Sara Hteit (left) with her friend and co-trainer, Faten Jebai at MOJO Asia Conference 2019 in Bangkok.

During the digital transformation, many newsrooms have to shift their nature of newsrooms and reporting methods from traditional to multimedia reporting style, in which mobile journalism (MOJO) is an important component. Some newsrooms integrate partial MOJO reporting out of positive initiative, some totally transform from traditional broadcast stations to MOJO-based community stations partly because of increasing financial constraint, and some newly establish as a pure MOJO stations.

Though there are various reasons for booming of mobile journalism, for Sara Hteit, a MOJO trainer from Lebanon, mobile journalism courses bring out hope and joy to the refugee community she has been reaching out. Sara, a Beirut-based video and mobile journalism trainer, produces stories for DW Akademie Middle East and trains refugees, youths, and journalists on mobile journalism and media literacy.

During MOJO Asia Conference, Sara shared the experience of her team of 4-women trainers on mobile journalism training in a refugee camp in Lebanon. She was one of the panelists who discussed about “Bringing Mobile Journalism to Our Communities”. The session focused on strengthening the connection and communication between journalists and their communities via smartphones by ensuring the community-storytellers’ content meets journalistic standards of accuracy, transparency and ethical reporting.


How did you get started on the path of mobile journalism trainings for refugee camps?
“I become a trainer after taking a series of trainings with DW Akademie in Beirut. The trainings include mobile journalism, journalism ethics, media literacy and other journalistic topics. After that we have a project with DW in Lebanon on conducting mobile journalism trainings in refugee camps.”

“In 2017, the mobile journalism training started in Shatila Camp, originally set up in 1949 for 3,000 Palestinian refugees. At first, I did not expect that I would enjoy having trainings in refugee camp. But, as soon as the training happened, I had a very good feeling that nice things were going to take place here. This is how it started.”

“In the past, I used to be a video reporter with big camera for DW. And, I had trainings for a local NGO in Lebanon, in collaboration with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung on mobile journalism for Beirut Club and remote villages.”

What challenges have you faced for your trainings in the camps?
“There are a lot of challenges, but the most common one in the camp is to stop our training and change our schedule because something happened outside the training compound, such as someone was killed or someone tried to do something bad inside the camp. Then, we have to stop our training to make sure our trainees are safe, as their safety is our priority.”

“Most of our trainees are teenagers; 12 to 19 years old, with more girls/women than men. So, we cannot expose them in the dangerous situation though they live inside the camp.”

The first batch of mobile journalism course in Lebanon. Photo by: Nai Nai

What is your tool-kits and training materials?
“It depends on the type of trainings. For instance, the training module in Shatila Camp is quite intensive. We include 10-day training on photography and photo-story, technical side of photography–photo composition and framing and other details. Then, we continue with 10-day of mobile journalism that includes video shooting, introducing apps and editing. Then, we go to storytelling and interviews for 10 days, which followed by another 10-day on ethics and using social media. And, the last 10 days are for their final production.”

“This training is similar to a university course and all trainees have to go through all these modules from the beginning to their final products.”

Any striking moments and memories about your trainings and trainees?
“It is very emotional for me with a lot of nice memories. The trainings in refugee camps make me realized that these people really want to learn. They pay attention without losing any focus throughout the training. They are out of school and yearning for new skills to learn. In our training, they get to learn new skills and are motivated by practicing and knowing what they can do. Importantly, through the training and practice, they feel they can express their presence and opinions by making stories, and talking with people.”

“Throughout our training, we try our best to develop their confident, sometimes in a very strict manner. When a trainee says he/she cannot do, we do not let that slide. As a human being, sometimes they do not want to come out of their comfort zone. So, we have to make sure, they do what they have to do as part of learning process. Our target is they must get their stories at the end of the training.”

“Later after the training is over, when they want to do some stories, they reach out to me and ask my opinion. That makes me emotional, knowing they are still learning and comfortable to seek my advice and guidance even after the training is way over. With our trainees, we keep in touch on our social media to comment and encourage, and to answer their questions if they need any follow-up information. It is so nice that the communication and connection between us—trainers and trainees—keeps growing.”

What makes your training special?
“There are people who really want to learn and deliver. That is special and important. In every training, I met with new people from them I also learned a lot. Every training is difficult, especially when in the refugee camps, the very areas where most basic rights to life are deprived of. Regardless of the difficulties, there are more people who want to learn about journalism and photography, and making their own visual reporting. This is indeed special to see positive impact comes out from our trainings.”

Sara Hteit (far left) with her MOJO training team after their first solo mobile journalism training. Photo by: Sara Hteit

What does mobile journalism (MOJO) mean to your trainees living in different refugee camps located across Lebanon?
“Mobile journalism training is a training with new skills mixed of video, photography and storytelling for them to learn. Through MOJO, they can report various issues any time, whenever they want and can.”

“In Lebanon, almost everyone has mobile phones, even refugees. Mobile is really important for their daily life. The trainees are young and they learn everything from their mobile phones, the sole communication devices to connect with other parts of the world, as well as collecting news and information about their families in Syria or Palestine.”

“Through this MOJO training, they gain a lot of hope, confidence, and motivation knowing they have skills to do something. Mentally, it is very crucial for our trainees.”

How is MOJO knowledge and skills useful for their daily life?
“MOJO knowledge and skills serves as a tool for exclusive access to certain issues and locations. MOJO’s spatial storytelling helps closing distance among communities especially in conflict zones, creating new perspective and empathy building within communities.”

“From our side, we don’t invest in their mobile phones but MOJO training skills and knowledge. We encourage our trainees to make time to practice and produce more and more stories. So that their skill will be ready to reach somewhere.”

“We have a lot of trainees who get jobs after their trainings. We help them to get some contacts for job-recruitments. Of course, we also contact them directly whenever there are opportunities but no promises.”