In May Egyptians went to the polls to elect a new president. DW Akademie project manager Jens-Uwe Rahe describes a current project in Egypt focusing on balanced reporting.
"Election reporting and political communication in North Africa 2012" is DW Akademie's most extensive project in Egypt since last year's revolution. What is involved?
Our trainers and consultants are supporting partners in reporting on the elections. We're working with two private TV stations, an online news platform, a citizen journalists' network and the national journalists' association.
We initially assessed the training needs of each partner. Journalistic skills such as interviewing techniques are on the list, as well as the planning of topics, editorial organization and a better understanding of their role as journalists. The goal is for Egyptian journalists to provide voters with balanced and relevant information on candidates, their campaigns, the rules and procedures relating to the election, and of course, the election results.
Why is this project so important?
Egyptian journalists were for decades subject to censorship and practiced self-censorship themselves. As a result they have little experience in reporting freely and independently and this involves accountability and professional standards. Some of the media are overstepping the new freedoms and are mixing fact and opinion, and publishing rumors and claims without verification.
At the same time the state is still trying to control the information flow, particularly when it comes to the state media. Reporters are being intimidated and have also been attacked. By making journalists aware of their social responsibilities as well as their rights, and by developing their skills we're aiming to boost their self-image and willingness to take advantage of the changes.
What are the results of the project so far?
We're seeing immediate results with young presenters who now have a more professional approach. This is also true for the reporters and correspondents - they're starting to focus more on the story behind the news and are taking viewer perspectives into account. At the online media we’re training video journalists. Overall we're insisting that editorial planning go beyond a day-to-day approach and that feedback sessions take place regularly. This is now happening. We step back when it comes to political content because our partners don't want us to get involved with this aspect. We ourselves need to be sensitive to the fact that this is not an easy time. That’s why we're using very experienced trainers, many of whom are Arab colleagues.
The DW Akademie project "Election reporting and political communication in North Africa 2012" is supporting specific media outlets in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Our partners in Cairo are the private stations ON-TV and 25TV, the online news platform Masrawy, the citizen journalists' network RNN and the Egyptian Journalists' Association. Partners receive workshops, on-the-job training and consulting services. The focus is on free, balanced and independent election reporting. DW Akademie also offers the partners train-the-trainer workshops so that participants can effectively pass on their newly-acquired skills. The project is sponsored by Germany's Federal Foreign Office.