Abu-Fadil Trains Yemeni NGO Staffers in Strategic Comms

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil conducted a mini-course on strategic communications and media crisis management for Yemeni members of NGOs aimed at promoting their respective peace-related messages and mitigating crises.

The intensive three-day virtual workshop in July 2020 required participants to first think like journalists, operate like “mobile journalists” (mojos), and meet pressing news deadlines to appreciate what media needs are.

Elements of a news story

They also learned about the elements of news stories, how not to fall for misinformation, disinformation and malinformation, and, the art of writing news releases for various platforms.

One session was dedicated to organizing news conferences, briefings and events, with all the logistical, technical and editorial details involved in putting them together.

 

Trainees cautioned about disinformation

A key element in dealing with the media is the interview, and Abu-Fadil demonstrated the skills needed to handle questions under pressure, ground rules for attribution, what to wear, how to sit and act in front of a camera, tone of voice, body language, and the need for excellent preparation before any encounter.

 

Interview ground rules

The drills included media ethics, setting up a media office and what the role of a spokesperson is.

Another major element of the training was establishing a strong visual identity and using social media effectively to engage with one’s various audiences across traditional and other platforms.

 

Using fact sheets

The most critical part of the workshop was devoted to handling negative news and crisis communications by being transparent, not disseminating unreliable information, maintaining one’s credibility and multitasking under extreme pressure.

The training ended with tips on how to build a strategic media plan.

The workshop grouped participants representing a number of organizations across Yemen.

It was organized by the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies under the umbrella of the Yemen Peace Forum and was sponsored by the Netherlands government.

Beware of “Information Disorder,” MU Director Cautions Journos

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil advised three groups of journalists to be on their guard against “information disorder” that misleads audiences by disseminating dis-, mis- and mal-information.

 

Arab News masterclass in Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation

She kicked off a virtual masterclass with a doctored video tweeted by U.S. President Donald Trump purporting to show an African-American toddler escaping from a white toddler, claiming the former was being chased by a racist child.

The video’s producer used a phony logo of CNN, a favorite Trump target, to falsely claim the network is a purveyor of “fake news.”

The clip is in fact of two little pals who had just hugged and were running together and whose parents cherish their friendship. Trump even misspelled the word toddler.

 

Doctored video tweeted by Donald Trump

Abu-Fadil’s advice was part of training in late June and early July 2020 for reporters and editors located in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Pakistan and India working remotely for the Saudi daily Arab News.

She demonstrated how manipulated information was part of historical events but that its weaponization in the 21st century had taken it to new heights, amplified by social media, hence the need for professional standards of ethical and accountable journalism.

Abu-Fadil also spoke of plagiarism and fabrication as forms of deception, provided tips on media manipulation, discussed the role of influencers in distorting news, and pointed out how easily bots can spread false information.

She urged the journalists not to use the term “fake news” which is misused by politicians and detractors to attack all those with whom they disagree.

 

Definitions of “information disorder”

Abu-Fadil provided examples of dis-, mis- and malinformation, satire, parody, false connection, misleading content, false context, imposter content and fabricated content.

She presented a list of steps to verify user-generated content and stressed the importance of media and information literacy to help the trainees think critically about the information they consume and create.

A portion of the training focused on verification of information before and after reports are published with reference to the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) that developed a code of principles to guide fact-checkers in their work.

 

The weaponization of information in the 21st century

Abu-Fadil zeroed in on social media verification, with special attention paid to photo and video manipulation.

She presented several case studies and equipped her charges with tools to detect doctored photos through reverse image searches, to analyze Facebook and Twitter accounts, to learn about geolocation, weather corroboration, shadow analysis and image forensics.

The MU director discussed “deepfakes” and showed a video on how troublemakers combine images of people from different sources to make them appear like they’re saying and doing things they did not.

 

Media expert Claire Wardle explains “deepfakes”

Abu-Fadil wrapped up the masterclass with a note on combating online abuse as journalists, particularly women, are increasingly being subjected to disinformation campaigns that undermine their safety and that of their sources.

The training was based primarily on the “Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation” handbook Abu-Fadil co-authored for UNESCO.