Doha Centre for Media Freedom has invited local journalists to discuss issues related to media workers’ safety ahead of the launch of the centre’s Ali Hassan Al Jaber Safety Training programme.
Named in memory of the Al Jazeera cameraman who became the first foreign journalist to be killed in the Libyan civil war in 2011, the training programme aims to provide comprehensive safety guidelines for journalists in the Arab region.
As part of its mission to defend press freedom and promote quality and responsible journalism around the world, the centre has identified a serious need for increased safety awareness training to combat the record numbers of journalists who have lost their lives in 2012.
DCMF special programmes manager and policy advisor, Hassan Rachidi and training coordinator at DCMF, Omar Mafkhi joined other members of staff from the centre to meet representatives of the local media community and other officials to discuss the programme and possible future collaborations to improve safety training for journalists in the wider region.
Rachidi explained: “This year, 119 journalists have been killed, which is the highest number on record. Today we presented the proposal for the Ali Hassan Al Jaber Safety Training programme to get feedback from local journalists and their response was very positive.”
“We need to do something, and we are hoping to work with local partners to improve safety training for journalists in the region,” he said, explaining that the programme will focus on journalists in conflict zones such as Somalia, Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, while also working with local media workers covering events in these countries.
“One of the main issues the journalists spoke about was the issue of impunity for killers of journalists, and this is something we are working on following our participation in the UNESCO meeting in Vienna in November,” he added.
Mafkhi stated: “The issue of safety of journalists in the Arab region is frightening. As well as monitoring the situation, we are trying to do something about it. We are hoping that the Ali Hassan Al Jaber Safety Training programme will be a good initiative that can make a difference in the Arab region.”
“We have found that training for journalists in the Arab world is either incomplete, sporadic or irrelevant to the needs and dangers journalists face,” he said, adding “that is why we are trying to introduce a programme that covers all aspects of safety.”
Mafkhi explained that the programme intends to impart legal knowledge, as well as ethical and professional standards and practical safety knowledge for working in the field.
He said that the centre is hoping to establish partnerships with local organisations possessing expertise in certain areas to supplement the training that DCMF will be conducting itself.
Both Mafkhi and Rachidi highlighted the significant shortage of Arab journalism trainers as a problem for safety training in general, and explained that they are looking into the development of a “train the trainer” programme for Arab experts.
“One of the issues the journalists brought up today was the need for Arab trainers as they can understand the cultural and social issues related to working as a journalist in this part of the world,” added Rachidi.