Global Center Hits the Road

Executive Director Kelli Arena delivers opening comments

The Global Center for Journalism and Democracy hosted its first international training, "Media Coverage of International Justice” in Beirut from January 18 to 20, 2013. Participants from fifteen different countries from throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe attended. The conference was hosted in cooperation with the Beirut based Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.

The focus of the conference was to help journalists understand how to cover international courts and tribunals ethically, accurately and fairly.

More than 120 people attended the first day's session, including dignitaries such as Lebanon's Minister of Information, members of parliament, and the Ambassador of Switzerland to Lebanon.

The conference began on Friday with a public session featuring representatives from various international courts and tribunals discussing the strategies and challenges of dealing with the media. Spokespeople for the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) and the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) joined in a frank, open discussion about media coverage of their respective institutions. That was followed by a panel discussion with seasoned reporters from around the world who have covered cases at the Hague, the ICTY, the STL and the trials of regime officials following the Rwandan Genocide.

Attendees also heard from Human Rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International who discussed their role in collecting evidence of atrocities and their desire for free and fair trials.

The following two days consisted of private training sessions focusing on understanding legal terminology, identifying sources and resources , and covering international justice for print, broadcast and social media . 60 journalists went through the training.

Dr. Mitchell Roth from SHSU's College of Criminal Justice and Dr. Robin Johnson from SHSU's Mass Communications Department were part of the team of experts brought in by the GCJD to train journalists. "The journalists in the training sessions were already marshaling social media in their daily activities at various levels, so I wanted to highlight some advanced ways of finding good information about international justice and show some lesser known tolls designed to manipulate and monitor the vast amount of information available on Twitter and Facebook" explained Johnson.

One of the most controversial sessions was led by defense lawyer Abbe Jolles who reminded journalists that every defendant,regardless of world opinion, has the right to a fair trial.

Marlise Simons, a reporter with the New York Times based in Paris led the session on writing stories for print, "The issue of justice is very much on the front burner in this region, as it is in many other regions in areas of conflict, so I felt very gratified that there were a lot of people in the audience that really thought about it very seriously...I tried really hard to give helpful hints and to lay out some of the rules that help us function as reporters."

Marten Youssef, spokesperson for the Special Tribunal on Lebanon, said he liked that the conference did not just focus on the tribunal for Lebanon. “What I took away from this is a sense that Lebanese journalists are starting to realize they are part of a much, much bigger scene,” he said. “It could not have been a more timely conference.”

The opportunity for discussion, networking and debate was appreciated by journalists who had come from around the world for training.

"The perspective provided by journalists and spokespersons who have been involved in international justice since the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was really relevant to what Arab societies are dealing with today", Mohammed Sergie, a correspondent for the news website, said. The conferences gave him a good idea of how to report on an international tribunal or court case pertaining to Syria should one be set up in the future.


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