The year of 2020 has been ravaged by a series of events that have changed the course of the entire world - the highlight being the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.
Since its start, the rising need for accountable, transparent and fact-checked journalism became very clear. The unprecedented situation has unmasked vast wrongdoings, impromptu decisions of governments and frail health systems worldwide.
With the increasing polarization of the political situation in the region amid COVID-19, the free flow of information has become a necessity more than ever. Authorities have been focusing on coronavirus-related reports, seizing the pandemic as an opportunity to silence journalists and censor content. The Arab countries were not an exception.
Coping with this year’s comprehensive restrictions across all borders, ARIJ continued its 15 years’ journey to raise the capacity of investigative journalists, editors, coaches, media students and professors, but with a digital twist, under the theme; “Connecting the World”. Hosting in ARIJ20 - the 13th annual forum (fully virtual) - 160+ speakers (trainers, coaches and well known investigative journalists) from 40+ different countries. This would have never been possible without the support of more than 50+ partners, many from the EU.
The virtual forum had a larger presence that allowed participants to engage, network, discuss and acquire new skills and knowledge with no visas, travel, economic or social restraints. ARIJ20 has marked ARIJ's largest gathering in its history - having over 3000+ journalists registrants from 60+ countries, with the majority coming from the MENA region. (ARIJ19 last forum had 650+ participants from 30+ countries).
The 1500+ attendees benefited from 50+ live events; from webinars and workshops, to one-on-one clinics, launch sessions, panels and plenary sessions among others. The full agenda can be checked here. The official opening (attended by around 300) took place on December 4, starting with a 7 minutes video on ARIJ2020 achievements. It hosted keynote speakers; Swedsih Ambassador in Jordan, Norwegian Ambassador in Jordan and British Ambassador in Jordan, in addition to Ben Smith - NY Times and Drew Sullivan from OCCRP. It also included music playing on the Qanun instrument. The Awards ceremony, held on December 6, was attended by almost 300 as well. It hosted ARIJ Best investigations awards, in addition to both CFI Health investigations Awards (Media Lab project) and 3oyoun Dutch Embassy Project in-depth reports awards. The keynote speakers were the Dutch Ambassador in Jordan, Kim Ghattas, author/analyst and ARIJ Board member in addition to Carlous Latuff, the Brazliian political cartoonist.
For the first time, ARIJ has also introduced a sign language interpreter for 19 of its sessions and workshops, this step comes in as a way to reach out to a wider audience of media professionals who face hearing difficulties.
Based on the survey following each day of the forum (that extended over four weeks), the cumulative numbers are very encouraging, where 92% of the participants said the forum benefited them a lot. The received testimonials were overwhelming, with very positive feedback, stating that the forum exceeded all expectations in terms of content, speakers, logistics and positive energy. In “ARIJ with You” closed facebook group, discussions continued till late at night throughout the Forum and present.