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.

Abu-Fadil on Media, Human Trafficking at ARIJ Confab

Is there a right way to cover human trafficking and slavery? Are there ethical pitfalls going undercover to produce an earth-shattering investigative report on this repulsive trade that can jar the world’s conscience?

A topic that’s existed since time immemorial but has become increasingly thorny given the media attention it’s received, often tied in with the international migrant and refugee crisis.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil helped provide tips on how to cover it at a soft launch of guidelines during a December 2017 panel at the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalists’ (ARIJ) annual conference at the Dead Sea in Jordan.

 

Magda Abu-Fadil speaks on media’s coverage of human trafficking, slavery

Her presentation, animated with case studies and videos on slavery, human trafficking and prostitution, was drawn from the guidelines and other sources.

Abu-Fadil said news of human trafficking was one of the biggest and most difficult challenges facing media and an important test for media ethics.

This type of news requires attention and sensitivity, as the language, portrayal, and context used by journalists and media may cause damage, incite hatred, and reinforce stereotypes, she explained.

Media and Trafficking in Human Beings Guidelines

 It may also result in ignorance and misunderstanding that would divert attention from the root causes and hamper the public debate needed to solve this crisis, she added. 

Despite the existence of glossaries from various international organizations and NGOs, and reports documenting the facts, Arab journalists still use inaccurate language without distinguishing one term from another, Abu-Fadil said.

 

Packed session on media, human trafficking, slavery guidelines

The guidelines project was funded by the European Union, implemented by an international consortium led by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and authored by the Ethical Journalism Network’s director Aidan White.

The guidelines were written in English and will be made available for download in several languages as a useful handbook for journalists to facilitate their work.

Read Abu-Fadil’s blogpost on her presentation.

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.

MU Director Speaks on Media/Migrant/Refugee Coverage, Presents Award

International organizations and government officials are paying attention to the need for collaboration with media on the migrant/refugee crisis to mitigate a rising tide of xenophobia egged on by false and toxic reporting.

The International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), partnering with the European Union (EU), Euro Mediterranean Migration IV (EMM4) and the government of Malta, organized the “Director General Conference: Balancing the Narrative on Migration, The Role of Media and Policymakers” in Valetta in June 2017 aimed at balancing the narrative on migration.

Narrative on migration and media conference

Topics included a panel on the role of the media and migration reporting in informing the public during which Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil presented a Lebanese social media case study of politics, sectarianism, xenophobia, hate speech, a counter-narrative, and, pushback from maligned parties.

The conference grouped policymakers, media representatives and academics who discussed how media and different stakeholder groups, including policymakers, communicate on migration, how the media gather, use and convey migration-related data, and how this ultimately influences the narrative and public opinion on migration.

 

Magda Abu-Fadil presents Lebanese social media case study

Abu-Fadil also spoke of the importance of promoting critical thinking, and reinforcing awareness to combat online hate speech and fake news against migrants and refugees through media, information and news literacy.

 

Organizers, along with Open Media Hub hosted in Valetta the first Migration Media Award for journalistic excellence on migration in the Euro-Mediterranean region. It’s an EU-funded journalism competition for which Abu-Fadil served as one of the judges.

 

Migration Media Award recipients and judges

It recognized 35 journalists from 16 countries for their journalistic excellence in reporting on migration in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

Abu-Fadil handed the first prize in the print category to Moroccan journalist Salaheddine Lemaizi for his winning entry “Right to Asylum: What to do with Syrian Refugees?”

 

Abu-Fadil hands Migration Media Award to Salaheddine Lemaizi

The winning entries featured fact-based and impartial reporting on the complexity of migration, its many challenges and opportunities.

UNESCO/IFJ Launch Journalists Safety University Course

UNESCO’s Beirut office and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) launched the “Model Course on Safety of Journalists,” to help lessen dangers to media workers by incorporating a safety course in university curricula across the Middle East/North Africa (MENA).

The course covers: a broad introduction to journalism safety and threats to media workers; planning for personal safety; personal health care and trauma in hostile environments; risk assessment; travel security; digital security; gender and safe reporting; covering demonstrations and civil unrest; human rights and humanitarian law; ethics; and, safety and investigative journalism.

IFJ’s Anthony Bellanger, Lebanese Education Ministry’s Ahmad Jammal and UNESCO’s Sylvie Coudray and George Awad

It was published and launched in Beirut, Lebanon in May 2017 in hard copy in English and Arabic. It is available as downloadable PDFs in both languages as a gift to academics and students.

Arabic version of safety course

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil, Michael Foley, and Clare Arthurs prepared the 174-page English version to shed light on fatalities, injuries, and disappearances that are at record highs in the MENA region and prepare students for dangers they’re likely to face.

Lebanese University professor Hassana Rachid translated the book to Arabic.

Foley is a former journalist who moved into academia, as did Arthurs, a BBC journalist-turned-instructor and trainer.

 

Magda Abu-Fadil presents lessons in safety for journalists course

Abu-Fadil is a veteran journalist who has worked in the staid halls of academe, where media curricula in the MENA countries have not always kept pace with the skills needed and job market requirements.

Abu-Fadil Raises Media Ethics Issues at COPEAM 2017 Confab

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told a Beirut conference the issue of fake news may cause extensive damage and provided examples of how Photoshopped pictures and distorted videos go viral on social media.

RAI President Monica Maggioni, Anna Lindh Foundation Executive Director Hatem Atallah, Media Unlimited Director Magda Abu-Fadil and AFP video journalist Will Vassilopoulos

“Professionalism and media ethics equal a winning equation in the 21st Century,” she said at the “Mediterranean Storytelling: Complexities, Media Response and Public Opinion” event, adding that today’s wars and crises are defined as social media and fabricated news conflicts.

