In the most comprehensive media training programme to reach eastern Libya, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) has been working with newsrooms and individual reporters to raise standards and skills.
The three-month initiative covered seven towns and cities from Ajdabiya eastwards to Tobruk, taking in Benghazi. Print and broadcast news outlets here are mostly isolated and badly under-resourced.
“We were the first to go to many of these places,” said Omar Assaf, one of the trainers on the programme. “They had never received any substantial training before, and they had very little experience of reporting of organising a newsroom.”
Assaf and his colleague Ziad al-Rabai worked inside newsrooms and with individual print, news agency and radio reporters. They trained and mentored over 100 journalists on how to identify and tell the stories that matter most to their communities, as well as advising on newsroom planning, media ethics and the fundamentals of reporting on a chaotic political transition.
“Many of these newsrooms have no strategy for improving, so the training showed them the steps they'll need to continue taking in order to become better,” Assaf said.
IWPR’s Libya Country Director, Seth Meixner, argues that building up local as well as national journalism is essential in the current environment.
“It’s immeasurably important that we help smaller media outlets in distant communities report the stories that matter to their audiences – stories about health, education, employment or local politics that are taking place in their own backyards,” he said.
The training in eastern Libya was just part of IWPR’s ongoing programming that, over the past year, has successfully moved beyond the major cities to reach and support scores of journalists in smaller media outlets, many of them grappling with the multiple challenges facing their society in the post-Gaddafi era.
“For years media was simply a conduit for state propaganda,” Meixner said. “This focus on local reporting is one of the ways Libyan media can claw back credibility, while helping their audiences understand the fast-moving events that are shaping their communities.”
(Source: Institute for War and Peace Reporting)