Arab Universities Must Include Journalists’ Safety Course in Media Programs

A course on safety for journalists is a must and Arab universities should incorporate it in their media programs, experts said at a two-day UNESCO conference in Beirut.

UNESCO’s safety guide for journalists

UNESCO’s safety guide for journalists

“News organizations should train journalists and insist on safety measures and the use of proper equipment,” said Yazbeck Wehbe, a veteran of LBCI TV News who also teaches journalism at several Lebanese universities.

Academics from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, Morocco and Oman went over a draft of a semester-long course to be taught as one required unit, as an elective, or, from which they can select components to incorporate in other relevant media courses.

Magda Abu-Fadil (3rd from right) at Beirut conference on safety for journalists course in college curricula

Magda Abu-Fadil (3rd from right) at Beirut conference on safety for journalists course in college curricula 

Speakers included a security expert as well as four noted Lebanese journalists – two who work locally and two whose international track record in covering conflict zones is legend.

The course syllabus includes an overview and raison d’etre for safety as well as content on planning and personal safety, risk assessment, travel security, health and health care in hostile environments, demonstrations (and riots), natural disasters, gender safety, digital security, ethics, international humanitarian law, and safe investigative reporting.

Patrick Baz (a/k/a “Boom Boom” Baz), a world-renowned photojournalist whose career is linked to Agence France-Presse (AFP), offered valuable insights on how he covered some of the hottest spots in the Arab world and what lingering impact it’s had on him.

International photojournalist Patrick Baz in Fallujah, Iraq

International photojournalist Patrick Baz in Fallujah, Iraq

The February 2016 event was a follow-up to last year’s launch in Jordan of the initiative in collaboration with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). It dovetailed with the goals of the “U.N. Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.”

“Being a correspondent is going to places and sometimes bearing witness to war crimes,” said Samia Nakhoul, a Reuters veteran and Middle East editor who was seriously injured and almost died when U.S. tanks lobbed shells into the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad where foreign media were based during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Al Jadeed TV Vice Chair Karma Khayat, IFJ President Jim Boumelha and Reuters Middle East Editor Samia Nakhoul

Al Jadeed TV Vice Chair Karma Khayat, IFJ President Jim Boumelha and Reuters Middle East Editor Samia Nakhoul

The Beirut gathering came 10 days after UNESCO held a conference on “News Organizations Standing Up for the Safety of Media Professionals” at its Paris headquarters that drew some 300 international media leaders focused on safeguarding their staffers and ending impunity for attacks against them.

The course will undergo revision before being made available to all Arab universities and the public at large.

IFJ publications on journalists' casualties and safety

IFJ publications on journalists’ casualties and safety

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil, one of the experts involved in creating this course, moderated sessions at the Beirut conference. 

MU Director Talks on Lebanese Media Hate Speech at Cairo Seminar

Lebanese media mirror the country’s political, economic, and social ambiance, to the detriment of accuracy, fairness and balance in many instances, Magda Abu-Fadil told a Cairo seminar in November 2015.

Moroccan Professor Mohamed Allali and Magda Abu-Fadil at hate speech seminar at AUC

Moroccan Professor Mohamed Allali and Magda Abu-Fadil at AUC hate speech seminar 

The Media Unlimited director listed a number of adjectives, descriptions, stereotypes and ethnic or sectarian slurs that often creep into the public sphere and translate into hate speech, augmented by biased media coverage, she said.

Participants at Cairo hate speech and ethics seminar

Participants at Cairo hate speech and ethics seminar

It’s also common for politicians from opposing factions to engage in mudslinging through the media, although laws and regulations, not to mention basic media ethics, should act as a deterrent, she added.

Conferees discuss the role of press councils

Conferees discuss the role of press councils

The two-day seminar, held at the American University in Cairo, was a collaborative effort by the Ethical Journalism Network, the Norwegian Institute of Journalism, the Egyptian Editors Association and the Egypt Media Development Program 

Seminar group

Seminar group

The seminar dealt with the definition of hate speech, how to counter hate speech, case studies from the participants’ respective countries, group discussions with prominent media personalities, and efforts to establish a regional center for hate speech monitoring.

It grouped participants from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Britain, and the United States and is a follow-up to an earlier event in Beirut in 2014.

 

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.

bbc-media-neighbourhood-logo

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.

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.

MU Director Joins TAKREEM Selection Board 2014

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil was tapped to join the TAKREEM Selection Board 2014 that chooses candidates for one of the Arab world’s most prestigious prizes.

Lebanese TV star and talk show host Ricardo Karam founded the TAKREEM Initiative and serves as its CEO.

Takreem founder and CEO Ricardo Karam

Takreem founder and CEO Ricardo Karam

The Selection Board met in Beirut in April 2014 ahead of a final gathering of TAKREEM’s Jury Board that includes internationally renowned figures from, and interested in, the Arab World.

