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Meedan wins multi-year grant to support citizen news curation in Middle East

Meedan has won a multi-year grant to support an innovative news project in the Arab world that will help put Middle East citizens in the driving seat of news gathering.

The grant was awarded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) under its freedom of expression and democratization program.

It will support Meedan to begin prototyping a news platform for citizen media curation in Arabic and English in collaboration with regional media partners.

A leading daily newspaper in Egypt has agreed to take part in the first year, to be followed by partners in other countries in the following 18 months.

These media partners will be supported to develop and train a community of citizen curators to help scour the social web for credible citizen reporting on important news events, such as protests, human rights abuses, and elections.

The best reporting will then be translated and published online and in print.

The goal is to improve access to credible and accurate citizen reporting in Egypt and the Arab world at this critical time for the region.

This work will help to strengthen media plurality and increase awareness of issues relating to democracy, governance and human rights. It will also help showcase the best of citizen reporting for others to learn from.

The project will also involve Birmingham City University researcher Noha Atef, a leading activist who used online publishing tools to document torture under the Mubarak regime.

Atef will help develop training materials, oversee trainings and evaluate the project delivery.

SwiftRiver

The project is conceived of as a branch of the SwiftRiver initiative in which Meedan was a founding partner.

To date the SwiftRiver platform has been developed by Ushahidi with funding from Omidyar Network and the Knight News Challenge.

SwiftRiver is designed to help groups of users quickly organize content coming from social media for accuracy and relevance, particularly in response to disasters such as earthquakes and floods.

Here, though, Meedan is specifically focused on helping journalists increase their capacity to monitor news coming from social media.

For example, journalists reporting on protests in Syria are largely reliant on citizen media because international journalists are mostly barred from the country.

Once a piece of media has been identified that could be relevant, how do journalists corroborate it? How can they find other citizen reports that back up (or debunk) the original report?

The project also introduces translation as a tool of new media journalism.

Journalists can benefit from pairing citizen media across languages because this provides an additional variable for establishing how trustworthy the original report is. This is because speakers of different languages tend to report to different communities.

Translation will also help disseminate the curated citizen content more widely in the Middle East.

Stay tuned for more updates on this great development for Meedan.