New Network for Young Syrian Journalists Encourages Members to "Stay in Touch"

Jan 82009
  • Winner Zaina Erhaim (right) receiving the laptop from Zena Ali-Ahmed, Deputy Reisdent Representative of UNDP-Syria, Knight Fellow Mariam Sami and Ghimar Deeb, Governance & Crisis Prevention Team Leader.

Zaina Erhaim, a 24-year-old reporter for the Syria News website, has received a laptop as a prize for suggesting the name of a new online network for young Syrian journalists. The winning name: Tawasul, an Arabic word that loosely translates as “staying in touch.”

The judging committee said they chose Erhaim’s submission from more than 100 entries because it reflected the network’s aim to be an online resource and outlet for journalists under 30. The network, expected to be launched this spring, will be the product of collaboration among the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), and the Syrian Ministry of Information.

Journalists who join the network will be encouraged to contribute to a website that hosts radio, print and television stories, as well as caricatures and short, animated films. The network also will offer professional training, seminars and workshops.

“Tawasul is the core of any journalist’s work. To stay in touch is to bring journalists and the society together,” Erhaim said before receiving her prize at the UNDP-Syria office in Damascus in December 2008. “It was the last word that came to my mind.” She said she was surprised to win “because there were so many journalists who entered the competition.”

Knight International Journalism Fellow Mariam Sami is working with UNDP to set up the network and organize training programs that will allow members to run the network on their own.

Erhaim, who also works as a producer for the soon-to-be-launched Orient television channel, has mainly covered non-governmental organizations and gender-related issues. She hopes to continue reporting on social issues for both print and television – and to use the new network to share her stories with other young Syrian journalists.