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Tiny journalists have platform to write stories, express themselves

By Heba Elayyan - Jul 10,2024 - Last updated at Jul 10,2024

The Zaha Cultural Centre launches the first e-newspaper in the Arab world written and edited by children aged 11-16 (Petra photo)

AMMAN — The Zaha Cultural Centre has recently launched the first e-newspaper in the Arab world written and edited by children aged 11-16.

The children’s newspaper has been launched during a ceremony, attended by HRH Princess Sara Bint Feisal.

Rania Sbeih, CEO of Zaha, said that the primary goal of the e-newspaper is to promote children’s rights to expression, as outlined in Jordan’s Child Rights Law.

According to Article 7 of the Child Rights Law, which Jordan adopted in 2022, every child has the freedom to express their opinion in accordance with public order and morals, provided that their opinions are taken with due consideration according to the age and maturity of the child.

“The newspaper offers a platform for children to share their thoughts, enhance their writing skills, and verify the accuracy of news before publication,” Sbeih said. “It is crucial to teach children how to express their opinions systematically through continuous training with experts.”

According to the Jordan Media Credibility Observatory “Akeed”, 2023 witnessed the spread of 385 rumours among the audience.”

In 2023, Akeed reported a rise in the spread of rumours, with an average of 32 per month, compared to 30 in 2022.

“Checking on the news before circulating is a must and a very important part of the media education in Zaha centre,” Sbeih said.

She added that Zaha Cultural Centre, through its 24 centres spread in Amman and other provinces, provides media education courses for 3 months by journalists teaching children journalism, photography and podcasting.

The idea of tiny Journalists originated in 2005 when Sbeih wanted to establish a platform for children to communicate directly with each other about their common issues. “I wanted the children to talk to their peers about common issues they face,” she said.

Sbeih’s vision led to the publication of the first monthly newspaper written and edited by trained children, with about 100 copies, from 2007 until 2011. Although the newspaper eventually stopped, media education continued at the Zaha Centre.

In 2021, the initiative was revived with an experimental daily newspaper focusing on digital journalism, and covering health, society, technology and caricature.

“What you see in 2024 is the result of years of training in media education and newspaper experiments at Zaha centres,” Sbeih explained.

The centre aims to expand beyond Jordan, reaching children across the Arab world. “I dream of graduating students from all over the Arab world every five or six years who are creative, innovative, and distinguished.”

The centre targets children starting at age 11, as they possess the necessary writing skills, and supports students with writing difficulties, helping them to write accurately and effectively.

Alaa Elayyan, a children’s story writer, praised the initiative, highlighting the lack of challenging content for children aged 9 to 12 in the Arab world. “Zaha’s step fills a significant gap in children’s literature in Jordan and the Arab world,” she said.

Sixteen-year-old journalist Tala Matiyat, who has been involved with Zaha since age 10, expressed her excitement about the e-newspaper.

“The experience has positively impacted me, teaching me to distinguish right from wrong and providing the knowledge to enter the journalism field easily,” she said. Matiyat is particularly interested in writing about technology and society issues.

Regarding the specialisation that Sbeih emphasised during our talks, “We hope to have more specialised journalists,” Matiyat said that she likes to write about technology and society issues.

Aya Haitham, another young reporter at Zaha, said that after completing a three-month training course, qualified students join a permanent team. “I started three years ago, and the centre initially focuses on writing before gradually shifting to journalism,” she explained. “I like to write about science and the environment.”

Zaha offers 360 free training programmes, including media education, robotics, music, arts, drama, sculpting, and handicrafts, benefitting 1,250,000 people.

In 2024, Zaha Cultural Centre received the King Abdullah II Order for Excellence of the First Degree or the centre’s role in encouraging volunteer work and activities, and in motivating children to innovate and create gardens.

You can check the tiny journalists’ stories on zahapress.gov.jo

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