ARIJ's Seventh Annual Forum for Investigative Journalists 5-7 Dec 2014

Amman,  The seventh annual forum for Arab investigative journalists will open in Amman in December bringing over 30 panels and trainings on personal safety of reporters in conflict zones, pollution, closed political groups, sports disgraces and off-shore fraud and covering human rights abuses under militant groups in Syria and Iraq.

More than 250 Arab Journalists, editors and media academics will attend the three-day forum held under the theme, “Arab Media: The Battle for Independence”, amid a growing crackdown on free speech and worsening media polarization and manipulation four years after winds of change began blowing across the region.

The annual event is organized by the Amman-based Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), the region’s leading media organization promoting in-depth reporting based on facts and evidence in favor of accountability and rule of law since 2005.

“Unfortunately, independent media in our region is minimal and lacks financial and professional resources,” says ARIJ Chairman Daoud Kuttab. “The push for democratic, transparent and pluralistic societies in our region will not succeed without nurturing the role of independent media to confront established media institutions owned or supported by governments, royal families and a coterie of businessmen”.

America’s legendary 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 jail in Iraq in 2004 and an alternative history to the ongoing “war on terror”, is one of three keynote speakers.

“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 yours and to talk about investigative journalism and how to do it after years of deconstructing what politicians and newspapers say about current events,” says Hersh, winner of America’s prestigious Pulitzer Prize.

Speakers at the two other plenary sessions are: Jordan’s Marwan Muasher, a leading pro-reform columnist, diplomat, politician and author of the new book, ”The Second Arab Awakening,” and Britain’s award-winning Tim Sebastian who moderated BBC’s flagship political program “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.

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; as well as Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake, the Sunday Times (UK) team who exposed Qatar’s secret plot to win the right to host the 2022 world football cup.

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.

On the sidelines of the forum, ARIJ is holding four specialized three-day training workshops: 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.

The forum ends with a gala dinner to honor 2014 ARIJ investigations featuring gutsy undercover work, dogged tracking of corruption, and careful documentation of pollution and health problems.

ARIJ has trained over 1,200 journalists and nearly 100 media professors in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain and Tunisia. It has also supported the creation of several investigative units at established media houses in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Tunisia. Several Arab media faculties are using its manual in Arabic for teaching a three-credit hour investigative journalism course to undergraduate students.

ARIJ is funded by the Copenhagen-based International Media Support, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and Open Society Foundation (OSF).