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United Nations Development Programme
Data Journalism in the Arab Region Focus Group Meeting
ADP - Arab Development Portal
Beirut - Lebanon
30 Mar 2017
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Beirut - Lebanon
ADP-Raseef22 Media Focus Group
Data Journalism in the Arab Region
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Beirut 
Thursday 30 March 2017

Enhanced open data facilities and increased provision of statistics in the Arab region offer journalists a new source of “interesting and new stories” that can contribute to unravelling societal controversies and highlighting political and economic marginalization and injustices. Indirectly, journalists have at hand a powerful tool that can contribute to holding policy-makers and actors in the position of power accountable. This is a role that is fully practiced in North American and European media outlets. Other regions are also following suit. 

However, only recently did journalists in the Arab region pay attention to the power of data as an investigative tool and as a promising platform. 

In previous times, information was scarce and the efforts of journalists were devoted to gathering information from different sources, e.g. through direct interviews, field visits, desk research (to a certain degree), etc. where personal contact is key. Now bigger data flow is more easily available and offer Arab journalists an opportunity to explore other means of reporting, i.e. that of what is referred to as “data journalism”. As such journalists need to have the basics: (1) how to process and analyse data, (2) how to present data that is comprehensible by the public. The focus should not only be about analysing and visualizing data only, it is rather about using the numerical data as a tool to produce fact-based, verified, engaging and relevant reporting and to produce data-driven stories in an appropriate and attractive way. In brief, data journalism is bringing sense and structure to the never-ending flow of data and present it in a relevant way to the mass. 

The above and other subjects will be discussed thoroughly in ADP-Raseef22 Media Focus Group on Data Journalism in the Arab Region, which will bring together 20 journalists. The Focus Group Meeting will look as well into the developing trends in data journalism and create an opportunity to share experiences, best practices and knowledge while addressing the below:

Is getting stories from data considered journalism? Where does the Arab region stand in this? Are data on the Arab region available and accessible? What are the challenges that the journalists face when covering the Arab region? What are the needs of journalists to be able to play a more active role in making sense of the flow of data?

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Diana Assaf
Web Editor, Arab Development Portal (ADP)
RBAS – Regional Programme Division
United Nations Development Programme
Tel: +961 1 981640/641 ext. 138
Fax: +961 1 981645


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Other Information


9:00 – 9:30 Introduction and framing session:
Farah Choucair, ADP Project Coordinator, UNDP-RBAS

9:30 – 11:30 Session I: Status of data journalism in the Arab Region

o Why is data-driven journalism important and how can it be integrated in “traditional journalistic coverage”?
o What is the status of data journalism in the Arab region and how does it compare to other regions?
o Who has led the emergence of data-driven journalism in the Arab region (actors and countries)? What factors facilitated this rising trend?
o Has data journalism succeeded to establish a base of followers/readers?
o How is data journalism affected by access to data and open government data?
o What are the challenges of data journalism in the Arab region?

Moderator: Abir Ghattas, Raseef22
? Ahmad Barclay, Visualizing Impact [Why is data-driven journalism important?]
? Abir Ghattas, Raseef 22 [Overview of status of data journalism in the Arab region]
? Lina Ejeilat, 7iber [Challenges of data journalism in the Arab region]
? Alaa Batayneh, AlJazeera [Emergence of data journalism and how it succeeded in establishing a base of followers]
? Alya Alaali, Bayanat Box [Access to data in the Arab region]
? Kais Zriba, Inkyfada [Investigative journalism based on data]

Open discussion

11:30 – 11:45 Coffee break

11:45 – 13:45 Session II: Data journalism techniques
o Finding the meaning/story in datasets
o Contextualizing data analysis
o How raw data can be turned into eye-catching visual stories
o Data journalism tools
o Reaching out to readers
o Best practices

Moderator: Abir Ghattas, Raseef22
? Ahmad Barclay, Visualizing Impact [Relation between Journalist, designer and developer]
? Kais Zriba, Inkyfada [How raw data can be turned unto eye-catching stories]
? Eva Constantaras, Internews [From data to stories: strategies for using big data and setting up data teams]
? Amr Aleraqi, Infotimes [Data journalism tools]
? Abir Ghattas, Raseef22 [Data journalism and social media: a boosting tool]

13:45 – 15:00 Lunch break

15:00 – 16:00 Session III: Big data and the future of journalism

Presentations by:
? Pinar Dag, Dag Medya
? Mona Chalabi, The Guardian
? Dyfed Loesche, Statista

Open discussion

16:00 – 17:00 Session IV: Data journalism as an advocacy tool?

o How big data is becoming a resource for social positive change and how is it being used?
o What role does data journalism play in stimulating evidence-based advocacy campaigns?
o Obstacles to using big data in supporting positive change Best Practices by:
? Husam Alkatlaby, Violations Documentation Center in Syria
? Hussein Kassab, Data Aurora

Open discussion

17:00 – 18:00 Session V: Needs of data journalists

Open discussion

Dissemination of needs’ assessment questionnaire

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