Amman, Nov. 21, 2019 — Over 500 Arab and international investigative journalists will meet in Amman on Friday to discuss the role of media in a radicalized world — a global challenge of enormous importance amidst an explosion of digital tools and wide-spread internet trolling.
The three-day meeting, organized in Jordan for the 11th time since the creation of the Amman-based Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) in 2005, is the largest ever regional gathering of Arab investigative journalists.
The Forum is held amidst difficult times for journalists worldwide, and even more so for Arab media practitioners operating in the globe’s riskiest area for press freedom and independent media.
The Forum will allow journalists to share experiences, learn from expert speakers and trainers, network and find new partners for their next investigations into issues of concern to the public for the benefit of accountability.
Most plenary sessions will look at the disruption of technology and the battle for truth in a radicalized world where American media platforms are now the largest distributors of news –– taking away revenue from media and enabling the insidious manipulation of local politics and citizenry.
Rasha Qandeel, one of the Arab world’s renowned TV interviewers and political talk show presenters, hosts three Lebanese professionals to talk about media narratives, internet trolling and digital protection in the MENA region.
In the second plenary, Carole Cadwalladr, award-winning British freelance investigative journalist for the Guardian and Observer who exposed the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, will discuss how to protect an open society from the disruption of high-tech platforms.
Rawan Damen, award-winning independent filmmaker and ARIJ board member, will discuss the future of investigative journalism in Arab countries in transition like Sudan, unrest-hit Algeria, and war-torn Libya and Syria.
Fares Akkad, Director of Media Partnerships in Middle East, Africa and Turkey, Facebook, said that improving news literacy is a global priority for journalism in the digital age to help develop a more sustainable future for community-based news.
“The ARIJ Annual Forum is a valued partner to Facebook as part of our commitment to quality news in this exciting, vibrant part of the world. Over the past three years, we have collaborated with participating news organizations, to equip journalists with the skills to leverage the potential of the Facebook platform, while also learning to identify what sources of information to trust, share and act on.”
Rana Sabbagh, ARIJ Co-Founder and executive director for over a decade, thanked the government of Jordan for providing all needed permissions for convening the Forum.
“Independent journalists in the region are under attack from corrupt government leaders, political and economic elites, the man in the street, militias and often chief editors––who decide what gets broadcasted, what does not and how news are spun. Worse, most state officials break laws with immunity, secure that there is little accountability in their own countries––and only a blind eye abroad,” said Sabbagh.
This dangerous situation, however, has not stopped hundreds of journalists trained, funded and coached by ARIJ to willingly take risks to themselves and their families, and unearth issues of interest to the public for the benefit of rule of law and greater transparency.
Delegates will benefit from more than 40 training sessions and workshops on Data Journalism, open source investigations, audio storytelling, fact checking, physical and digital safety, online investigative tools, mobile journalism and bullet proofing investigations from a legal perspective. Other sessions will feature using Google tools for research and news verification, combining high-tech and traditional reporting, and mastering the investigative interview.
The scope of the gathering, the only one of its kind in the Arab world, has prompted several international media support groups seeking contact with Arab media practitioners, especially those from war-torn countries, to schedule their own meetings and trainings at the venue during the same time. These support group sessions highlight the important role Amman-based ARIJ is playing in promoting investigative reporting and supporting the culture of “accountability journalism” in the region. In addition, the Forum has become a vital event for international media development agencies who wish to meet their local media partners because of Jordan’s central location, the ease of obtaining visas in Jordan for Syrians, Libyans, Iraqis and Yemenis, and the extensive networking that goes on as a result.
ARIJ is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), International Media Support (IMS), the Danish Arab Partnership Program DAPP, the Open Society Foundation (OSF), the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Embassy of The Kingdom of The Netherlands in Amman, and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF).
ARIJ19 partners so far include Facebook, Google, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), Google News Initiative, Ethical Journalism Network, Marie Colvin Journalists’ Network, The French Agency for Media Development (CFI), Security Assistance Monitor Program at the Center for International Policy, Women In News – WAN-IFRA, Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Global Network for Investigative Journalism (GIJN). National sponsors are Royal Jordanian, and the Jordan-Kuwait Bank.