Participants exchanged experiences of covering stories on forced labor

KUWAIT: A two-day workshop on ‘Reporting on Forced Labor and Fair Recruitment,’ organized by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in cooperation with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Kuwait Journalist Association (KJA), concluded yesterday. Participating reporters from various local dailies appreciated the valuable information they received at the workshop. They also exchanged experiences of covering stories on forced labor, in addition to suggestions on improving their work.

Kevin Burden, trainer at IFJ, media consultant and former head of training at the BBC for media development, spoke about various stories on forced labor from different countries. He mentioned some stories that changed the miserable situation of poor workers, such as the young fishermen working in a Far East country who were not allowed to leave the ship and some of them even died there.

He also gave examples of other instances of forced labor in some African countries, where even children are involved. He mentioned popular electronic brands that use materials that are only available in Africa, but the consumer doesn’t know about this, in addition to many other stories about migrant workers from various countries including some Arab countries.

KUWAIT: The participants in a group photo

Burden also highlighted the fact that reporters should be protecting victims, their sources of information and themselves as well. “We want to get stronger and tell people what’s happening to change the bad situation. But on the other hand, we don’t want to harm the victim or lose the reporter,” he said, as reporters are the eyes and ears of the public and can trigger changes in the society.

Burden said within the bounds of credible and reputable journalism is the responsibility to provide factual information to the public. “We are not here to satisfy the state or any entities or individuals – we are here to report the truth, why it happens, where it happens, when and how it happens; and be able to explain the context of the event in an orderly manner. We are here to inform the public and state the facts – period,” he said. He said it is also in the greater interest of the reading public to receive the best and most credible information.

Burden tackled issues related to challenges of being a reporter in the Middle East, particularly Kuwait. He asked participants to identify all the challenges of being a reporter in an environment like Kuwait. First on the list was the challenge on how to convince proprietors to publish stories related to advertisers. Such pressure can be resolved if the journalist knows how to persuade owners that what they have written is for the better interest of the newspaper, because a journalist’s primarily role and purpose is to report the truth. “Persuade the owners that at the end of the day, it’s about their reputation,” Burden said.

On pressure applied by politicians, he reminded about the importance of speaking the truth to those in power. Journalists should provide factual information and be able to stand with it. “If the source wants to protect their identity, our duty is to deliver what you agreed upon. A journalist’s duty is to protect their sources and if you promised to do so, you really have to. You can’t even post pixelated photos because the danger is that they can be reused and will eventually reveal the source’s true identity. So, it will tarnish your reputation as a journalist and that of the institution,” Burden said.

By Nawara Fattahova and Ben Garcia