All nominations are non-discriminatory and are accepted independent of age, gender, national origin, religion or political affiliation.

Candidates should be of Arab ancestry for all categories except for one, the award of exceptional international contribution to Arab Society.
Karam (seated) with Takreem's 2014 Selection Board members

Karam (seated) with Takreem’s 2014 Selection Board members

The Selection Board groups individuals from various professions, renowned for their distinctions and achievements, and their responsibility is to draw up a carefully considered short-list of candidates in each award category.

The categories are:

  1. Humanitarian and Civic Services
  2. Environmental Development and Sustainability
  3. Scientific and Technological Achievement
  4. Innovation in Education
  5. Cultural Excellence
  6. Arab Woman of the Year Award
  7. Young Entrepreneur Award
  8. Outstanding Corporate Leadership
  9. Exceptional International Contribution to Arab Society.
Abu-Fadil (far right) with Innovation in Education selection board members

Abu-Fadil (far right) with Innovation in Education selection board members

The 2014 TAKREEM laureates will be announced at a ceremony in November in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh.

 

MU Director Tutors Moroccan Journalists in Avoiding Pitfalls

Twelve eager journalists from across Morocco returned to a Rabat workshop to present work they had produced following earlier intensive training led by BBC Media Action.

Analysis of Moroccan journalist's EU-related article

Analysis of Moroccan journalist’s EU-related article

The March 2014 training, conducted by BBC veteran Jim Fish and Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil centered on a review of print and online articles, as well as radio and television reports covering crimes, the controversial Sahara issue, protesting judges, and projects funded by the European Union (EU), to name a few.

BBC veteran Jim Fish (far right) with pointers on good reporting for Moroccan journalists

BBC veteran Jim Fish (far right) with pointers on good reporting for Moroccan journalists

The trainers went over several samples of work, critiquing content, sourcing, accuracy, style, presentation, and ethics.

They also cautioned participants to avoid bias, focus on the real story, sidestep long-winded rhetoric and remember the context.

Jim Fish (left) & Magda Abu-Fadil (right) with Moroccan journalists

Jim Fish (left) & Magda Abu-Fadil (right) with Moroccan journalists

The journalists hailed from Rabat, Sale, Casablanca, Meknes, Tetouan, Laayoune, and Sidi Ifni.

The workshop 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 to Journalists: Differentiate Between News and Views

Arab journalists should differentiate between news and views and should not ignore context in their online and traditional outlet stories, said Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil.

She told Morocco’s Al Roaya News young reporters are impatient and often ignore journalism basics like proper sourcing, research and media ethics.

She urged journalists to enroll in training workshops on a regular basis to upgrade and update their knowledge and skills and to fall back on critical thinking in their endeavors.

A [PDF] of the interview is available here.

Social Media & Wars

Social Media & Wars

In another interview, with Lebanon’s daily Annahar, Abu-Fadil described how media disseminated news of the country’s 1975-90 civil war as opposed to the ubiquitous use of social media today that parallel and compete with legacy media in covering local and regional conflicts.

She said journalists should not be misled by incorrect or doctored information from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and should be diligent in checking all sources.

A [PDF] of the interview is available here.

On Becoming A Foreign Correspondent

Hard work, preparation, a solid contact database, a nose for news, courage and ethics go into shaping foreign correspondents whose tools of the trade may have changed in a multimedia world, but whose mission to inform remains the same.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil provided 28 journalists and activists with tips on how to function as foreign correspondents and debunked myths about glamour and fame promoted in countless Hollywood movies.

Abu-Fadil on attribution and ground rules in different countries

Abu-Fadil on attribution and ground rules in different countries

The training in Morocco was part of the “Building a Digital Gateway to Better Lives” boot camp organized by the Washington-based International Center for Journalists.

It focused on cross-border and regional issues and involved investigative journalism team projects centered on child marriage, child labor, prostitution, human trafficking, prescription drugs on the black market, organized begging, cyber crimes, and illegal immigration.

Abu-Fadil presented examples of noted Arab and Western foreign correspondents, the beats they cover, working conditions, the costs and budgets required to maintain foreign bureaus and staffs, the transition to digital journalism, competition from citizen journalists, and the need to verify all data disseminated through social media and online sources.

Participants at Rabat boot camp

Participants at Rabat boot camp

She also stressed the importance of being multilingual, of being well versed in the history, geography, politics and social environment of the countries the correspondents cover, of the need to understand the economics and statistics of these countries, and how best to cover news conferences and interviews with foreign officials.

Abu-Fadil shows difference between Anglo and French numerals

Abu-Fadil shows difference between Anglo and French numerals

Abu-Fadil touched on first aid, security and safety measures reporters on foreign assignment should learn, which veteran Egyptian journalist Abeer Saady later tackled in depth.

Abeer Saady's safety tips on taxis

Abeer Saady’s safety tips on taxis

Also on hand was Moroccan IT expert Rachid Jankari to discuss mobile phones and cloud computing for use by journalists.

