Journalists workshop, December 15-16, 2009
Egyptian journalists coming together from different parts of Egypt with members of the Center for Arab-West Understanding stated that in the poorer Upper Egyptian and Delta regions journalists are both underrepresented and poorly equipped. These are also the areas in which many points of conflict occur; unfortunately frequent misreporting repeatedly leads to further aggravation of tension.
It is of vital importance for accurate and balanced reporting that journalists in these areas be better trained and equipped. This should include how to work under stressful conditions, how to choose words properly, and how to manage the pressures from the local community to promote one side over another. These journalists should be included as a vital element of the newspaper staff.
Egyptian journalists lack proper resources including an efficient archival system which would help journalists place incidents in their proper context and ease access to a reservoir of expertise.
The group decided upon several principles of balanced and objective reporting, to which they will adhere and encourage among their colleagues. These include that a journalist should never rely on only one source, and must base all reports on information, not speculation. The journalist should also find diverse, credible sources, and inform readers if a source declines to comment. Furthermore, the journalist should always demonstrate to sources his trustworthiness.
In terms of the multiple parties involved during times of conflict, the media should not take sides in a dispute, but keep to moral and ethical standards. The media should also serve as a peacekeeper, rather than a divisive element during disputes. In doing so it will demonstrate to the community the important role of the press, and help stabilize areas with tensions.
These conclusions followed a two day media workshop entitled “Balanced and Objective Reporting in Controversial Issues” which had been organized by the Center for Arab-West Understanding.
A total of nineteen journalists attended the workshop, with representation from major Egyptian newspapers including correspondents from Cairo, Minia, Fayyoum, and Beni Suef. These participated in group discussions and lectures, led by seasoned journalists Osama Salama and Sameh Fawzy, writer Hani Labib, as well as with the lawyer Sa’id Abu Hafez. Osama al-Ghazoly provided moderation; concluding remarks were given by Prof. Gihad Owda, professor of political science at Helwan University.