Amman – 2 November 2016 -The 9th annual forum for Arab Investigative journalists will open in Jordan’s Dead Sea next month, bringing together over 25 panels and workshops on topics such as personal safety of reporters in conflict, to cross-border investigations and telling stories on multiple platforms.
The forum, held under the theme “ARIJ: a decade of investigating the Arab world; seeing, hearing, exposing”, coincides with the network’s 10th anniversary. More than 320 Arab and international investigative editors, journalists, trainers, academics and media students will attend the December 1-3, 2016 event, the eighth in Jordan since the creation of the Amman-based Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) in 2005.
Veteran journalist Walter “Robby” Robinson will be the keynote speaker. He led the Boston Globe Spotlight team’s Pulitzer Prize winning investigation into the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal and now is the newspaper’s editor at large.
Robinson, whose character was portrayed by Michael Keaton in the 2016 Academy award-winning movie “Spotlight” will encourage fellow Arab colleagues working against all odds to continue uncovering the truth for the benefit of democracy, accountability and rule of law.
The forum is held amid a crackdown on free speech and independent media as well as worsening media polarization and manipulation across much of the region nearly six years after the winds of change began blowing across the Arab world.
Yosri Fouda, the region’s icon for televised investigations and a founder of ARIJ, will be training at the conference, along with Australia’s renowned mobile journalism trainer Ivo Burum and members of the team that exposed the “Panama Paper’s”, the world’s largest cross-border investigation to date.
Other trainers include Dima Khatib, chief editor of AJ+, an online news and current events channel from Aljazeera Media network, and David Ritsher, Senior Supervising Editor for The Center for Investigative Reporting’s digital video production team.
ARIJ Executive Editor Rana Sabbagh said ARIJ has succeeded in a decade to institutionalize the culture of investigative reporting in a region where “accountability reporting” is almost absent from Arab newsrooms due to political, economic, professional, legal and societal challenges as well as local media ownership structures.
“We have worked in an almost impossible environment. Hence, it is the right of everyone who contributed to the success of this pan-Arab project, including colleagues who have produced over 400 hard-hitting, fact-based investigations in print and video form” to celebrate the activation of the role of the “Fourth Estate”.
She added,“we consolidated and expanded our work to serve public interest in impossible conditions, including civil wars and political turmoil gripping many Arab states where we operate, regression in freedom, lack of pluralism and difficulty in accessing information”.
“We have become a shining example for professional and independent reporting in a manner that has inspired media outside our countries of operation to follow suit. This has encouraged our board to take a series of new measures that will be disclosed at the closing session of the conference to give ARIJ greater flexibility and agility to reach as many as brave Arab journalists as possible now that ARIJ has become an address for professional media that is able to help promote change for the better”.
Other training sessions include video narratives, digital security, follow the money trail, self-care in areas of conflict, writing for multi-platforms, investigating human rights abuses, the miscarriage of justice, consumer issues and environmental abuses, data visualization for storytelling and managing investigative teams.
ARIJ-trained journalists will share working methodologies and taboos impeding the spread of investigative journalism in Arab media, network with each other and with scores of international guests.
At a special session, six local investigative journalism networks that have come out of ARIJ — in Palestine, Iraq, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen — will discuss ways to complement their work and to hold officials accountable.
On the sidelines of the conference, ARIJ is holding four specialized two and three-day trainings on digital storytelling, fighting cross border corruption and crime, investigative TV production techniques and using mobiles to shoot, edit and upload up to six minute reports.
The conference ends with a gala dinner to honor 2016 best ARIJ investigations featuring gutsy undercover work, tracking of corruption and careful documentation.
ARIJ has trained over 1600 journalists, editors, media professors and students, supported the creation of in-house investigative teams in existing media in Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Palestine, Yemen and Lebanon. At least six Arab universities are teaching ARIJ’s three-hour credit course on basics to investigative reporting. Its video investigations have been broadcast on Deutsche Welle (DW), Aljazeera English, BBC and Al-Araby.
ARIJ is funded by the Copenhagen-based International Media Support, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, Open Society Foundation (OSF) and the Netherlands Embassy in Amman.