Rachid Jankari on mobile phones and cloud computing

Rachid Jankari on mobile phones and cloud computing

Senior strategist at National Public Radio, self-described real-time informational DJ and occasional journalist Andy Carvin also guided participants in the uses of social media to cover regional issues.

Rabat boot camp trainers and participants

Rabat boot camp trainers and participants

The September boot camp in the Moroccan capital Rabat grouped participants from Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, Jordan and Algeria.

MU Director at Digital Boot Camp: Media Laws & Ethics Are Key

Digital skills for journalists and activists are required for success in today’s world, but a key component is knowledge of media laws and ethics to protect oneself and avoid problems.

Amr Eleraqi shows journalists, activists how to use interactive tools

Amr Eleraqi shows journalists, activists how to use interactive tools

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil provided tips and reviewed legislation from countries represented by journalists and activists who attended the “Building a Digital Gateway to Better Lives” boot camp in Amman, Jordan.

Abu-Fadil provided a tour d’horizon of current and proposed legislation affecting print, broadcast and online media in the participants’ home countries.

Print and online media laws in Jordan explained

Print and online media laws in Jordan explained

She underlined common problems like various forms of censorship, harsh licensing procedures, penalties and legislators’ lack of understanding of what and who journalists are in the 21st Century.

Another crucial issue in the multimedia world is ethics for bloggers and what defines ethical behavior is an otherwise fluid landscape where platforms and tools converge.

Abu-Fadil showed jarring footage disseminated via social media of what she said was unethical conduct and complemented it with case studies of how traditional media handled, or mishandled, news coverage.

Trainees engaged in animated discussions on what constitutes ethics, how to define privacy, whether doctored or misleading photos and videos should be published, sourcing and attribution ground rules, and, a host of issues plaguing bloggers.

Abu-Fadil explains nuances of sourcing ground rules

Abu-Fadil explains nuances of sourcing ground rules

Other trainers at the five-day boot camp helped participants with live coverage for events, using interactive tools to enhance websites, creative storytelling with video, advanced safety for journalists, and building an effective presence on social media.

Veteran Egyptian journalist Abeer Saady's advice on personal safety

Veteran Egyptian journalist Abeer Saady’s advice on personal safety

The training, held at the Jordan Media Institute, was organized by the Washington-based International Center for Journalists in August 2013 and grouped participants from Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Morocco and Iraq.

MU Director Presents MIL Case Studies at Doha Experts Meeting

Morocco, South Africa and The Netherlands offer good examples of how Media and Information Literacy (MIL) can be integrated into school curricula, experts were told at a meeting in Doha.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil examined successful case studies from those countries at a three-day gathering in June 2013 organized by the Doha Center for Media Freedom (DCMF).

MU director proposes MIL solutions

MU director proposes MIL solutions

Abu-Fadil has written on the subject over the years and trained school teachers and activities coordinators on how to incorporate media literacy in their curricula.

The meeting dovetails with Qatar’s ambitious plan to ensure that public and private schools in the Arab Gulf emirate are fully media and information literate by 2014.

The DCMF is also aiming further afield to reach institutions in the Middle East and Africa.

“Media and Information Literacy (MIL) is a relatively new concept in the Middle East and suffers from a lack of knowledge among educators,” said DCMF Director Jan Keulen.

Qatar Higher Education Council's Asmaa Al Mohanadi, UN Alliance of Civilizations' Jordi Torrent and DCMF's Jan Keulen

Qatar Higher Education Council’s Asmaa Al Mohanadi, UN Alliance of Civilizations’ Jordi Torrent and DCMF’s Jan Keulen

But arming students with 21st Century skills and preparing teachers with the know-how to guide them is filling a gap in the country’s educational system, added Keulen, whose center is leading the charge.

The center organized the experts meeting on MIL in Doha grouping educators, ICT professionals, media practitioners and members of international organizations.

It included experts from Qatar’s Higher Education Council, Qatar University, ICT Qatar, UNESCO, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Cairo University, Kuwait University, the African Center for Media & Information Literacy, Japan’s Hosei University, the European Association for Viewers Interest, and the League of Arab States.

DCMF's MIL strategy

DCMF’s MIL strategy

UNESCO  has been at the forefront of the MIL effort. It published a Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Teachers in five languages that is available for download as a PDF.

Participants agreed to follow up on the meeting, develop and share ideas on implementing MIL in the Arab region, and, provide sustainable training programs, research and curricula for teachers.

Recommendations also emphasized the need for a shift in teaching methods, the establishment of exchange programs to build on successful youth-produced media initiatives, the creation of socially inclusive MIL programs for women and people with disabilities, and the building of national and international networks to share knowledge and resources.

The DCMF published a [PDF] report in English on the meeting.

The DCMF published a [PDF] report in Arabic on the meeting.