SCENARIO | A problem or challenge from the media activists' experiences that provide a teachable moment.

It describes a real-life situation their group experienced where a problem arose concerning media activism and the group resolved the situation.

Your website shares a news story that turns out to be untrue, what do you do?

Recently the “Sharika wa Laken” website published a news piece about three young men sexually assaulting a young girl, who has been missing from home for a couple of days. Fe-Male found out after that the story was not true. Many of their social media followers had reposted the news because of the credibility of “Sharika wa Laken.” Even though the news was based on another media source, Fe-Male immediately issued a public apology.

Alia observes:

“The lesson here is that we are accountable to the stakeholders we serve and to our audience that we provide with information. We also ask them to stand with us on social and traditional media. So if we want the audience to always trust us, we should be accountable. So if we make a mistake, we have to admit it, and apologize to our audience who are supportive of us and with us on the front lines in fighting for women’s rights.”

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You have a deadline for an audio report and the electricity goes out, what do you do?

The IMEMC needed to produce an audio report that they had already arranged to be broadcasted on different radio stations, but the office suddenly had no electricity. Quickly, the team found a new location. They went to a friend’s house and created a temporary studio by covering the windows with mattresses and using a portable audio recorder, they edited the report on a laptop and pushed it online in time.

When this happens in Gaza, where they also have major electricity outages, the IMEMC team in the West Bank records audio reports by phone from contributors in Gaza. Working primarily with audio and text reports, the workarounds in such situations are simpler according to George:

“The more simple the product is, the easier it is to produce. The quality will not be the same using such production techniques, but it is better than having it not produced and published at all.”

What would you do if the people you want to interview do not know your media platform and are distrustful of the media?

In 2018, Henda was assigned to collect footage for a report in the desert of Tataouine. There was a huge sit-in protest of around 2000 men in front of an oil and petrol manufacturer. She went there with a young cameraman just after the mainstream media started attacking the demonstration, calling the participants a bunch of criminals. On the ground, as a woman with short hair walking into a conservative environment, Henda felt the demonstrators would not accept to talk to her.

She said, “The problem is that they do not know our media organization because we are online. They only use their phones to connect to Facebook. Because I had this experience before in many regions of Tunisia, I had the idea to print out our articles about the sit-in and other movements they may know.”

Henda arrived at the sit-in with the printed articles.

“Of course when I went to the protest with these, in two seconds, I was surrounded by two angry men telling her she cannot do her reportage and saying they hate all the media” she explains.

Henda held up the printed articles to show that she worked at a real news organization and told them this media is “the only independent media.” She also told them about her media activism supporting other social movements.

The approach worked and Henda ended up spending two days at the protest doing interviews and sharing food with the demonstrators while getting the footage she needed for her report.

You are doing training on digital media activism, but the Internet fails to load the websites you are using. What do you do? 

Once INSM was conducting training on digital media activism, but the Internet was weak and the websites would not load. To continue the training, the workshop facilitators sketched the websites on a whiteboard.

For future workshops, trainers always backed up the presentation of any online content in PowerPoint presentation with screenshots to show the details. This way if the internet goes down, INSM trainers would still have workable content.

The police forces violently raid your office and detain or take away most of your team, what do you do?

In November 2019, after an article about the son of the current Egyptian president was published by Mada Masr, their office was stormed by the police. Two-thirds of the staff were there and they were detained, interrogated, and some of them were even physically assaulted and taken to the police station.

“The timeline for the office raid incident started like that, we published the story about the president’s son, our news editor was arrested from his home in the next day and no one knew his whereabouts for two days, then the office was raided. Later, everyone was released”

Mostafa remembers, “the raid was a violent escalation of previous actions to harass us because it wasn’t targeting one person, but the whole team working at Mada Masr. Furthermore, there was no real physical assault during the raid.” The team members who were not present during the raid covered the incident live on social media to mobilize the public opinion in support of their colleagues and to try to protect them from police brutality.

“It was a confusing moment,” Mostafa recalls, “the journalist turned into the news. It is a stupid move [by the police] to try and turn the journalists into the news because journalists know how to control the narrative.”  

Hours after the ordeal was over, the team members were in shock. The Mada Masr team needed mental health support to deal with the trauma of the violent raid. The team members stayed in contact with each other and this provided a needed support system. Mada Masr made sure that team members who needed hospitalization and therapy after the incident were taken care of.

Mostafa noted that after the incident, the article that sparked the police raid was not deleted: “We never delete anything, even when we do an error in an article, we post an updated corrected version, but we do not remove the original one.” 

Reflecting on this experience, Mostafa said, “We knew the topic was sensitive, and there would be dangerous outcomes, but we did not expect what happened. Furthermore, we knew that we would have to be very accurate with the story and double-check all info and data and leave no gaps or else the mistake would be fatal.” For the lessons learned at Mada Masr on how to stay safe, Mostafa quoted his colleague Hossam, “when writing about a sensitive topic, write a story you can defend. No room for gaps.”

In the period that followed, Mada Masr worked on cleaning up the office after the destruction caused by the police raid and developed a raid plan to protect themselves in the future by fortifying the office, encrypting communication, and securing the website. 

What would you do if your publication was accused of being illegal by a local member of the government who also called for your website to be blocked?

In 2017, My.Kali clashed with a member of parliament, Ms. Dima Tahboub on Twitter. In an interview with the news outlet Deutsche Welle, MP Tahboub claimed that homosexuals are not welcomed in Jordan and suggested she had called for My.Kali’s website to be blocked, a year after it was actually blocked. When MP Tahboub started her war against My.Kali, she did not cite religious reasons, but rather she accused the publication of contravening Jordanian law number 49. Article 49 requires press publications in Jordan to obtain a license or else they should be shut down. 

But My.Kali is not nor has ever been a news website, as the publication does not discuss Jordanian external and internal affairs. Therefore the law does not apply to them and because of this My.Kali was illegally blocked. According to Khalid, MP Tahboub targetted My.Kali to strengthen her own political campaign in the upcoming elections. In response, My.Kali published an open letter to clear up all the confusion about this supposed clash and to give their perspective to the misinformation circulated by the MP. 

After the incident with MP Tahboub, My.Kali realized that the public in Jordan does not have access to proper information about the publication. Two months later, My.Kali released a special issue titled the “Identity Issue,” where they reformulated the visual appeal of My.Kali, including Arabizing the logo and creating a new format for the cover. Khalid said this visual change was accompanied by a new approach in the way topics are covered by the magazine. He said, “We made sure to talk about everything from zero, so if we are going to talk about gender … we will address the audience like a child” to give any reader a chance to understand the issues. This issue was a success, and My.Kali felt they were finally properly tackling the issues in a way that is relevant to their audiences in Jordan and across the Arab region. 

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