AMMAN (JT) – An Amman-based NGO is offering young journalists in the region a unique opportunity to explore the world of “investigative journalism”, an area often neglected by the region’s media organisations. Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) is spurring reporters to embrace the concept of investigative journalism by breaking the wall of silence on various topics often shelved by journalists due to demanding daily assignments. Currently 25 journalists from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan are working with ARIJ as they delve into social, environmental, health and other important issues. “The culture of investigative journalism is rather novel in the region,” said ARIJ Executive Director Rana Sabbagh, a career journalist. “There have been a few individual attempts, but nothing compared to what the West knows, like Watergate. Al Jazeera television is probably among the pioneering Arab media outlets that started some form of investigative journalism,” the ARIJ director added. Sabbagh believes political, social and educational factors have all played a part in the limited development of investigative journalism in the Arab world. “Firstly, in order to foster a culture of investigative journalist you need to have the basics – which is the right to access information,” Sabbagh said. ARIJ, which was launched in 2005 with the help of the Danish parliament, has also helped several young journalists with minimum experience in this field explore their potential and begin a career in this challenging field. The group is supported by several veteran journalists in the Kingdom and the region, as well as famous investigative journalists from Europe. Regular workshops are held in the three countries on investigative methods, legal issues that reporters need to be aware of to avoid ramifications of unearthing sensitive information and reporting on them. Journalists who wish to benefit from incentives offered by the group are encouraged to take time off from their organisations. Sabbagh said she hopes to see the organisation become independent of Danish funding and finance a further 60 investigations in the three countries. She also hopes to attract interest from journalists and media in other countries.
20 January 2008