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Practising investigative journalism in the Arab region

Practising investigative journalism in the Arab region

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Mar 06, 2012
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By Alessandra BajecPublished on March 5, 2012
Exposing the truth and bringing accountability in today‟s changing
Arab regionhave never been more important. Yet, while investigative journalism is gainingmore attention in the Arab media scene, it still remains a rare journalistic genre.The Amman-based Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) describes
itself as “the first and only initiative of its kind” in the region, dedicated to
promoting quality professional investigative journalism in newsrooms in Jordan,Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Bahrain, Palestine, Yemen and Tunisia.
ARIJ‟s Executive Director 
Rana Sabbaghis a Jordanian journalist, columnist andmedia trainer with 28 years of experience in print journalism. The former Chief Editor of the
 (1999-2001) is also a regular columnist for the London-based Arabic newspaper 
. Sabbagh shares her insights into the practice of investigative reporting by Arab journalists.
 Rana Sabbagh (left), photo credit: Mahmood AlYousif via Flickr (some rights reserved)
What role does investigative journalism play in the Arab mediascene today?
RS: There is no investigative journalism in the Arab media scene, this is why we
are here. Before ARIJ was founded in 2005, most journalists didn‟t know aboutthis type of reporting. There is now more awareness in the region, but we don‟t see
any investigative journalism practised in the media.In the early phase of ARIJ, we produced investigative reports on socio-economicissues such as education, environment and small corruption. Since the Arab Spring,there is a tendency to investigate political corruption, money laundering, andorganised crime, especially in Egypt.Right now, I am encouraging journalists to document stories about topics that werenot explored during the Egyptian revolution, namely the killings, cases of tortureand rape.
What hands-on tips can you give Arab reporters who want topractise investigative journalism?
RS: I advise them to be well-versed in computer technology and proficient in atleast one foreign language, preferably English. Nearly all the journalists we work with speak Arabic only, so we have started running English language classes atARIJ.Investigative journalists need to have a lot of legal training, learn how to apply thehypothesis-based inquiry methodology, and ensure that their story is viable, fact-evidenced, well-resourced. This should enable them to challenge assumptions anddraw conclusions from various arguments.What makes a distinguished investigative reporter is a good flair for news, theability to detect stories that will become big topics and to do the follow up. Aninvestigative reporter needs to be dedicated, prepared to work hard and discuss abig subject extensively in order to be able to produce professional quality content.
It‟s very important for investigative reporters to do the interviews in person.
Unfortunately, many journalists rely on the Internet, e-
mails, and don‟t meet
people. Instead, they should show initiative, leave the office and speak to people.
I tell journalists to doubt what they are told and always look behind the story anddo the nece
ssary research. It‟s also important to keep sources confidential, protect
the identity of the people involved in a story.At ARIJ, journalists are required to compile a progress report where they indicatethe investigative method they have decided to adopt, what problems theyencounter, how they solve these problems, which sources they use. Journalistsneed to be organised in managing their investigations, keep a record of everyinterview. More generally, they should think in a systematic way and documentevery data and figures obtained, check the collected information, compare sources,and build up their database.
Fourth Annual Conference for Investigative Journalists (2-4 Dec, 2011)
What are the latest media tools and techniques available forArab investigative journalists?
RS: At ARIJ, we teach our journalists how to apply advanced Google searchingtechniques for tracking information. They learn how to make use of free websitesand online databases to dig accurate information, gain access to public records, andlocate documents.

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