More than 300 journalists from Morocco to Iraq joined Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism for its fourth annual conference December 2-4 in Amman, Jordan. The inspiring gathering showed that investigative journalism is vibrant, expanding, and pushing the limits across the Arab world.
In the wake of the Arab Spring, panels and discussions focused on how to take investigative journalism in the region to the next level. Egyptian journalist Yosri Fouda, a former chief investigative correspondent for Al Jazeera, opened the conference by hailing a new era of freedom and free media. “Once you open this door, you cannot close it,” he told the crowd.
ARIJ Chairman Daoud Kuttab noted that while the network has successfully built up the investigative skills of Arab journalists, major challenges remain. “What matters now is implementation,” said Kuttab, founder of AmmanNet, the Arab world’s first Internet radio station.
The conference honored journalists from Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine with the “Arab Spring Awards” for best investigative reporting. Among the winners: Raeda Hamra of Roya TV (Jordan) for uncovering financial violations by factories in the town of Hashemiyeh; Al Balad Radio’s Hanan Khandagji (Jordan) for a story on abuses against residents at care centres; and Marwa Yassin and Maha Bahnasawi (Egypt) for exposing how mortadella factories used expired meat in sandwiches.
Rana Sabbagh, ARIJ’s executive director, said that the network is expanding and strengthening its work in nine countries — Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Bahrain, Palestine, Yemen and Tunisia. ARIJ’s plans include supporting some three dozen investigative projects and holding 26 workshops over the next three years.
The conference’s supporters included the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, International Media Support, and the Open Society Foundations.
The next ARIJ conference is in Tunisia in 2012.