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10th annual forum for Arab Investigative Reporters opens Friday at Dead Sea

By JT - Nov 29,2017 - Last updated at Nov 29,2017

AMMAN — The 10th Annual Forum for Arab investigative reporters opening at Jordan’s Dead Sea on Friday has attracted more than 400 participants from the region and beyond who will benefit from 45 training sessions and workshops, a statement from the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) said on Tuesday.

The scope of the gathering, “the only one of its kind in the Arab world”, has prompted seven international media support groups seeking contact with Arab media practitioners, especially from war-torn countries, to schedule their own meetings and trainings at the venue during the same time between December 1-3, the statement said.

These support group sessions highlight the important role Amman-based ARIJ is playing in promoting investigative reporting and supporting the practice. 

Networking at the Middle East and North Africa  annual event, along with “record attendance” this year,  Jordan’s central location, and the ease of obtaining visas  in the Kingdom for Syrians, Libyans, Iraqis and Yemenis, has made the forum a vital event for media and media providers, the statement read. 

The conference is by invitation only. 

The 2017 event has taken as its theme “Investigative Journalism: Battling Fake News”, a cross-border issue of enormous prominence in our post-truth era.

Coinciding with the forum, International Media Support based in Copenhagen will host a meeting of journalists from Yemen, including those forced to flee the war to neighbouring states, to discuss how best to support journalists in a country facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

“For us the ARIJ Forum is a perfect place to arrange meetings with important partners and colleagues,” Henrik Grunnet from IMS, who is organising media support meetings with Yemeni and also with Palestinian partners, was quoted in the statement as saying.

“It is totally impossible for us, as Westeners, for example, to enter Yemen. But because Yemeni editors, media trainers and journalists have been allowed to travel to attend the ARIJ Forum, we have the perfect venue for making the start-up meeting for what will hopefully be a new era for Yemeni media using new tools to come through with reports and stories for Yemenis inside their country and for the international community,” he said. 

“This would not have been possible had it not been for ARIJ and its forum.”

David Cay Johnston, an investigative reporter in the US and author of the book “The Making of Donald Trump” will deliver the keynote address at the first plenary session of the forum.

Other sessions will feature seminars on innovative storytelling, digital investigations, digging out hidden facts online, cross-border investigations, cyber security, tracking dirty money, data journalism and investigating gender issues, miscarriage of justice and human rights abuses.

ARIJ Executive Director Rana Sabbagh thanked the Jordanian government for facilitating the obtaining of visas and travel permits for participants coming from “restricted states”. 

“Due to the integrity and commitment of brave independent Arab journalists, many trained and funded by ARIJ over the past 11 years, investigative journalism is growing in a region where growing restrictions have stifled free speech and independent media like never before in the last decade,” Sabbagh said in the statement.

“Worse, the war in Yemen, Libya and Syria, and instability in Egypt have polarised the media scene, a reflection of the region’s divided societies,” she said. 

“On top of that came the Gulf crisis with Qatar, turning powerful regional state-run satellite broadcasters into additional sources of fake news, propaganda and cheap lies and strangling whatever is left of independent media trying to give a third story.”

ARIJ is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, IMS and the Danish Arab Partnership Progra, the Foundation for Open Society and the Norwegian and Dutch embassies in Amman, according to the statement. 

Its 2017 conference partners include Facebook, the Norwegian Institute of Journalism, Ethical Journalism Network, Bellingcat, the International Centre for Journalists, WANA-IFRA, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, DW Network and the French and German embassies in Amman. Local sponsors are Orange Jordan, Royal Jordanian, and the Jordan-Kuwait  Bank, the statement concluded.

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