Abu-Fadil was speaking at the at the 24th Annual Conference and 23rd General Assembly of COPEAM, the Permanent Conference of Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators in Beirut, Lebanon, in May 2017.

She joined experts seeking solutions to coverage of complex issues, notably migration, terrorism, fake news, their impact, and audience behavior.

COPEAM is a non-profit association devoted to the promotion of dialogue and cultural integration in the Mediterranean region through the involvement of the audiovisual sector’s major players.

 

COPEAM conferees discuss their roles and responsibilities

These include public service radio and TV broadcasters of 26 countries, as well as professional and cultural associations, higher education institutions, and, independent producers and local authorities from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Rome-based COPEAM groups 60 members. It acts on a multilateral cooperation formula aimed at enhancing and exchanging expertise within its network.

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.

Media Education in Lebanon Needs Revisiting: Abu-Fadil

Media education in Lebanon needs revisiting as faculty members and curricula are often well behind the times leaving graduates unable to meet market needs.

“The gap begins with curricula that resemble poems of the Jahiliyya (pre-Islamic) era,” said Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil who spent years trying to upgrade courses at two universities in Lebanon but was often met with academic and bureaucratic obstructionists.

Al Jazeera Journalism Review

Al Jazeera Journalism Review

She said many of the instructors teaching journalism and media courses had never worked in the field and had never run newsrooms, leading to a disconnect between academia and the media to fulfill job requirements.

Abu-Fadil, who was interviewed by the Al Jazeera Journalism Review, said journalism and media studies graduates who do not acquire the necessary skills may latch on to superficial manifestations like the latest technology and social media, rather than pay attention to news substance regardless of the platform.

“Sadly, there’s a big drop in the command of languages (stressing the importance of mastering several in a globalized world), a shortage of critical thinking, little grasp of general knowledge, not to mention media ethics that’s almost non-existent, and, a problem of accuracy, balance, and verification in light of everything that’s published on social media,” she noted.

Asked whether the media weren’t also to blame for promoting journalists and presenters who were ill qualified, Abu-Fadil replied: “Everyone is responsible because media want to attract audiences, but in an era of cutbacks, sliding revenues, a switch to online/mobile/interactive digital media, there’s a great need to change employers’ mindsets.”

She said media’s role should be to benefit and enlighten readers, listeners, viewers and browsers, not just owners, adding that Lebanese media are also constrained by political, sectarian and economic factors.

MU Director on Female Internet Radicalization at UNESCO Quebec Meet

Why do young people, including girls and women, turn radical and what role does the Internet play in their radicalization?

A question Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil tried to answer in the workshop “Gender Perspectives and the Process of Radicalization” at the UNESCO conference “Internet and the Radicalization of Youth: Preventing, Acting and Living Together“ in Quebec, Canada in November 2016.

Abu-Fadil on female Internet radicalization

Abu-Fadil on female Internet radicalization

She referred to research by Lebanese sociologist Mona Fayyad who said high crime rates in crowded urban areas, notably poverty belts surrounding major cities, often go undetected by social monitoring and supervision, leading to an increased possibility of crimes and violence alongside a collapse of traditional structures.

Fayyad focused on Syrian refugees and migrants in Lebanon and their exposure to untold horrors and injustices possibly leading to deviant behavior. Lebanon hosts upwards of 1.5 million Syrian refugees and migrants who escaped the war in their country, depending on whose figures one believes.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon may add to security threat

Syrian refugees in Lebanon may add to security threat

According to women experts on a BBC Arabic TV show, many of the recruits fighting in Arab countries come from abroad. While home grown female jihadists in Iraq exist, for example, many others hail from Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Europe and Russia.

One researcher said women recruits exhibited character weakness, a proclivity to violence, a need for escape (from their reality), and were in search of alternatives.

Sadly, authorities in many countries treat the symptom, not the cause, of radicalization, Abu-Fadil said.

What draws women and girls to extremist organizations? Females join ISIS ranks to follow boyfriends, husbands, siblings or other family members.

Female jihadists duped

Female jihadists duped

In most cases, it’s under the false pretense of a better, holier and more exciting life. To their horror, they discover it’s all a hoax.

Among the non-Muslim-majority countries, Russia, France, and Germany supply the largest numbers of ISIS’ foreign workforce, a World Bank study said.

Recommendations on tackling female radicalization

Recommendations on tackling female radicalization

A writeup of Abu-Fadil’s presentation is available here.

MU Director on Peace Building in Lebanon Via Media

I Hate You.”

A powerful statement and title of a 385-page study on hate speech and sectarianism in “Arab Spring” media, wrote Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil.

It is also a reflection of countless Arab world afflictions that was published in 2014 by the Amman-based Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ).

Peace Building in Lebanon (Abu-Fadil)

“In the Arab Spring’s crisis, it is hard to provide a stamp of innocence to exonerate Arab media from responsibility in the spread of hate speech, since most are co-conspirators in their practice, or in their silence,” wrote CDFJ Executive President Nidal Mansour in the book’s foreword (page 9).

It plunges into case studies of hate speech in Jordan, as that is manifested against Syrian refugees, but it may as well have been addressing the issue in Lebanon, where a host of similarities exist…

Read the full article that appeared in a newspaper supplement on peace building in Lebanon produced by the United Nations Development Program in English for The Daily Star [PDF], in Arabic for Annahar and Assafir [PDF] and in French for L’Orient-Le Jour [PDF].