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 Contributes to UNESCO Elections Coverage Book

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil contributed to a UNESCO publication on elections coverage that featured the media’s mixed bag reporting of Lebanon’s presidential, parliamentary and municipal balloting.

The booklet entitled “Elections Reporting in the Arab Region” [PDF] is a handy collection of articles encapsulating the proceedings of an experts meeting in Amman, Jordan during which participants exchanged views on how the media tackled elections in their respective countries.

Elections Reporting in the Arab Region

Elections Reporting in the Arab Region

The seminar in November 2013 grouped Jordanian journalists who had attended training workshops on elections coverage with counterparts from Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Palestine and Iraq who, in turn, had covered elections in their own countries as well as regionally and internationally.

The seminar was funded by the European Union and organized by UNESCO’s Amman office.

MU Director Interviewed on Elections Reporting in Lebanon

Political polarization and political sectarianism are the main problems facing journalists covering legislative elections in Lebanon, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil said in an interview.

Amman Experts Meeting Interview

“There are always warnings about crossing red lines, as that may endanger life and limb,” she said, adding that threats may also affect the direction of reports that are published or broadcast.

Abu-Fadil addressed an experts meeting in Jordan on challenges facing elections reporting in the Arab region funded by the European Union and organized by UNESCO‘s Amman office.

 

 

 

Lebanese Media Challenged in Covering Elections: Abu-Fadil

Lebanese media covering elections face a double challenge: reporting events tied to antiquated sectarian-based laws and grasping draft legislation aimed at reforming what’s on the books.

They must also deal with constraints on journalists and their organizations that hamper newsgathering and dissemination, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told reporters at a forum in Amman.

Magda Abu-Fadil on challenges in covering Lebanese elections

Magda Abu-Fadil on challenges in covering Lebanese elections

Her presentation drew on attempts by Lebanon’s National Commission on Parliamentary Electoral Law to streamline procedures, regulations on campaign finances, advertising, the voting age, establishing a quota for women candidates, permitting voters to cast their ballots in their place of residence, and, ensuring that serving cabinet members don’t double as legislators.

She showed video clips on a satirical campaign mocking politicians’ hollow promises, a spot on the divisiveness of sectarianism, the symbiotic relationship between the media and politicians, and how Lebanese youth view their elected officials.

Abu-Fadil also stressed the importance of being able to decypher government budgets and how public funds are spent.

A common thread at the forum was learning all about the candidates, their programs, the parties involved, campaign promises, policies, electoral rules and procedures, the vote counting process, surveys, and security measures.

Amman conferees discuss elections coverage in their countries

Amman conferees discuss elections coverage in their countries

The two-day seminar in November 2013 grouped Jordanian journalists who had attended training workshops on elections coverage with counterparts from Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Palestine and Iraq who had covered elections in their own countries as well as regionally and internationally.

Mai Shams El Din discusses Egypt's elections

Mai Shams El Din discusses Egypt’s elections

It was funded by the European Union and organized by UNESCO‘s Amman office .

UNESCO project manager Rut Gomez Sobrino and EU's Patricia Pennetier

UNESCO project manager Rut Gomez Sobrino and EU’s Patricia Pennetier

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.

MENA Journalism Teaching & Training Need Professional Boost

Journalism education and training in the MENA region need a shot in the arm to ensure graduates and practitioners attain and maintain professional standards, students at the University of Wollongong in Dubai were told.

“Journalists are like emergency room doctors,” Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil said, addressing a joint class of postgraduate students in the Master of Media and Communications and Master of International Studies programs in October 2012.

They treat and save (news) patients, work on tight deadlines, can’t afford to make mistakes, and if they do, the results could be catastrophic, she explained.

Magda Abu-Fadil addresses master classes at University of Wollongong in Dubai

Abu-Fadil said there was often a “disconnect” between what is taught and what the journalism market needs, given the fast-changing landscape, globalized nature of the industry, and introduction of digital technologies in all facets of the profession.

On the academic front, Abu-Fadil noted the lack of up-to-date courses, newsrooms and regular student on-campus newspapers, radio and/or TV stations and websites in most Arab countries.

“The introduction of online journalism courses has been very slow,” she noted, adding that she had co-authored the UNESCO-sponsored book “Model Curricula for Journalism Education” as a template for developing countries, which is available in nine languages.

She lamented the lack of attention to the learning of languages, geography and history, notably for journalists choosing careers as foreign correspondents, and said traditional Arab curricula do not encourage critical thinking.

On another front, Abu-Fadil advised the students not to be satisfied with their degrees but to seek regular training to upgrade and update their knowledge and skills.

She underlined the importance of ethical media practices, attention to detail, inclusion of context in all stories, and, the importance of integrating multimedia and social media in their coverage.

 

Qatar educators learn to integrate media literacy into curricula

Seventy-eight Qatar-based educators from 42 schools took part in media literacy workshops in October 2012 to become more communicative by engaging their students across various platforms.

“I really enjoyed this workshop that helped expand my horizons regarding media literacy,” said Nihal Azmi, one of the participants in the three one-day training sessions organized by the Doha Center for Media Freedom.

Qatar teachers attend first of media literacy workshop series in October (DCMF)

The training by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil introduced the primary-to-secondary school teachers and coordinators to UNESCO’s “Media and Information Literacy: Curriculum for Teachers,” an invaluable reference available in four languages.

The book, aimed primarily at teachers, features the convergence of radio, television, the Internet, newspapers, books, digital archives and libraries into one platform to define media literacy in a holistic manner.

Abu-Fadil urged the teachers to learn their students’ language and used Lebanese private school International College as a case study of an educational institution that has incorporated media literacy in all its subjects.

Magda Abu-Fadil hands certificate to Media Literacy workshop participant in Doha (DCMF)

Abu-Fadil also briefed participants on the media’s evolution from traditional print and broadcast organizations to online outlets and social media that are the preferred vehicles for students

“The workshop was useful and valuable. I suggest we have one annually to keep up with developments,” said another participant.

The teachers saw a need for more specific training to help them translate their understanding of media and the requisite tools to applicable skills in the classroom with a number calling for follow-up workshops.

Participants and DCMF staffers flank MU director at Media Literacy workshop (DCMF)

Links to coverage by the Doha Center for Media Freedom:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKcDAC_KkwY&feature=plcp    

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTMr-fMTJgA&feature=plcp    

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1CV8lfpFx0&feature=plcp