Media Department Attends Beirut Journalist Safety Conference

The Media Department at Birzeit University joined other Arab universities at a regional conference in Beirut February 15-16 2016 to discuss a model university course on journalist safety.

The conference was organized by UNESCO and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to discuss how to better maintain the safety of journalists, particularly given the rise in journalists killed in 2015 in Arab countries.

The conference was attended by more than 40 participants representing universities in Lebanon and selected Arab countries (Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Oman). Diplomats, government officials, media professionals, as well as international experts from UNESCO and IFJ also attended the event.

National Projects Officer in Communication and Information for UNESCO in Beirut, George Awad, told the gathering that, as the number of journalists killed continues to increase, there must be greater commitment, tangible actions, and inclusive approaches to address safety concerns.

Jim Boumelha, president of IFJ, said “the world is becoming more dangerous for journalists.” He said that Iraq and Syria have become some of the most dangerous areas for journalists. “Students must understand the risks related to journalists”, he went on, “and must be taught to keep safe when covering news in conflict areas.”

Bassam Ewaida, head of the Media Department at Birzeit University, praised the role of IFJ and UNESCO in pushing for reforms in journalism curricula in around the Arab world. He said that journalists in Palestine are increasingly being singled out and attacked when they are in the field, or for what they write and say.

“We need to provide safety skills and knowledge to media students to enable them to build a culture of safety for media in Palestine and the region.”