Atomic Reporters launches Middle East initiative

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Ayman Khalil, Director ACSIS and Peter Rickwood, Atomic Reporters at the opening of the Amman workshop for journalists.

Atomic Reporters opened the first of a series of initiatives to work with journalists from media in the Middle East with a one day workshop 14 November in Amman Jordan. It was organized jointly with the Arab Institute for Security Studies as a side event to its annual WMD and Security Forum. Support was provided by Austria’s Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs.

The Arab Spring has resulted in broader diversity of the region’s news media, and subjects previously taboo are being discussed more openly and critically. Journalists are reaching outside their accustomed terrain for information; Atomic Reporters offers knowledge to help them move through this new landscape. More than 20 participants took part in the workshop.

Current events such as the accession of Syria to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the first USA Iran talks for ten years over its nuclear programme require journalists, many new to such subjects, to bring a level of competence to report the issues clearly and accurately. Steps towards convening a conference on the proposal for a nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East continue to unfold behind closed doors presenting challenges to reporting an issue with major implications for the region.

Atomic Reporters as an independent and non-partisan broker of information will provide journalists from the Middle East who seek it, technical information, history, context and links to sources about arms control. Several speakers in the workshop, not affiliated to Atomic Reporters, acknowledged the value of Atomic Reporters as an independent organization drawing journalists’ attention to a branch of science they have little opportunity to develop  competence in writing about – nuclear science.

Mohamed Shaker, chair of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA) gave the opening address to the workshop and Alfred Bratanek, Deputy Head of Mission in the Austrian Embassy Amman welcomed participants.  Speakers in the workshop were: Grace Asirwatham, Deputy Director-General for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW); Sameh Aboul-Enein, Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister, Egypt; General (Ret.) Khaled Abdulla Al Bu-Ainnain, Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), UAE; Coralie Hindawi, Assistant Professor, the American University of Beirut; Amb. Mahmoud Karem, ECFA;  Zia Mian, Princeton University, USA. Atomic Reporters was represented by  Julian Borger, Diplomatic Editor, The Guardian; Tariq Rauf, former head of verification and security policy coordination at the IAEA; Peter Rickwood, founder Atomic Reporters.

Support has been dedicated for two workshops for senior journalists from all the countries of the Middle East and the first will be held in Vienna, Austria, early in 2014.

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