ICFJ Announces Award Winners in Citizen Journalist Program in Egypt

Oct 312010

An account of health problems among workers in a ceramics factory in Egypt took top honors in a training program for citizen journalists, in an awards ceremony held October 9 in Cairo by the International Center for Journalists.

The first place award went to Ahmed Alshannaf, whose story appeared in Al- Youm Al-Sabie and detailed the damage by chemical pollutants to both factory workers and the surrounding neighborhood. The second-place story, on slum children and their PlayStation addictions, was by Amr El Kadi and Dina Abdel Ghany and appeared on Egyptian TV. In third place was a video program showing voter ignorance of the country’s political parties, by Sherin Saafan, which appeared in Al Nahar.

The awards were the culmination of an 11-month program by ICFJ – On the Margins No More: A Multimedia News Program to Empower Egyptian Women and Youth. It significantly advanced the role of citizen journalists in Egypt by training 74 participants – most of them young and many of them women – in basic journalism and multimedia skills. The program also guided media outlets in making more use of citizen journalists.

The ceremony was at the headquarters of the Egyptian Press Syndicate, the official governing body of the nation’s print media. ICFJ’s local partner for the program was the Egyptian newspaper Youm Sabie.

The citizen journalist trainees produced nearly 40 more stories that also appeared in Egyptian media. Their topics included: child labor, the return of Egyptian blue collar immigrants, factory waste, the history of Egypt’s oldest sweet delicatessen, the new tok tok (the one-seat motorcycle taxi), the prospects of civil marriage in Egypt and establishment of marriage agencies, and the hiring of election bodyguards.

The program also produced an online voters guide, Egyptian Issues, ahead of the parliamentary elections set for November 2010.

Professional journalists helped train the citizen journalists and serve as their connection to media outlets. Amira Hisham, who works for the An-Nahar newspaper and mentored four citizen journalists, said: “That was a wonderful experience that I really enjoyed, the experience of guiding someone who is so eager to do a good job. Citizen journalism is a reality we have to deal with, and actually we should encourage it in order to fill a gap that we know exists.” It was her brainstorming with a trainee that produced the story on marriage agencies in Egypt.

The winning stories were judged on five criteria: idea, sourcing, writing, ethics, and use of multimedia. The panel of judges were senior media professionals and academics: Yehia Ghanem; Hassan Mekki; Yousri Fouda; Dr. Farag el Kamel, dean of journalism at the Ahram Canadian University; Albet Shafik, head of the independent ONTV channel; Mohamed Gohar, owner and director of Video Cairo; and Abeer El Saady, journalist and head of training at the Egyptian Press Syndicate.

The International Center for Journalists, a non-profit, professional organization, promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, ICFJ has worked directly with more than 55,000 journalists from 176 countries. Aiming to raise the standards of journalism, ICFJ offers hands-on training, workshops, online training, seminars, fellowships and international exchanges to reporters and media managers around the globe. For more, visit www.icfj.org.