UNESCO Beirut partners with May Chidiac Foundation to provide safety training for young journalists

, Lebanon

UNESCO and MCF deliver training for fresh media graduates and students on Safety of Journalists

Reporting on issues of public interest, including government policies and legislation, and providing unbiased information to the public, made journalists worldwide subject to intimidation and violence subsequently depriving the public opinion from the fundamental right of seeking, and receiving impactful information. There is a dwindling space for freedom of expression, independent media and civil society.

In 2018, at least 34 journalists were killed while 256 were captured, making this era known for being one of the worst in history for journalists all over the world. Offenders are rarely brought to justice. Forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, kidnappings, and other terrorizations are forcing journalists around the world to give up their work in the midst of the absence of effective safety trainings. The right of journalists to execute their work within a safe environments, without going through harassments, attacks and even being killed is a topic of supreme importance.

In addition, journalists frequently face uncommon psychological pressures and challenges when covering conflicts and crises. Interacting with victims and survivors can compromise their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Journalists hence need to build a professional “wall” between themselves and the victims, a thing they are not usually taught at university.  

Against this backdrop, and given the crucial need to expose fresh graduate and media students to an elaborate safety training, UNESCO Beirut partnered with May Chidiac Foundation’s  Media Institute (MCFMI) to provide training on “Safety of Journalists during Conflict and Potentially Dangerous Assignments” for 20 fresh graduates and students from the media departments in Lebanese universities.

The training consisted in a series of practical and theoretical courses that enable the beneficiaries to cover conflicts while maintaining high professional standards as well as psychological resilience. Participants were subject to hands-on activities and exercises allowing them in practice to cope with potential future incidents.

The training tackled a variety of topics, including: Rights and Duties of the journalist covering a conflict; First Aid & Basic Medical Knowledge; Risk Assessment & Management; Psychological Trauma & Coping with Harassment; Gender & Culture consideration;  Digital Security; Hostage/Kidnap Simulation; basic videography & editing skills.

At the end of the training, and given that social media reaches audiences in a cost-efficient, impactful, and effective way, participants designed a social media campaign to spread awareness about the safety of journalists. The month-long campaign included facts and figures about the issue, quotes, tips, pictures, videos, and testimonials. All the content was created and edited by the participants, and shared on the social media channels of UNESCO Beirut and MCFMI. 

A ceremony was held at MCFMI, in presence of President of MCF Dr May Chidiac and UNESCO Beirut's Programme Specialist for Communication and Information Mr George Awad, to distribute certificates to the trainees. 

It is worth mentioning that this this project falls under the framework of a UNESCO-led initiative to strengthen freedom of expression and democracy throughout the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Asia, with the generous financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) through UNESCO's Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists.