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Center's First Conference Trains Overseas Journalists

Feb. 1, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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Journalists and dignitaries representing more than 15 countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe learned about and debated issues involving the coverage of international justice during SHSU’s Global Center for Journalism and Democracy’s first international training in Beirut, Lebanon.

The “Media Coverage of International Justice” conference, held Jan. 18-20, brought together more than 120 people—including journalists, ambassadors, activists, and lawyers—to discuss issues ranging from the presumption of innocence to the ethical, unbiased coverage of international tribunals.

“This was our first international venture, and I think that it was very good to see that the topic that we chose was exactly the right topic at the right time,” said Kelli Arena, executive director for the GCJD. “The discussion about international justice and how to cover it is essential, and concepts like the presumption of innocence, fair and accurate coverage, even how to videotape atrocities in an ethical manner were all issues that we delved deeply into.”

Going around the world with SHSU

The first-day panel presentations—which attracted Lebanon's Minister of Information and the Ambassador of Switzerland to Lebanon—featured spokespeople from international courts and tribunals discussing the media coverage of their institutions, seasoned reporters who have covered high-profile cases, and human rights organizations discussing their roles in supporting victims.

The second and third days consisted of private training sessions for 60 journalists that focused on understanding legal terminology, identifying sources and resources, and covering international justice for print, broadcast and social media. 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, Arena said.

“The two days of training sessions were great,” she said. “Journalists were open to debate and learned from the trainers and each other.”

The event was covered by seven regional newspapers, two TV stations, and two online bloggers. Journalists, both those attending and those covering the conference, seemed to be pleased overall and appreciated the opportunity for discussion and networking, Arena said.

"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," said Mohammed Sergie, a correspondent for the news website Syriadeeply.org, who was quoted in Arena’s reflections of the event on the GCJD website.

In addition, SHSU senior mass communication major Stephen Green also traveled with the center to blog about the event, presenting a “raw, emotional assessment” of what he had witnessed, Arena said.

“Coming from a family raised in East Texas as well as a school filled with people of the same, it is a shame to see such a lack of understanding and sometimes ignorance about land outside of U.S. borders,” Green blogged when the event was over. “As someone who is a self-confessed idiot when it comes to the MENA region, I went into the experience with a clean slate and taking on whatever came my way.”

Among the lessons Green learned in Beirut, his first overseas trip, was the importance of being informed about what’s going on in the world and of being familiar with different cultures.

“My experience was that members of all seven different countries I talked to knew about American politics and news. I knew little, if nothing, of their domestic affairs,” Green blogged. “It was time for me, as a college student, to take advantage of the time I had to study and venture outside of my relatively small box.”

Arena said Green’s reaction is part of the center’s overall goal.

“I was just so pleased because it really opened his mind to being aware of what’s going on in the world; he was impressed with what he saw,” Arena said. “Through the Global Center for Journalism and Democracy, we’re looking to open eyes and get people to understand that they’re part of something much bigger than just this campus, than just this state, and than just this country.”

The “Media Coverage of International Justice” conference was hosted in cooperation with the SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom at the Samir Kassir Foundation.

The GCJD is preparing another journalist training session in March, also in Beirut, which will focus on better coverage of the oil and gas sectors.

To read more about the conference, or to learn more about SHSU’s GCJD, visit shsu.edu/global-journalism/.

 

 

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