AMMAN — The seventh annual forum for Arab investigative journalists will open in Amman on December 5, featuring over 30 panels and training courses on various topics.
More than 250 Arab journalists, editors and media academics are scheduled to attend the three-day conference held under the theme, “Arab Media: The Battle for Independence”, according to a statement released by the organisers, the Amman-based Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ).
“Unfortunately, independent media in our region is minimal and lacks financial and professional resources,” the statement quoted ARIJ Chairman Daoud Kuttab as saying.
American journalist Seymour Hersh, who has investigated atrocities like the massacre of unarmed villagers in the Vietnamese city of My Lai in 1968, torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004 and an alternative history to the ongoing “war on terror”, is one of three keynote speakers, the statement said.
“What ARIJ is doing is very important in the Middle East. This is one of the many reasons why I make it a point to speak at events like [this] and to talk about investigative journalism and how to do it after years of deconstructing what politicians and newspapers say about current events,” said Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Speakers at the two other plenary sessions are Marwan Muasher, a pro-reform columnist, diplomat, politician and author of the “The Second Arab Awakening”, and Britain’s award-winning Tim Sebastian who moderated BBC’s flagship political programme “HARDtalk” for seven years before launching the Arab region’s key free-speech televised public debates.
“Brave ARIJ-trained journalists who have produced over 300 hard-hitting print, radio and TV investigations in ARIJ’s nine countries of operation will share working methodologies and discuss political, legal, professional, societal and religious challenges impeding the spread of investigative journalism in the Arab media,” the statement said.
They will exchange tools of the trade with some of the world’s award-winning journalists like Yosri Fouda of Egypt; Craig Silverman, editor of a new handbook on verification of user-generated content; Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat; Abigail Fielding-Smith, senior reporter with the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism; and Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake, from the Sunday Times (UK).
Other sessions will focus on tracking information, crowd sourcing, using multimedia to tell the story, interviewing techniques, tips for producing compelling radio and newspaper investigations and bullet-proofing reports.
At a special session, Arab and international TV commissioning editors will highlight themes of interest to their audiences from the changing region and how ARIJ-certified reporters can pitch their stories, according to the organisers.
On the sidelines of the conference, ARIJ is holding four three-day training workshops on computer assisted reporting (CAR) tools; the safety of journalists and the security of newsrooms in hostile environments; advanced skills for ARIJ coaches; and how to follow the money trail in cross-border corruption cases.
ARIJ has trained over 1,200 journalists and nearly 100 media professors in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain and Tunisia since 2005. It has also supported the creation of several investigative units at established media houses in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Tunisia.
ARIJ is funded by the Copenhagen-based International Media Support, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and Open Society Foundation.