics, and other events that put journalists’ lives in danger.

An exercise in risk assessment seems an afterthought, or a luxury at best, although it should be second nature to news organizations.

Abu-Fadil’s and Arthurs’ combined journalism background added weight to the argument as did that of Princess Rym Ali (formerly Rym Brahimi of CNN who covered the start of the Iraq war in 2003 and was expelled from Baghdad with colleague Nic Robertson).

Princess Rym Ali recounts experience as a CNN correspondent

Princess Rym Ali recounts experience as a CNN correspondent

After marrying Jordan King Abdullah’s brother, Prince Ali, and giving up her journalistic career, she founded the Jordan Media Institute where the workshop was held.

IFJ Arabic safety guide

IFJ Arabic safety guide

The workshop’s outcome and ultimate course design will be tailored to the needs of various educational systems, contexts and languages in the Middle East/North Africa region, and eventually worldwide. It will also be made available online for easy access to all those interested in helping safeguard journalists.

Abu-Fadil Caps Workshops Run With Egyptian Journalists

Capping a series of workshops across the Middle East/North Africa region and beyond, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil joined BBC veteran Jim Fish to train two groups of Egyptian journalists in Jordan.

BBC veteran Jim Fish reviews journalists' work

BBC veteran Jim Fish reviews journalists’ work

Fish and Abu-Fadil reviewed and assessed the work of two groups of reporters, producers and editors for Egyptian print, broadcast and online media.

Egyptian journalists listen to comments about their work

Egyptian journalists listen to comments about their work

The journalists’ output was an assignment finalizing training that followed up on earlier courses organized by BBC Media Action and that the journalists had undergone on news reporting and writing.

Jim Fish & Magda Abu-Fadil with Group I of Egyptian journalists

Jim Fish & Magda Abu-Fadil with Group I of Egyptian journalists

The September 2014 back-to-back workshops in Amman aimed at ascertaining the importance of proper and diverse sourcing, balance in presenting various sides to the reported information, ethical considerations, newsworthiness and accuracy.

The trainers also stressed the importance of the correct use of language, grammar, attention to translated material used in the journalists’ coverage, and making sure all information, notably numerical data, are presented in the proper context.

Abu-Fadil & Fish with Group II of Egyptian trainees

Abu-Fadil & Fish with Group II of Egyptian trainees

Fish and Abu-Fadil also provided pointers on how to improve radio, TV and online stories’ audio, visual and multimedia presentations.

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.”

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.

Deadlines, Competition Shouldn’t Precede Media Ethics: Abu-Fadil

Use and abuse of social media has become the “new battleground” in conflict coverage with Gaza being a recent example.

“A click is often faster than legwork to obtain information and shape it into good story form,” said Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil. “I believe the same rules apply to social media as legacy media in terms of coverage and good journalism, albeit in more condensed form and at greater speed: accuracy, balance, fairness, ethics.”

She discussed the implications in “Information wars: how journalists navigated social media in the Israel-Palestine conflict,” for the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

Screen shot of WAN-IFRA's Information Wars

Screen shot of WAN-IFRA’s Information Wars

Read more from Abu-Fadil on emotions, comments, images and videos used by warring factions via social media in a blogpost by Lucy Dean. A [PDF] version is available here.

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

 

 

 

MU Presents Arabic Online Media Ethics Guide

A tweet promoting the “First-Ever Guide to Online Media Ethics” [PDF] led Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil to seek out its author in a bid to disseminate it to journalists, bloggers, trainees and students across the Arab World.

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The announcement by Andrea Gallo, a Louisiana State University (LSU) student on the birth of her publication, prompted Abu-Fadil to obtain the booklet and oversee its translation into Arabic.

Various organizations have published online media ethics guidelines but few have made the effort to disseminate them in an easy-to-use Arabic-language compendium.

Rouba El-Helou, a media studies faculty member and journalist, translated the text into Arabic and Abu-Fadil edited the booklet [PDF].

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The guide is well thought out and its sections cover news judgment and conflicts, transparency, sourcing ethics, knowing your audience, plagiarism, when problems arise, photos and art, and social media.

