Category Archives: Middle East

Atomic Reporters to Improve its Game

Atomic Reporters is in business to help journalists bring a little more authority to covering nuclear issues by providing training and encouraging discussion. Among the schools of science, nuclear is a Cinderella yet it is pivotal to global security and safety.

To achieve  its goals Atomic Reporters links journalists with experts as it seeks to broaden understanding, a two way street indeed. It also offers comment on the hazards journalists may face in providing evidence based reporting for their readers and viewers because of the wide range of views being expressed.

Last week we posted an “Ombudsman Column” called “Curveballs, Sliders and the Little Pitches that Start Big Wars.” Because it drew on a wide community of experts and journalists it was bylined ‘ Atomic Reporters.’

This tongue-in-cheek effort seeking to illuminate some of the very real disagreements about matters of fact swirling around the Iran nuclear file was deemed too harsh and caused offence and upset to people named in the report, for which we express regret.

We are a newly minted organization unique in our commitment to supporting journalists covering this challenging file. We try to get it right but don’t always succeed. When style detracts from the serious content we are trying to address clearly we’ve not succeeded and we will strive to do better.

Thanks for your support: Peter Rickwood, Atomic Reporters founder & director

Reporting Nuclear News – Workshop for Journalists from the Middle East

Speakers and participants in the Atomic Reporters/VCDNP workshop gather 24 June in Vienna before an image that was tweeted to protest the sentence of three AlJazeera reporters in Egypt.

Nuclear science, the weapons it gave birth to and their challenge is not a compelling subject for journalists, many of whom lack the knowledge essential to reporting about the subject.

On the eve of Ramadan, as talks on a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction continued in Geneva, journalists from ten countries in the region met in Vienna to discuss its key element—nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Atomic Reporters and the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) brought these journalists together with leading policy and technical experts and prominent journalists in the workshop Reporting Nuclear 23-25 June 2014.

The participants came from Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, Israel, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. The workshop coincided with the meeting in Geneva between Israel, Egypt and other Arab countries to consider an agenda for a proposed summit of nations in Helsinki possibly before the end of the year to discuss the zone proposal.

The concept for the workshop grew out of a half day workshop Atomic Reporters provided journalists in Cairo in 2012 and was a response to interest in nuclear issues among journalists from the region as well as recognition that the proposed zone is not well understood in the Middle East.

The Vienna workshop topics included the history of nuclear weapons, threats to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, nuclear safety and security, and IAEA Safeguards. Participants also visited the headquarters of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). Senior journalist presenters talked about their experiences covering the topic. One of the key goals of the workshop was to help participants turn complicated nuclear topics into stories understandable to the wider public.

At its conclusion participants completed a blind questionnaire: their overall assessment, the workshop was positive, useful and informative. “…even an old hand like myself learnt a great deal from my participation,” one commented.

Atomic Reporters and the VCDNP extend their gratitude to the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the IAEA in Vienna for their generous support that made the workshop possible. Atomic Reporters also wishes to thank Ireland and Austria for their invaluable support.

Entering the Zone

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The Zone has become a euphemism among non-proliferation’s chattering classes for the proposal to create a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East – a long sought, monstrously elusive goal.  Finland currently carries the burden of unraveling this Gordian knot by having had conferred upon it the task of organizing a conference to explore its implementation under its facilitator Jaako Laajava.
A conference may appear to be an unseemly many leagues from the achievement of a zone itself. But seating antagonists from the region at the same table is an achievement alone.
One of Atomic Reporters’ planks is to try to better inform journalists about the quest for the zone, something commonplace in other parts of the world but as distant as the Constellation Sagittarius from the Middle East.
We were thus intrigued by this story from the Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon which offers a glimpse of the delicate dance being discretely conducted  behind closed doors under the benign gaze of Ambassador Laajava.

RUSI on Regional Responses to Iran’s Nuclear Programme

Just a heads up.

The London-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has just published a report as part of its Whitehall Papers series entitled ‘An Uncertain Future: Regional Responses to Iran’s Nuclear Programme‘ [full report in PDF].

The ‘About‘ section informs us that the paper is based on over forty interviews with high level officials from eight countries in the broader Middle East region. There are chapters on Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Jordan.

Athens Dialogue on Middle East WMD Free Zone

Atomic Reporters is seeking to post more material in Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew as it continues to work with journalists in the Middle East. The following, published in 2013, is a helpful primer for better understanding the ongoing process to hold a conference to establish a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East. It is an outcome of the so-called Athens dialogue of 2012. Events continue to overtake it.

Camillerietal2013_Athens Dialogue on Middle East WMD Free Zone

Why the Helsinki Conference is crucial for the Middle East

December 10, 2013

By Johannes Hautaviita
and Bruno Jäntti

Johannes Hautaviita’s ZSpace Page

For the postponed Helsinki Conference to be successful in the future requires a genuine commitment by the West, especially the US, to a nuclear-free Middle East, according to specialists on the Middle East and nuclear non-proliferation.

The significance of the Helsinki Conference 

At the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for “progress towards a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the Middle East”. The final document of the review conference underscored the importance of the establishment of a NWFZ “especially in the Middle East”. The UN endorsed that all states in the region convene in a conference scheduled for 2012 to negotiate towards the implementation of the initiative. 

In October 2011, Finland was chosen as the host of the conference, which was to be held under UN auspices in Helsinki in December 2012. 

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