Abu-Fadil Leads Virtual Masterclasses in COVID-19 Coverage

Journalists from bureaus of the Saudi-based daily Arab News took active part in a virtual masterclass on how to cover COVID-19 as the pandemic continues to grip the world and demand effective media attention.

 

Covering COVID-19

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil conducted three sessions in May 2020 for the reporters in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Pakistan/India, with one journalist joining Saudi colleagues from London.

The teleconferenced training tackled working from home and how that has morphed into the journalists’ distributed newsroom. The masterclass emphasized the importance of the reporters’ mental and physical safety in lockdown situations, or on their occasional trips out.

 

Dubai-based journalists shown the dangers of viruses spreading on a plane

The class delved into the medical aspect of the coronavirus by first making sure participants understood and conveyed the proper terminology in their coverage, to seeking advice from medical experts, to the role of the World Health Organization and other medical institutions, to learning how to filter through medical journals and studies.

Abu-Fadil also cautioned the journalists against being misled by dis-, mis- and mal-information disseminated through traditional and social media, or regular contacts with other people. She shared several case studies of dubious information and pressed upon her charges the importance of fact-checking, spotting and debunking deliberate or unintentional lies.

 

Tips on debunking disinformation

The reporters were armed with useful resources on where to obtain reliable data about COVID-19 and tips on protecting themselves.

The masterclass further explored the future of offices and activities while social distancing.

Of key importance was focus on the media in the COVID-19 crisis and how to cover the story ethically.

On the business front, Abu-Fadil discussed the impact on the world/regional economy, with a particular nod to the ever-growing gig economy. There were references to the supply chain, food shortages, hunger, poverty, social revolutions, border controls, and refugees.

 

Getting the medical details right

A touchy but important subject is how to cover major religions’ handling of the coronavirus for which Abu-Fadil showed ample examples.

Other sub-topics were art, culture, education and kids with distance learning presenting the biggest challenge to educators.

But entertainment under lockdown has also taken on new meaning and the trainees were shown options to virtual cultural trips to museums and concerts, and, the ability to download free books and obtain free subscriptions for kids’ publications to keep them occupied.

 

Pakistani and Indian journalists asked to change newspapers’ COVID-19 headlines

Last, but not least, Abu-Fadil turned to humor, saying Arab News journalists should infuse their coverage with some jokes to make light of COVID-19 in a bid to overcome the grim reality and used the example of a Lebanese newspaper that dedicates a whole page to funny items on the virus.

Abu-Fadil on Media Literacy at GEN-Organized “Unconference”

Four speakers, including Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil, challenged participants at an “unconference” to help promote media literacy and mitigate damage from disinformation, social media abuse and various forms of manipulation via news and other outlets.

Magda Abu-Fadil on importance of media literacy at International Journalism Festival (courtesy Bartolomeo Rossi)

The “unconference” – different from a classical conference where speakers and sessions are defined – allowed participants to set the agenda and contribute solutions to problems.

Abu-Fadil’s challenge: How to find resources for media literacy courses. Who will pay and/or wants to pay for them?

 

IJF 2018 speaker

Her frame of reference was Lebanon in particular and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region in general with a need to provide such skills in multiple relevant languages.

The Global Editors Network (GEN) organized the “unconference” at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy in April 2018.

 

GEN CEO Bertrand Pecquerie guides media literacy “unconference” (courtesy IJF)

It grouped GEN CEO Bertrand Pecquerie as moderator, Dan Gillmor, a digital media literacy and entrepreneurship professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, George Brock, a journalist, consultant and visiting professor at London’s City University, Barbara Huppe, chief marketing officer at Hubii, a local news aggregator-cum-blockchain technology firm, and Abu-Fadil.

Pequerie facilitated a discussion with the audience asking participants to provide ideas, recommendations and various options for the four challenges.

The full “unconference” can be viewed here.

Abu-Fadil Addresses Beirut Hate Speech Seminar

There’s never enough said about media ethics, notably when it involves hate speech perpetuated by the media.

So the London-based Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) partnered with Beirut’s Maharat Foundation and the Norwegian Institute of Journalism and convened experts from across the Middle East and North Africa to discuss how to combat hate speech in the media.

Director Aidan White explains EJN's five-point test for hate

Director Aidan White explains EJN’s five-point test for hate

I Hate You: Hate Speech and Sectarianism in Arab Spring Media is a good example of what we face today. It’s a 385-page book of well-documented case studies from across the region.

I Hate You: Hate Speech and Sectarianism in Arab Spring Media

I Hate You: Hate Speech and Sectarianism in Arab Spring Media

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil brought up the need for serious review of media ethics and presented guidelines on good journalistic practice at the November 2014 seminar in Beirut.

There are regular calls to end sedition and sectarianism in Lebanon, she noted, but said there were no serious efforts to hold the media, bloggers and activists accountable, without resorting to draconian measures like jail sentences and banning of outlets.

Magda Abu-Fadil demonstrates how media fuel hate speech

Magda Abu-Fadil demonstrates how media fuel hate speech

She pointed to the Arabic Online Media Ethics Guide launched with colleague Rouba El Helou in May to help netizens publish acceptable content.

“There’s a great need to shed light on hate speech that leads to murder and other crimes,” said Abdel Salam Sidahmed, the Middle East regional representative at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), adding that racism was on the rise on the Internet and in social media.

Attorney Tony Mikhael, who oversees Maharat’s media monitoring arm, explained hate speech in legal terms in Lebanon.

Attorney Tony Mikhael explains legalities and hate speech

Attorney Tony Mikhael explains legalities and hate speech

The event’s participants hailed from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Qatar, Turkey and Norway.