Image: Screenshot, ARIJ
The Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) 16th annual forum kicked off in Amman, on Friday, December 1, 2023, with the theme “Cross-border collaboration in a fragmented world.”
The three-day conference included the participation of roughly 2,000 journalists and supporters of investigative and independent journalism in person and virtually. More than 600 journalists attended the forum in Amman, while another 1,300 participated online. In total, the conference featured participants representing more than 60 countries.
More than 100 speakers participated in 40 sessions during the event. Investigative journalists from all Arab countries are invited to attend in the forum, along with fact-checkers and institutions specializing in supporting investigative journalism, training, and information technology leadership.
ARIJ Director General Rawan Damen said: “This year’s edition comes in exceptional circumstances, with Israel killing dozens of male and female journalists in Gaza, Palestine, and in southern Lebanon. It is important to raise the voice to demand holding killers accountable and put an end to impunity.” Damen stressed the importance of investigating war crimes, noting that “holding such a forum in these circumstances is both a shout and a challenge.”
Seven exhibitions were organized on the sidelines of the forum: Journalists’ Safety Exhibition, which contained pictures of dozens of male and female journalists who were killed in October and November 2023; VR – Physical Safety Exhibition; Art for Investigative Reports on the Environment and Climate; Digital Safety Clinics; ARIJ Investigations, ARIJ AI Exhibition; and DALIL Exhibition for Combating Misinformation. In addition, the forum offered individual workshops for physical, digital, psychological, and legal security and safety, and clinics to support the funding of independent media institutions.
At the closing of the forum, ARIJ announced the winners of the 2023 Arab Investigative Journalism Awards, for which 149 investigations from 16 countries were submitted.
Ramadan Younes received the Gold Award for his TV investigation, My Secret Journey to Expose Doctors Who Exploit Patients Like Me, which was published by BBC News Arabic, and revealed cases of medical fraud that targeted Arab patients, carried out by clinics in Russia, the United States, and the Middle East. The investigation was filmed and directed by George Hanton and produced by Nader Ibrahim.
The jury awarded the Silver Prize to the investigation Permanent Imprisonment: The Series of “Repeated Imprisonment” Runs Contrary to Justice by Egyptian journalist Isis Qassim (pseudonym). The investigation was published in partnership with ARIJ and the Almanassa site, and it revealed five prisoners in Egypt who were kept in prison without being accused of committing specific incidents, in violation of their rights as defendants.
The Bronze Award was given to two investigations.
The first was Jihan Nasri’s investigation Farmers in Kasserine, Tunisia, and Sergaz… Rental Agreement Wasting Rights and Resources, which was published in partnership between ARIJ and Al Jazeera. It revealed the failure of a company to respond to the demands of farmers to increase the rent they were due for the land rights through which a gas pipeline crosses Tunisian territory towards Italy.
Also sharing the third-place prize was Hamza Hamky, for his investigation Stolen Properties: How Do Influential People Seize the Properties of Expatriates in Qamishli?, which was published on Al Jazeera and focused on the forgery of dozens of sales contracts in Syria.
A special jury mention was awarded to the cross-border project “Working in Fear”: Some Private Contractors Are Accused of Abusive Labor Practices on US Military Bases. The investigation, published on several sites, revealed violations against migrant workers on US military bases in Gulf countries. This investigation won seven US and international awards and was a collaboration between ARIJ, ICIJ, NBC News, and The Washington Post.
Another investigation received a special mention from the jury, journalist Ayat Khairy’s Egyptian Hospitals Refuse to Perform Surgeries on Women Without Their Husbands’ Consent.
The jury was composed of: Bayan Tal, media and communication consultant; Naji Tamimi, producer for Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit; Abdualla Maksour, novelist, trainer, and producer at Al Arabi TV; Heba Kandil, senior manager, media initiatives, Thomson Reuters Foundation; and Anass Bendrif, specialist and trainer in media and communication.
It is noteworthy that the awards were open to journalists from all Arab countries and Arabs in the diaspora who produced investigations in Arabic, whether they were produced in collaboration with ARIJ or with other institutions.
Since its inception in late 2005, ARIJ has trained more than 7,000 journalists, editors, and fact-checkers, and has supervised the production and publication of nearly 1,000 investigations and hundreds of in-depth reports. In 2020, ARIJ established the Arab Fact Checkers Network (AFCN), which supports more than 38 institutions and initiatives from 12 Arab countries with training, networking, and innovation.
Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) is the first and leading media organization in the region dedicated to promoting investigative journalism in Arab newsrooms. The Amman-based organization was formed in 2005 to support independent professional journalism through funding in-depth projects and offering training and media coaching. ARIJ helps journalists working in print, radio, TV, and online media in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Bahrain, Palestine, Yemen, and Tunisia.