MU Director to Cairo Confab: Fight Disinformation With MIL

“Don’t believe everything you see.”

That’s how Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil began a presentation with a picture of Britain’s Prince William seemingly giving someone the finger.

Seen from another angle, the Duke of Cambridge looked like he was gesturing with the number three – a significant difference.

Magda Abu-Fadil to Cairo confab: “Don’t believe everything you see.”

She was, once again, beating the Media and Information Literacy (MIL) drum, this time to an audience of students, faculty members, media and others at the American University in Cairo in April 2019 as a panelist at the “Cultivating Cooperation: How Industry and Academia Can Transform Digital Storytelling” conference co-organized by AUC and the Egypt Media Development Program.

AUC-EMPD conference flyer

She told them it can be confusing when ‘information disorder’ comes from the highest authority and showed a video of U.S. President Donald Trump in an Orwellian clip telling his audience not to believe what they saw in the media.

That’s why fact-checker has become a full-time job, like that of reporter, editor, producer, and infographic designer in many news organizations.

Abu-Fadil provided various case studies of MIL, the importance of critical thinking and that in an age of “fake news” and alternative facts students need to grasp the concept of media and information literacy to understand news as a means to detect ‘information disorder’ in obvious and subliminal messages.

UNESCO’s MIL concept

She presented the different types of literacies under the MIL umbrella as defined by
UNESCO: Information literacy, library literacy, freedom of expression and freedom of information literacy, digital literacy, computer literacy, internet literacy, games literacy, cinema literacy, television literacy, news literacy, advertising literacy, and media literacy.

Abu-Fadil said in 2016, UNESCO, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, published the “Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy in the Middle East and North Africa” yearbook for which she was the lead editor and key co-author.

Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy in the Middle East and North Africa

A newer book she co-authored for UNESCO is “Journalism, Fake News & Disinformation.” It’s also a university course that can be taught during a whole semester, or as modules in other courses.

Journalism, Fake News & Disinformation

The MU director spoke about entering dangerous territory in the digital era with artificial intelligence (AI), notably deepfake. She showed how a deepfake video is produced and how misleading it can be.

She said students should understand that privacy is dead and that anything they post on social media can (and very likely) will come back to haunt them.

UNESCO’s false experts chart

Another form of “disinformation” is manipulation of information with false experts: in academia, government, science, medicine, finance, the environment, and even the media.

Last, but not least, she plugged an older paper she wrote for UNESCO, “Media Literacy: A Tool to Combat Stereotypes and Promote Intercultural Understanding.”

MCD Interviews Abu-Fadil on “Fake News,” Media Literacy

Monte Carlo Doualiya radio interviewed Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil to discuss her take on mitigating the dangers of “fake news” and how journalists should verify sources.

Digital” show host Nayla Al Salibi dedicated a segment to Abu-Fadil’s media and information literacy chapter in the UNESCO book/course “Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation” and the tools needed to handle misleading news before it’s published.

Monte Carlo Doualiya’s “Digital” show interviewed MU director Abu-Fadil

Abu-Fadil shed light on journalists’ issues in dealing with social media and dubious platforms as well as media ethics in the digital age since photos, videos and audio content can be manipulated with ease.

She insisted the expression “fake news” should not be used since it’s been weaponized by politicians, notably U.S. President Donald Trump and others, against their adversaries.

Abu-Fadil said disinformation and misinformation in the “post-truth” and “alternative facts” age were more appropriate, depending on their respective contexts.

You can hear the interview here [ 3].

MU Director Equips Tunisian Media With Migration Coverage Know-How

Migration, refugees and human trafficking once again featured at a three-day workshop in Tunis grouping 16 journalists from various media who learned how to shape the story, focus the narrative, keep it ethical, and make it more relatable.

How to cover migration, refugees and human trafficking

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil, cameraman/editor David Hands and senior media training and exchange expert at the Open Media Hub Petko Georgiev led the mini-course.

Magda Abu-Fadil and David Hands mentor Tunisian journalists during workshop on migration and media

It aimed at helping the reporters and editors better understand the subject, identify who the stakeholders are, acquire the correct terminology to define people and their status, know where to dig for contextual information, and what traps to avoid when reporting the story.

 

Tunisian journalists complete in-session exercise

The workshop in November 2018 included journalists from Tunisia’s national television channel, newspapers, news websites, the state-run national news agency and radio stations.

They had proposed story ideas to pursue prior to the training and several went out with Hands to shoot footage and conduct interviews during the sessions.

 

David Hands helps edit footage for a migration story

On their return to the mentoring periods the journalists were then guided by Hands and Georgiev on the mechanics of assembling the elements into viable short pieces for broadcast while Abu-Fadil pitched in advice on ethics and interviewing techniques.

The previous week Abu-Fadil moderated a panel at the Assises Internationales Du Journalisme De Tunis where some 500 Francophone participants from Euromed and West African countries gathered to probe the question: Journalism Useful for Citizens?

Assises Internationales Du Journalisme De Tunis drew 500 Francophone participants from Euromed and West African countries

The three-day event in the Tunisian capital – almost 50 thematic sessions, debates, exhibitions and side activities – comes at a critical time when freedom of expression is being tested and violated on a daily basis in many of the countries from which the delegates hailed.

