Amman, Nov. 20, 2019 — The 12th Annual Forum for Arab investigative reporters opens in Amman on Nov. 22, featuring veteran journalists like Carole Cadwalladr, the award-winning British journalist who unearthed the so-called Facebook-Cambridge Analytica “data scandal”.
Cadwalladr, who investigated how the UK-based political consulting firm used Facebook as a means for “political voter surveillance” through the collection of user data points in breach of record data laws, is among over 500 Arab and international “accountability journalists” and trainers attending the Forum.
The event, organized by the Amman-based Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) is centered on the theme: “Media in a Radicalized World” –– an issue of utmost importance amidst a global explosion of digital tools.
The three-day Forum –– the 11th in Jordan organized by ARIJ –– is held amidst a grim media scene in the region and beyond. Arab journalists are coping with unprecedented media muzzling and regressing civil and political rights. They are facing the pull of autocratic regimes, rival political parties, businessmen seeking political power, warring militias and failing business models to run their media.
Delegates will benefit from more than 40 training sessions and workshops.
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 that ARIJ is playing in promoting investigative reporting and supporting the culture of “accountability journalism” in one of the world’s riskiest regions for press freedom and independent media.
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.
Keynote speaker Cadwalladr’s work exposed the dark side of social media and its influence in political elections worldwide, including the USA presidential vote in 2016 and the so-called Brexit referendum. Her actions triggered numerous investigations and were partly responsible for the hauling of Mark Zuckerberg in front of Congress, resulting in several billion dollar fines for Facebook. Cadwalladr, who is a freelancer for the Guardian and Observer, has won over a dozen awards. She has also made powerful enemies –– becoming the center of the news she previously reported on –– and at a large personal cost. Her work, however, has been a vital demonstration of the power of journalism.
“Power lies with those who have the information and data about you. High-tech platforms such as Facebook, Google and YouTube, are more powerful than any national state,” she explains. “This should be troubling to us all, and we are all individual data. It is really up to us as individuals to care about that and to resist, and that is very difficult, but we have to find a way”.
The Forum will offer training for journalists on data journalism, open source investigations, audio storytelling, fact checking, physical and digital safety, online investigative tools, mobile journalism and bulletproofing investigations from a legal perspective. Other sessions will feature the use of Google tools for research and news verification, combining high-tech and traditional reporting, and mastering the investigative interview.
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 and Embassy of The Kingdom of The Netherlands in Amman.
ARIJ19 partners so far include; the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF), Facebook Journalism Project, The French Agency for Media Development (CFI), Embassy of Sweden in Jordan, the Norwegian Institute for Journalism, Google News Initiative, Jordan Kuwait Bank, Swedish Institute, SKUP, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Global Network for Investigative Journalism (GIJN). 7iber, Embassy of The Kingdom of The Netherlands in Amman, The Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and Marie Colvin Journalists’ Network, Security Assistance Monitor Program at the Center for International Policy, Women In News – WAN-IFRA, International Women in Media Foundation, DW Akademie, German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ, CNN Arabic, French Embassy in Jordan, The Rory Peck Trust, Frontline Freelance Register, and Internews. National sponsors are Royal Jordanian, and the Jordan-Kuwait Bank, Creative Contact and Radio Mazaj FM.