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10th annual ARIJ Forum works to beat fake news

10th annual ARIJ Forum works to beat fake news

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Battling fake news is a global problem and one that journalists are increasingly addressing. At the start of December and in partnership with WAN-IFRA, media professionals in the Middle East met in Jordan for a three-day forum on a range of issues, including how to tackle fake news, hate speech, migration, sexual harassment and more.

By Colette Davidson

The Dead Sea, Jordan played host to the 10th Annual Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) Forum from 1-3 December, a conference dedicated to a variety of issues affecting investigative journalism. This year’s panel incorporated topics relevant to many WAN-IFRA project areas and was an opportunity for both the Strengthening Media and Society (SMS) and Women in News (WIN) programmes to hold special sessions.

On day two of the forum, 20 participants from WAN-IFRA’s SMS programme were invited to attend a workshop on hate speech with Ethical Journalism Network Director Aidan White. There, journalists looked at the potential impact of inflammatory content, how to address hate speech on social media and the impact it can have on freedom of expression.

“The goal was to enable SMS participants to gain more experience and enhance their networking capacity,” says Ghias Aljundi, SMS Regional Manager for MENA. “It was also an opportunity for them to attend different workshops and to learn new skills.”

Aljundi says the hate speech session was invaluable for participants, as was the ARIJ forum as a whole.

“Freedom of the press is under terrible attack across the Middle East from regimes, armed groups and also big parts of society,” says Aljundi. “It’s important to hold this kind of conference to show solidarity among journalists, enable them to gain confidence and to show abusers that journalists will continue their work despite the challenges and the threats.”

While a majority of panels focused on how journalists can better deal with hate speech and fake news, the WIN programme used a breakout session on day three to address gender-based discrimination. Fatemah Farag, the MENA Director for WIN, spoke about creating a special glossary of terms around gender issues for Egypt’s media as well as how this tool can be used to its full advantage by newsrooms.

Farag says gender issues in the media are often ignored in the Middle East, and the panel, which included women journalists from Lebanon, Tunisia and Palestine, spoke out about the day-to-day realities of gender bias across the region.

“This prompted women journalists form Yemen for example to take the floor during the question and answer and share the realities of harassment and gender bias openly,” says Farag. “The fact that ARIJ has told us this was one of the highest rated panels of the conference shows how much people need to hear and talk about this.”

While specific tools to deal with gender discrimination in the media weren’t offered at the forum, raising awareness for the future was worth its weight in gold.

“It meant a great deal to know these kinds of conversations are finally taking place in a room full of young aspiring journalists from Syria, Yemen, Egypt and other Arab countries,” says Alia Ibrahim, a Lebanese journalist and co-founder of digital platform Daraj. “This was simply unimaginable two decades ago when I started my journalism career. The presence and contribution of the few men in the room was also rewarding.

“The conversation [on gender discrimination] has started, and that is the beginning of an amazing change that I am sure is coming.”

After three days of panel discussions, participants celebrated with a gala dinner and awards ceremony. There, journalists from Yemen, Egypt and Jordan who have exposed human rights abuses and state-run mass surveillance in their countries were awarded top prizes for investigation in print, film and multimedia.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2017-12-18 09:44

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