MU Director Trains Arab Media on Migration Coverage

Don’t take migration issues lightly, do proper research, never assume, avoid hate speech, stick to the facts, use visuals ethically and tell a good story.

That’s some of the advice Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil gave journalists at a three-day workshop in Tunis in September 2018 organized by the Open Media Hub, a European Union-funded initiative administered by the Thomson Foundation.

 

Magda Abu-Fadil explains the ethics of shooting photos and videos of migrants and refugees

The production-led training grouped print, radio, TV, online and multimedia journalists from Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Syria and provided them with tools aimed at improving their reporting on migration.

Cameraman/editor David Hands, senior media training and exchange expert at the Media Hub Project Petko Georgiev and Abu-Fadil were the instructors.

Migration and media – a complex topic to cover

They aimed to reinforce the journalists’ knowledge and abilities to help them achieve balance in their stories and provide unbiased public perception of migration.

Participants were asked earlier to submit a pitch for the story they intended to finalize during the workshop sessions.

Petko Georgiev, senior media training and exchange expert at Media Hub Project and cameraman/editor David Hands

The stories will be broadcast/published in their respective news outlets and made available on the Open Media Hub’s platform and website, for exchange between participants locally and internationally.

The workshop was built on a text Abu-Fadil wrote, “Migration and Media: A Journalist’s Handbook” – a cooperative project of the Open Media Hub, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), and Euromed Migration with funding from the EU – that will be available online in English, Arabic and French.

Migration and Media: A Journalist’s Handbook

The handbook was also turned into an OMH online course in the three languages.

 

The importance of visuals in media coverage

The objective was to ensure journalists have a basic firm understanding of the complex issues of migration, refugees, and human trafficking and their impact on the politics, economics, demographics, environment, security, education and cultures of affected countries and beyond.

The trainers spent half the workshop mentoring their charges by helping them fine-tune proposals to produce viable reports and provided useful technical tips on video and audio production.

 

Mentoring journalists on how best to cover the topic

Another hitch is the lack of adequate resources and support from news organizations, so the Open Media Hub has stepped in to help defray the cost of travel and local coverage to journalists pitching credible stories that may then qualify for the EU-funded Migration Media Award (MMA). 

 

EU Ambassador to Tunisia Patrice Bergamini at the Migration Media Award

Several of the workshop participants were winners of the 2018 MMA in its second edition and hope to secure financial backing for follow-up stories.

As a member of the jury for Arabic-language media, Abu-Fadil presented the first prize in print to Egyptian journalist Ibrahim Mustafa whose story “Europe is Not Paradise” was published in the daily Al Akhbar.

 

Abu-Fadil handing Arabic Migration Media Award first prize in print

The MMA for print, radio, TV and multimedia stories in Arabic, English and French was launched in 2017 to recognize excellence, relevance and newsworthiness of journalistic pieces dealing with migration in all its aspects in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

 

End of a successful workshop

This year’s awards focused on diaspora, labor migration, vulnerable groups, and legal and irregular migration.

Abu-Fadil Pens MIL Chapter in UNESCO “Fake News” Course/Book

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil wrote a teaching module on media and information literacy in a course aimed at creating awareness about “fake news.”

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization supported the initiative as part of UNESCO’s Excellence in Journalism Education Series for the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

The result: “Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation” published in the summer of 2018.

She joined a stellar group of journalists, academics and media experts in producing the course that can also be used by newsrooms and anyone concerned by the distortion of information.

This handbook for journalism education and training is a 128-page compendium of seven modules comprising lessons, exercises, assignments, activities, materials, and resources to create awareness about an increasingly relevant topic. The full text can be downloaded here.

It explores the very nature of journalism with modules on why trust matters; thinking critically about how digital technology and social platforms are conduits of information disorder; fighting back against disinformation and misinformation through media and information literacy; fact-checking 101; social media verification and combatting online abuse.

Abu-Fadil’s contribution, Module 4 “Combatting Disinformation and Misinformation Through Media and Information Literacy (MIL)” can be downloaded separately 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.

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.