Governments, notably in the Arab World, have increasingly slapped on penalties or sentences on producers of online content they deem offensive, and have equated such content with that of print publications.

In other countries officials have begun to deal with the issue through restrictive legislation such as requiring online media to obtain a license to operate, leading to a whole set of ethical problems.

The booklet is an annual project for LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication students.

Dean Jerry Ceppos, who teaches an undergraduate course called “Media Ethics and Social Responsibility” (MC 4090), assigns his charges production of this invaluable resource.

Abu-Fadil to Tunisian Journos: Separate News & Views

Don’t report the process, tell the audience what is important and why, BBC veteran Russell Peasgood instructed Tunisian journalists at a workshop to review their output following an earlier course.

Peasgood provided insights on how to improve radio and TV reports, what camera angles are best for what types of shots, indoor and outdoor sound quality, broadcast interviews, and overall content.

Russell Peasgood critiques Tunisian TV report

Russell Peasgood critiques Tunisian TV report

The training was co-conducted by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil in Tunis and is funded by the European Union (EU).

Abu-Fadil urged the trainees to distinguish between news and views and to separate the two in their reports

She also advised them to simplify the language they use in print, broadcast and online reports and to address themselves to their respective audiences, not to their bosses.

Magda Abu-Fadil explains difference between news and views

Magda Abu-Fadil explains difference between news and views

The trainees represented media based in Tunis, Sousse, Manouba, Sidi Bouzid, Nabeul, Sfax and Djerba.

Tunisian journalists benefit from professional training

The workshop in March 2014 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.”

Abu-Fadil Trains Jordanians on Use of Demographics in Reporting

Thirty-three Jordanian print, broadcast and online journalists plunged into an intensive course aimed at fine-tuning their reporting skills in coverage of public health issues by reading tables, deciphering statistics, and carefully filtering through complex demographic data.

Jordanian journalists toiling over demographic survey tables

Jordanian journalists toiling over demographic survey tables

 Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil contributed to the March 2014 workshop organized by Jordan’s former director of statistics Fathi Nsour and guided by the U.S.-based Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program.

The training focused on understanding Jordanian demographic survey results, the importance of math for journalists, simple rules for writing with numbers, health terminology, and general reporting guidelines.

Other experts in the fields of sociology, population, statistics and demographics were on hand to help clarify complex issues the journalists were expected to cover.

The workshop included practical math exercises, online research for primary and secondary sources, a mock news conference on public health, writing, editing, media ethics, and a general knowledge quiz.

Abu-Fadil discusses ethics in health coverage

Abu-Fadil discusses ethics in health coverage

Participants also watched relevant videos, including a segment from “About Latifa and Others,” a documentary on domestic violence by award-winning Lebanese journalist Diana Moukalled.

A major challenge was requiring the journalists to “put it all together” by reading and interpreting data, finding the story, verifying the information, not being overwhelmed by numbers, planning the story, reporting it, selecting the right headline, and simplifying complex terms for lay news consumers.

Magda Abu-Fadil (seated, red shirt) with Jordanian journalists and trainers

Magda Abu-Fadil (seated, red shirt) with Jordanian journalists and trainers

DHS is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. It provides technical assistance to over 90 countries to conduct large national public health surveys and disseminate results to government and non-governmental agencies for use in programs and policies.

“The Endless Battle on Corruption in Media”

Lebanese journalists face hardships in accessing information, with legal checks and outside pressures barring them from conducting proper investigations into corruption, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil said.

“Laws often trip up journalists as their interpretation or misapplication hamper serious investigations and the uncovering of wrongdoing,” she told the International Anti-Corruption Academy’s “IACAlumnus” magazine.

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But, she noted, that if a dedicated journalist is intent on covering corruption issues, he/she can do so at his/her own peril.

“The Endless Battle on Corruption in Media,” an article in the magazine by Rouba El Helou, focuses on issues like the mixture of politics, religion and economics that lead to corruption in media and undermine journalists.

“Revealing the truth in corruption stories helps protect citizens from further harm, sets a good example as to what ethical behavior ought to be, and acts as a deterrent to potential criminals,” Abu-Fadil said.