Training journalism students to promote a public culture of respect through data visualization

“Responsible information about human rights creates a solid and objective foundation that can be used by both policy makers and civil society to respond to new trends and challenges of the modern world.”

- Ambassador Michelle Cameron

Since 2011, Lebanon has been facing major challenges ranging mainly from the important influx of Syrian refugees in the country, the political vacuum that has lasted more than two years as well as the garbage crisis, which made the citizens take to the streets. By having the highest refugee per capita rate in the world, Lebanon is considered to be one of the most affected countries by the influx of Syrian refugees in the Middle East. This situation puts additional strains on already limited resources and services to the local population.

Most of the refugees live in dramatic conditions where human rights violations have become the norm and where the media fails to report objectively on these issues due to a highly politicized environment, rather publishing biased and discriminatory stories

The Embassy of Canada to Lebanon, in partnership with the Lebanese American University (LAU) and Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), organized a three-day training with a focus on hate speech in the Lebanese media.  Journalism students will become the voice for many, shedding light on issues impacting society and its citizens. This training shed light on the rights of the most vulnerable communities and the role journalists can play in the defense and promotion of those rights.

Data visualization - an important piece

Thirty students participated in both theoretical and practical exercises learning to challenge ideas surrounding hate speech and to write ethically and effectively on human rights issues. In addition, students learned about data visualization and how it can shape and help to tell stories.  The amount of international aid Lebanon received in response to the refugee crisis, a positive outcome that can help strengthen social cohesion and resilience in Lebanon, was used as a current example.

In pursuit of social change

During the training, Dr. Monika Halkort, a professor in the communications department of the LAU, stressed the importance of Lebanese journalism in the digital age. According to her theory, the understanding of modern media requires special skills for analyzing data and for verifying the truth of published information.

She also reminded students that many policy decisions are made based on this type of information and it is vital for journalists today to learn to read and analyze the available data because good analysis can inform and lead to social changes.

Dr. Halkort believes that the predominant racist dialogue often supported by the media, holds refugees responsible for the deteriorating economic situation in Lebanon, the electricity crisis, water and pollution”

“The data can give a completely different point of view, sometimes contrary to what is being portrayed in the media.” - Dr. Monika Halkort

Canada a key player

Canada’s Ambassador to Lebanon, Michelle Cameron, emphasized that the training was perfectly aligned with Canada's priorities in support of freedom of expression and the protection of the rights of the most vulnerable. She added that Canada strongly believes that freedom of expression is at the heart of human individuality and is one of the essential foundations of a safe and prosperous society:

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