Abu-Fadil chaired a session entitled “No Useful Journalism Without Verification: How Do We Confirm An Image, Information?” during which she also plugged the UNESCO book she co-authored “Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation” .

 

Abu-Fadil (right) chairs panels on verification

The Assises Internationales Du Journalisme De Tunis is supported financially and programmatically by the Open Media Hub, which is implemented by the Thomson Foundation.

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.

MU Director Contributes to UNESCO Internet Universality Indicators

How can one establish indicators for the Internet and make them universal when governments can’t agree on the degree of freedom and access their citizens should have online, and, whether doing so is a human right.

 

 

Defining Internet Universality Indicators

A daunting task UNESCO has been undertaking in a bid to produce a document member states will approve after which comes the equally formidable mission of implementing what’s been agreed upon.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil pitched in after receiving the second of two drafts that came up for discussion at an invitation-only roundtable, and open follow-up session, at the annual International Journalism Festival (IJF) in Perugia, Italy in April 2018.

UNESCO, the UN agency with primary responsibility for media freedom and journalists’ safety, is consulting worldwide on what’s worth counting when assessing the Internet. The final ‘indicators’ will form an international standard for mapping national experiences – and for identifying where there are shortfalls.  But where do journalism and the news media fit in within UNESCO’s paradigm called “Internet Universality”? UNESCO uses the acronym ROAM to identify the key principles of Internet Universality. R for Rights, O for Openness, A for accessibility and M for Multistakeholder participation in Internet governance. In terms of R(ights), how should assessments consider press freedom, journalists’ digital safety, and confidentiality of journalists’ sources and investigations? What indicators relevant to journalism come under O(penness) – encompassing open and transparent standards, markets and content? In regard to A(ccessibility), to what extent can news literacy and access to the Internet for researching and publishing journalism be included as issues worthy of attention? And, for (M)ultistakeholder participation in Internet governance issues, how significant is it to assess processes as to whether journalists are actively involved? 

Abu-Fadil (front row shooting video of women foreign correspondents session) at IJF in Perugia (courtesy Silvia Mazzocchin)

The second phase kicked in from December 2017 to March 2018, with a final report submitted to UNESCO at the end of April for consideration in September.

Julie Posetti, senior research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) at Oxford University, led the roundtable that grouped Dr. Alexandra Borchardt (RISJ), Prof. Jeff Jarvis from City University in New York, and Prof. Chris Anderson of Leeds University as the other three speakers assigned to provide key input.

Julie Posetti, senior research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University

 Sixteen other international experts shared invaluable comments and insights at that gathering.

Is It Time to Teach Media and Information Literacy (MIL)?

A rhetorical question Al Ain TV (UAE) asked in a post to introduce an interview with Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil.

MU Director Magda Abu-Fadil discusses MIL on Al Ain TV

Abu-Fadil, the lead editor and co-author of “Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy (MIL) in the Middle East and North Africa,” spoke of the importance of incorporating MIL in curricula, of promoting critical thinking, and of reinforcing awareness to combat online hate speech and fake news.

Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy (MIL) in the Middle East and North Africa

The book, in English and Arabic, was funded by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and UNESCO and published by Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

The interview in Arabic can be viewed here.

 

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.

MU Director Addresses Online Youth Violent Extremism at Beirut Conference

Reforming religious curricula is incomplete in the Arab world and must be revisited, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told a Beirut conference during a panel on incitement to violence on social media and youth radicalization.

 

Religious teachings and academic curricula need revisiting

“There’s an urgent need to change and modernize school and university curricula in the Arab world,” she said about media, information, news and religious literacy. “We should encourage critical thinking at all levels, particularly in the use of social media.”

Abu-Fadil was speaking at “The International Conference on Youth and Information and Communication Technologies: Preventing Violent Extremism in Cyberspace” in May 2017.

 

Magda Abu-Fadil urges curricula reform and modernization

It grouped academics, media, security, development, and other specialists to discuss, recommend and share tangible solutions to the spread of aggressive behavior in reality and through various online platforms.

Understanding the discourse involves clear definitions of key words and the loaded meanings used to describe what we face, experts said.

 

Key words, loaded meanings

They include violent radicalism, radical Islam, extreme Islamic radicalism, national terrorism, national threat, extreme violence, jihad, indoctrination, terrorism, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, extreme right, extreme left, religious extremism, fundamentalism, anti-Semitism, nativism, Islamophobia, eco-terrorism, inspired by Al Qaeda, inspired by ISIS, and anti-capitalism.

The event, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO and the Information for All Program, was a follow-up to an earlier conference in Quebec City, Canada, in November 2016 during which Abu-Fadil spoke on female radicalization.

 

Preventing violent extremism in cyberspace conference

Participants hailed from Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, France, Ghana, Grenada, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, the Netherlands, Oman, the Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Qatar.

The conference’s principle objectives were to identify the means and ways the Internet is being used to spread, hatred, discrimination, radicalization and violent extremism.

It also aimed at identifying effective measures to prevent and counter the online propagation of violence, as well as presenting/sharing best practices in using the Internet to promote a culture of peace.

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.

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.