In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, IJNet once again engaged eight media entrepreneurs from across the Middle East and North Africa in its Arabic Mentoring Center for Media Startups.
From the Maghreb to the Levant and in between, our 2020-21 mentees innovated to improve the sustainability of their projects, helping contribute to a more vibrant media climate in the region.
Throughout the program, which began in fall 2020, mentees incorporated critical guidance from mentor Ramsey Tesdell, founder of the independent Jordan-based news outlet, 7iber, and executive director of the podcasting platform, Sowt. All, amid the added challenge of navigating a global health crisis that upended the world in 2020, including harming a news industry that already faced a daunting set of obstacles worldwide.
"I was very impressed with the caliber and skills of the mentees. During the program, over one-on-one video calls, we discussed in detail the issues and opportunities that we face as leaders of independent media in SWANA,” said Tesdell. “Each participant developed greatly during the program and I am certain of their success over the coming months and years.”
The Mentoring Center features virtual one-on-one mentoring for the participants focused on growing the sustainability of their media projects. In December, mentees met for a two-day bootcamp and attended the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) Annual Forum, which was held entirely remotely this past year. Participants also take part in webinars, and contribute articles to IJNet Arabic.
Ultimately, we awarded seven mentees seed funding to further spur the growth of their promising projects. Here is a look at this year’s winners, and the projects they spearhead:
In Egypt, Dina Aboughazala’s solutions journalism-focused media startup, Egab, expanded on an already strong foundation. In July, Egab was also awarded funding from the Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge. As Aboughazala further builds Egab’s online platform, major priorities include empowering local journalists, combating stereotypes and challenging predominant narratives.
Also in Egypt, Ola Al-Ghazawy worked on her media project called Planet X, which trains young and mid-career journalists interested in science reporting, writing and communications across the Middle East and North Africa.
In Lebanon, where existing political and economic troubles have intensified since last year’s explosion in Beirut, Khamar Ghosson was able to find more solid footing for her outlet, Manateq, which aims to report on a wide range of issues across the MENA region.
In Morocco, Mohammed El Hajjam further developed his social media-focused project, LibraBuzz. Reporting on a wide range of topics, and with a strong emphasis on audience engagement, El Hajjam continues to seek avenues to financially support and sustain his unique media initiative.
In Syria, Hadil Arja’s outlet Tiny Hand focuses its coverage on the stories of children living in conflict and crisis zones. Arja seeks to harness visual and multimedia storytelling formats, in particular, in Tiny Hand’s reporting. Currently, this means working on a podcast project it intends to launch shortly. This outlet was also named a winner of the GNI Innovation Challenge.
In Tunisia, Amal Mekki cultivated her outlet, Innsane Stories, an award-winning independent nonprofit storytelling platform. During the course of the year, Mekki was able to partner with the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism to produce investigative reports from Tunisia, while also collaborating with local NGOs and CSOs in the country on content production.
Amid unstable wartime conditions in Yemen, Mustafa Nasr’s media outlet Al Moushahed, which strives to promote a culture of peace and coexistence in the country, has made strides of its own. Not unlike the other outlets, a primary focus continues to be on how best to attract funding.