Airing the economic harm of sexual harassment, Egypt journalist honored

Five Mideast journalists win latest round of “Digital Gateway” program

By Daniel Lynx Bernard

The International Center for Journalists has honored five journalists from the Middle East and North Africa for excellence in using digital technology for public-service journalism. The honorees under the program “Building a Digital Gateway to Better Lives” used multimedia on the web to examine sexual harassment in Egypt, illegal drugs in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, the sterilization of mentally disabled girls in Jordan, and the growing water crisis in Yemen.

This is the third group of journalists since 2010 to receive honors and financial support under the program, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development through its Office of Middle East Programs (USAID/OMEP) and implemented by ICFJ. The journalists received training and mentoring from ICFJ online and in person in support of their projects. Each will receive seed funding to expand and sustain their work in the public interest.

Amr Eleraqi of Egypt is a senior editor with MBC television and co-founder of the Free Media Center. Photo by Safie Eddeen Atef

Amr Eleraqi, 29, of Egypt, was the top-ranked winner. Eleraqi, who has specialized in economic and financial news as an editor, author, lecturer, and broadcaster, created a multimedia project examining the effect of sexual harassment in discouraging women’s participation in the workforce in Egypt and the region. “The sexual harassment issue is increasing, and at the same time, the state isn’t taking actions to stop it,” Eleraqi said. “Workplace harassment is the most dangerous, because it is done by those who have administrative authority over the employees, taking advantage of the economic conditions and the employee’s fear of losing the job.”

Eleraqi said he initially presumed that the sensitive topic could only be addressed with text articles. While attending ICFJ’s training “boot camp” in Jordan, Eleraqi was exposed to multimedia tools to augment the coverage. ICFJ trained participants in designing news websites and provided hosting space. Eleraqi posted his project, “Speak Out,” with video testimonials, articles, documents, audio interviews, and infographics including a timeline showing countries’ steps to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace. Eleraqi said he has since been contacted by more victims of workplace sexual harassment and has been invited to speak before several nongovernmental organizations about legal protections.

As the top-ranked winner, Eleraqi will visit the U.S. for a two-week study tour of relevant organizations in Washington, D.C., and the South By Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas.

Fady Hassany of Gaza. Photo by Frank Folwell

Fady Hassany, 28, of Palestine, received second place for his project examining drug addiction and drug dealing by youths in the Gaza Strip. On his website, “Crushed Flowers” he explores the issue with articles, video reports, maps, audio interviews, and survey results. “The issue of drugs is very dangerous and thorny and affects more than two-thirds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip…which raises fears of a younger generation losing its future,” Hassany said. “So the investigation was a wake-up call to officials so they might feel the seriousness of the situation and try to develop appropriate solutions to this dangerous phenomenon.” Hassany said the ICFJ program improved his understanding of public-service coverage and using electronic tools for research, interaction with readers, and effective storytelling including blogs, spreadsheets, infographics and polls. Hassany used social media and online surveys to connect with youths affected by the drug problem. Hassany said he also benefited from ICFJ trainers’ recommendations on protecting victims’ privacy and legal rights.

Salman Andary of Lebanon. Photo by Frank Folwell

Salman Andary, 26, of Lebanon won third place for his examination of drug dealers in Lebanon. His website, “Pushing Against Drugs”, describes the police’s attempts to combat a market for drugs that is becoming ubiquitous in the country. The website features articles, video clips, photos, news briefs, and a map of reported drug-dealing locations. Readers are invited to submit their personal stories.

Elain Enwajee of Jordan. Photo by Frank Folwell

Elain Enwajee, 29, of Jordan, was ranked fourth for her project examining Jordan’s policy of involuntarily sterilizing mentally disabled girls. Her website, “Female, but…”, humanizes such girls with articles interspersed with video clips and photos depicting their lives. With a comprehensive discussion of the legal, ethical and religious questions raised by the practice, the project challenges the government’s low estimation of the number of girls affected and highlights the need for new legislation. “I tried through this project to be the voice for those girls who were forced by fate to be voiceless, and to raise their cause, while presenting all views from different groups,” Enwajee said. Enwajee said online training from ICFJ helped her to select and refine her topic and organization, while in-person training gave her the skills to portray her subjects’ stories with photos, video and charts. After publishing the project, Enwajee said she is coordinating with relevant institutions to open a broader discussion on the policy.

Adel Al-Mognee of Yemen. Photo by Frank Folwell

Adel Al-Mognee, 33, of Yemen, was ranked fifth for his project examining the alarming depletion of potable water sources in Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a. Al-Mognee said he only used the written word in his journalism before participating in the ICFJ program. There, he was exposed to digital photography and video editing, infographics, interactive maps, and the journalistic use of social media. For his project, Al-Mognee used social media to research the causes of the problem and to invite members of the public to suggest solutions. Al-Mognee’s website, “Sana’a, Capital Without Water” features a photo essay and articles interlinked with charts, images, and legal documents, while painting a picture of a government not competent to face an overwhelming problem. “All of these laws and departments concerned with preserving the groundwater in Sana'a are nothing more than ink on paper occupying several buildings in the streets of the capital,” Al-Mognee wrote. Al-Mognee said the project gained the keen attention of the Yemeni government: He was telephoned by the Minister of Information, who said he would begin a new public awareness program; and he was invited to meet the Minister of Water, who told relevant departments to review Al-Mognee’s project when devising solutions.

In each round of the ICFJ program, more than 60 journalists from throughout the region – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen – complete six weeks of online training in the use of digital tools for public-service journalism. Then they propose journalistic projects they want to pursue with multimedia on the web; about 25 are selected to attend a series of two weeklong training “boot camps” where they participate in intensive workshops and individual mentoring. ICFJ experts continue to provide mentoring online as the participants complete their projects in their home countries.

Past honorees under the “Digital Gateway” program and the topics they examined with their projects are:

In 2011: Ali Ghamloush of Lebanon, human rights abuses in prisons; Zuheir Doleh, Palestine, medical errors; Mariam Hamed, Palestine, abuse of journalists; Ismail Azzam, Morocco, female agricultural workers; Wisam Rama, Iraq, corruption; and Ahmed Abdo Abdelhakim, Egypt, food safety violations.

In 2012: Aida Bouya, Morocco, denial of legal rights to children of unmarried parents; Alaa Chehayeb, Lebanon, sexual harassment by university instructors; Narin Shamo, Iraq, water pollution; Mohamed Akinou, Morocco, landmines; Mohammed Al-Hakimi, Yemen, environmental dangers of plastic bag waste.