The 6th annual conference of Arab investigative journalists will open in Amman next December 2013, bringing over 35 panels and trainings on covering human rights abuses, government policies, pollution, closed political groups, health care, education and off-shore fraud.
Over 250 Arab journalists, editors and media academics will attend the December 6-8 conference to be held under the theme: "The Role of Arab Media in Transition: From Officials' Lapdogs to Society's Watchdogs".
The conference comes at a time of sweeping political change in the largely autocratic region since early 2011 putting pressure on the polarized Arab media to redefine its role as "The Fourth Estate".
The conference is organized by the Amman-based Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), the region's leading media support network promoting in-depth reporting in nine Arab states: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Palestine and Tunisia.
The best in the Arab media business as well as brave ARIJ-trained reporters who have documented public issues for the benefit of transparency, will discuss political, legal, professional and societal challenges impeding the spread of investigative journalism in Arab news rooms.
The conference allows ARIJEANS to both engage in cross-border networking and share their tools of the trade with some of the world's award-winning journalists like Yosri Fouda of Egypt, Edwy Plenel (France), Britain's Tim Sebastian and Tom Giles, Brant Houston (USA), Frederik Obermaier (Germany) and Yavuz Baydar (Turkey).
Mr. Houston, Professor and Knight Chair of Investigative Reporting Journalism Department, University of Illinois, will address the strategies for investigations in the digital global world. Mr. Plenel, President and co-found of France's first fully independent and add-free online investigative and opinion journal, will discuss how objective news reporting can survive while being under the influence of advertisers, governments and media. And Mr. Baydar, veteran Turkish journalist, columnist and former Reader's Representative of 'news ombudsman" at Sabah Daily, will tackle challenges facing media in a country which has the largest number of jailed journalists in the world.
“Political changes have seen heads of state removed but little real change has happened on the level of the infrastructure of media regulation and culture in the Arab world," said Daoud Kuttab, ARIJ chairman .
"Changing the media structure and implanting reliable and long term solutions that can ensure a free flow of information is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Arab world today".
Paul van den Ijssel,Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Jordan, said his embassy is co-sponsoring the conference because his country is a strong believer in the important role free and professional media can play to achieve and maintain a democratic, transparent and pluralistic society.
"Investigative journalism is not the easiest choice for a reporter," he added. "However, the hard work and commitment to reveal injustices and to tell the truth – in many cases – is rewarded with amending laws and introducing preventive and protective mechanisms as well as triggering public debates involving a vast number of citizens".
At a round-table discussion of 40 media professors, ARIJ will launch the first manual in Arabic for teaching a three-hour credit investigative journalism course to undergraduate media students.
Other sessions will focus on Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR) tools, tracking information, digital source protection, crowd sourcing, using multimedia to tell the story, questioning techniques and bullet-proofing investigations.
On the sidelines of the conference, ARIJ is holding two specialized training workshops: following the money trail, and the safety of journalists and the security of news rooms in hostile environments.
ARIJ has trained around 1,000 journalists and nearly 100 media professors in its nine countries of operation since its inception in 2006. It also has supported the creation of several investigative units at existing media in Jordan, Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon and has encouraged the Institute de Presse et des Sciences de l"information at Tunisia's Manouba University to launch the region's first master's degree in investigative journalism.
The ARIJ network is funded by the Copenhagen-based International Media Support (IMS), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and Foundations for Open Society (FOSI).
The Jordan Kuwait Bank, ARAMEX, the global transport and logistics services company, Royal Jordanian and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands are the local sponsors of this year's conference.