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Newspaper by refugees for refugees in Zaatari camp

The Road Media chronicles camp life, success stories in exile

By Camille Dupire - Nov 15,2017 - Last updated at Nov 18,2017

The Road Media provides training for young refugees to acquaint them with the professional rules of journalism (Photo courtesy of The Road Media)

AMMAN — “I learned a lot from the journalism course I received, with the most important thing being to stay objective because journalism is the mirror of people’s reality,” said Ahmad Adham Hariri, a 14 year-old Syrian refugee volunteering as a journalist for The Road Media in Zaatari camp.

Started in 2014 by the Japan Emergency NGO and supported by UNICEF, The Road Media is the first of its kind news publication in a refugee camp setting.

“This is truly a pioneering initiative. Before us, no single publication was allowed into the camp and residents did not have access to any form of print media,” said Hada Sarhan, chief editor of The Road Media.

Entirely written and designed by refugees, The Road Media started out with a short eight-page issue covering NGOs-related news and updates on the water system within the camp.

“At the beginning, most of the stories were about the war, the losses and the obstacles faced by refugees since the Syrian crisis started. But it progressively moved towards more positive stories, with the magazine now featuring a lot of success stories from the residents, as well as advice on how to adjust to the camp environment,” Sarhan told The Jordan Times over the phone.

The Road Media was launched with only seven trainees, all male, who took part in the first journalistic workshop conducted by Sarhan. The number has now grown to 150 journalists, including 43 women, who collaborate on the monthly publication. 

“The paper is written by the refugees for the refugees. We do not interfere, we only give them the skills and do the editing part,” the chief editor explained. 

While the residents show signs of reluctance and lack of confidence at the start, they quickly get caught up in the enthusiasm of the initiative.

“I was reluctant to join the magazine because I was young and I was afraid of rejection; but when I started, I loved how it helped me learn about many people. I started to talk to the other refugees and explore their views on a lot of subjects. I used to be introverted, but now I can talk to anyone and write about it,” said 14-year-old Sahima Al Amari.

The publication, which is free of charge and available as an online version, is entirely shaped by refugees, whether in Zaatari camp or abroad. 

“We have people from Azraq camp writing for us, as well as refugees living in other countries including Germany, Turkey, Lebanon and Kurdistan, among others,” Sarhan said, citing the example of the magazine’s graphic designer, a Syrian refugee volunteering from Copenhagen. 

“While other NGOs provide them with clothes, food and sanitary items, we bring something to their mind. It is not really education like it is being taught in schools, but more of a skillset for the future,” Sarhan, a journalist herself, said. 

Stressing the growing success of the publication, she said: “The Road Media does not only provide them with the skills, it also gives them dreams. Most of those people came from rural areas and had never thought or dreamed of being a journalist.”

The chief editor said that a number of those trainees are now planning to start their own publication when they return to Syria, citing the example of 14-year-old Taha Bassam Al Hariri who said: “I hope to become a famous journalist in the future when I go back to Syria.”

The Road Media, which is published in English, Arabic and Japanese, also provides training for young refugees, acquainting them with the professional rules and requirements of journalism.

The last youth workshop was conducted in September, a month during with 35 boys and girls aged between 10 and 13 years old, were familiarised with the ropes of the industry.  

“I loved watching my brother Louay constantly searching for stories and news that interest us in the camp. So I decided to be part of The Road Media too and it changed a lot in my life. I started writing topics at school, be more integrated and talk with people,” said Abi Saeed, a 13-year-old trainee.

“These kids want to write, they want to learn. So, whenever they have free time [school starts in the afternoon for the in-camp students] they can attend the editorial meetings, or shadow some of the journalists,” Sahran said, noting that each child was mentoring and given feedback by one of the adult journalist. 

“They are learning step by step, but I can already see that some of them will turn out to be great journalists,” she concluded.

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