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M.Report S01E26 – Friends and an Interview with RSF

The last two days were very fruitful. I have had the privilege of interacting with an excellent group of people whose main concern is to share their views with the world, and expose the wrongs in their societies in order for those to be addressed and corrected. Although I cannot say that the correction has been effected by society and/or governments, but at least they have been brought out in the open and the hope is that they will be tackled, ultimately.

Today’s presentations were a bit more technical in nature where we discussed how to popularise your blog, how to use the available tools and sites to spread your message and how to monetise your efforts.

RSF's Clothilde Le Coz I also took the opportunity to interview Clothilde Le Coz, of RSF’s Internet Freedom Desk who shared her views and explained her role in the organisation. She also provided some insights on how RSF goes about its business.

Now that the formal part of the workshop is over, and the M.Report has been uploaded, it’s time to shower, change and go out to have dinner in the world famous Rick’s Café with some new and old friends. Should be quite fun!


M.Report S01E25 – The Intersection between Citizen Journalism and Traditional Media

M.Report S01E25 – The Intersection between Citizen Journalism and Traditional Media

This is my contribution to the journalism workshop I am attending at the moment where I was privileged to be on the panel discussing the intersection between the old and new media. On the panel with me were Emmabenji (emmabenji.canalblog.com, tunisia), Mohammed Zainabi (zainabi.com, morocco), Yazid Haddar (psycho.dzblog.com, algeria) and Daoud Kuttab (ammannet.net, jordan – visiting professor at Princeton Uni).

Considering that the basic human activity of communication, has been with us since the first human painted on cave walls, it’s surprising that when it comes to a modern activity of writing on a largely personal online diary, elicits such a need as to pigeon-hole people and their generated thoughts into categories such as “journalism” or any other adjectives.

This – I feel – has been given rise by society and maybe mainstream media in particular, to distinguish themselves as “the” source for news and valid opinion, while any other is simply invalid or at least less worthy of consideration.

History tells us that this is the same reaction when the radio first started its mainstream transmission with the reaction of newsprint, and also when television was first introduced and it received its fare share of ridicule by newsprint, radio and even the theatre!

Maybe by pigeon-holing, mainstream media think they can “wheedle out” the good from the bad, again thinking in that ubiquitous “black and white” methodology, a condescending approach by assuming that they alone can select what is good for us.

But with such a huge platform, it is impossible to apply these methods. Old metrics simply won’t do. What we have now is a huge crowd-sourced material, terabytes of information which is published every single day, and with the way that the fusion of communication methods currently experienced – text, audio, video, animation, and photographs – this trend will only escalate.

Yes, traditional media is supposed to have the safeguards to at least distinguish between fact and opinion, but in today’s connected world this is not so critical.

The point; therefore, is not simple to try to draw a line between a blog and main-stream media to achieve distinction and simple categorisation, but employ critical thinking and other skills to evaluate what is being presented, regardless of source.

What blogs provide is a huge base of crowd sourced information. Sifting through that information and evaluating it is not a small exercise, but categorising it with the old “journalistic standards” will not achieve much. We have to recognise that with this wealth of published information, decision makers have a new tool that they can employ which they never had access to before:

What we have now – thanks to the explosion of blogging – is an ocean of raw data, one if mined properly, could give them an excellent understanding of the feelings and needs of “normal people” – the street – that traditional media with its inbuilt sanitorial control could never give them.

How one uses that facility, it is up to them.


Off to Amman, Jordan

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I’ll be off for a couple of days to Jordan, the first in my life! But, as I told my wife this morning, all hotel lobbies and conference halls look virtually identical, down to the smell of the cleaning solvents they use!

It’s the semi-annual meeting of the IREX advisory council.

Any idea as to who should be the Scapegoat this time?


MENA Media Managers fellowships announced

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18 Arab Media Managers to win a six-week fellowship in the US

irex-logo.gifMarch 2007. Arab media managers and supervisors will have a unique opportunity this fall to enhance their leadership skills and find innovative solutions to the challenges they face in media management through a comprehensive six-week fellowship that will include intense training at the prestigious Northwestern University Media Management Center in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois and on-site placements at US media outlets across the country.

The fellowship program is organized and implemented by IREX and AmmanNet and is one element of MENA MEDIA, a three-year program aimed at enhancing independent media in the Arab region with support from the US Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative.

Media professionals with at least five years of media experience from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, West Bank and Gaza will be invited to apply. Up to 18 fellows will be selected this spring with participants traveling to the US in the fall.

As part of its commitment to encouraging the continued advancement of women in the region, in 2007 MEPI added funding for an additional six female participants. The original 12 fellowships will be open to competition by all applicants in the region.

The program will provide participants with the opportunity to develop leadership and management skills while experiencing different approaches to media management. The training will include courses on: Leadership, Strategic Planning, Marketing, Advertising, Electronic Media, Digital and Print Media, and Global Best Practices, among others. After the training, each fellow will complete a two-week fellowship with a mentor at an assigned US media outlet, which will consist of a number of different meetings, responsibilities, and levels of project involvement based on the expertise and goals of the fellow.

Applicants are required to have a high level of proficiency in written and spoken English. Deadline for applications is April 30, 2007.

I’m sure some of our journalists can take advantage of this. For more information, please see the IREX and the AmmanNet.net websites.

Good luck!


MENA Media Sustainability Index released

Media Sustainability Index report cover page

The new Media Sustainability Index is another metric which has just been released – for the first time – covering media freedoms in the Middle East and North Africa. This program is by the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) and yet again shows the low level of media freedoms and independence in this area. Although they are more optimistic in that they recognise clear indications of change to the better than other organisations.

The MSI report I think is much more thorough that RSF’s, and more encompassing.

If you don’t have time to read the 262 pages of the report, then you can download just the part which concerns your country or area of interest only. Bahrain’s chapter is a comprehensive 19 pages – and it’s position is dismal, yet again, in another metric.

If you still don’t think you should bother delving into this, then let me wet your appetite just a little; this is part of the executive summary:

The first MSI for the Middle East and North Africa shows a region not yet advanced toward a robust, independent media sector, but it clearly detected the signals of change. The roadblocks are painfully evident in, as an example, the rebuilding of the Iraqi media. Although the absolute controls of the previous regime are gone, the MSI panelists said, not only do political leaders not understand the principles of media freedoms but citizens also do not understand the importance of media independence or act to defend it.

It is this report and its aspects that we are partly going to discuss in Morocco amongst other topics next week as part of the IREX Media Advisory Board from the 13th through to the 19th. Needless to say I shall blog about it.


Roll Film!

IREX LogoTo the budding film-makers in us, read this:

Grants Available to Arab TV companies to produce local content

Independent Arab television news producers TV Production Fund Small Grants awards will be made under the MENA MEDIA program, administered through the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) and AmmanNet.

Up to ten television journalists and producers from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, and the West Bank and Gaza will be able to seek small grants up to $20,000. A total of $150,000 will be available to Arab producers in two rounds this year.

Applications for the first round of grants are now being received with a deadline set for May 15th 2006. Productions dealing with issues like political processes and governments’ responsiveness to the needs of their citizens, women in public life, profiles of innovative/emerging leaders will be considered by a panel made up largely of independent Arab media workers. Projects which include alliances on content among television stations, print, radio or Internet outlets to ensure the productions have the broadest distribution possible will be given priority.
Read more…

I’m on the media advisory board of IREX and hope that I can help in any that I can to get Bahraini film-makers to participate in this. You know how to contact me.