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Suspicious minds, Part I

Suspicious minds, Part I

Contrary to what you might think, investigative journalism is alive and snooping in the Middle East, says Communicate magazine, Part I.

October 5, 2009 3:58 by

Yosri Fouda, the former chief investigative correspondent and executive producer at

Al Jazeera television news station, says that while there has been progress in the state of investigative journalism in the Middle East over the past decade, there remains a lack of appreciation for the job and its role for several reasons.

One of the main obstacles, Fouda says, is societal; regional culture is largely oral. “This doesn’t help with investigative journalism,” he says. “We don’t really like figures and statistics. We are moved rather by rhythm and tunes and poetry; that doesn’t exactly help those who are supposed to be after facts, sorting facts out of speculations and rumors. Another challenge is how to present facts in an attractive way, which will engage the audience. It’s a sad statistic, but more than half of Arabs can’t read or write. One of the early challenges for me was writing my script, because I didn’t know who I was writing to. Am I writing to a peasant who lives on the delta in Egypt, or a sheikh in Yemen, or the Syrian emigrant who is now a professor at Harvard?”

Problems also exist within the media itself, says Fouda. Far too many editors or owners of media outlets do not understand or do not appreciate investigative journalism, or they are unwilling to spend a decent budget and give time to their staff to embark on investigative reports. “In addition, another question is whether the journalists themselves are interested in taking the rather difficult route of establishing themselves and paying the price of building their credibility brick by brick, taking the time to investigate the story, and having the passion to start with.”

First seen in Communicate magazine.

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