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Balanced and Objective Reporting on Controversial Issues

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The Center for Arab-West Understanding invited journalists from all over Egypt to attend a two day workshop entitled “Balanced and Objective Reporting in Controversial Issues” on 15-16 December 2009. 
 
Egyptian journalists came together with members of the Center for Arab-West Understanding. These journalists from all over Egypt, highlighted who many of them were often underrepresented,  and poorly equipped, especially those from Upper Egypt and the Delta. These are also the areas where conflicts arise and unfortunately frequent misreporting often aggravate tensions.
 
It is of vital importance for that journalists in these areas be better trained and equipped so that accurate and balanced reporting can be produced. This should include how to work under stressful conditions, how to choose words properly, and how to manage pressures from the local community that encourage bias. These journalists should be included as a vital element of the newspaper staff.
 
Egyptian journalists lack proper resources including efficient archival systems 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: 
  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
A total of nineteen journalists attended the workshop, with representation from major Egyptian newspapers including correspondents from Cairo, Minya, Faiyum, and Beni Suef. These participated in group discussions and lectures, led by seasoned journalists Osāmah Salāmah and Sāmih Fawzī, writer Hānī Labīb, as well as with the lawyer Sa‘īd ‘Abd al-Hāfiz. Osāmah al-Ghazzūlī provided moderation. Concluding remarks were given by Prof. Jihād ‘Awdah, professor of political science at Helwan University.