Kurdish Digital Media Workshop: Day 7 – Final Day

Lesson 1: Omer Faruk Baran, Selecting and Producing Kurdish News for Digital Media

Compared to last year, digital media has become a more popular platform for the dissemination of news stories and news reports, according to Omer Faruk Baran, editor of VOA. He says that it’s become increasingly easy to reach thousands of readers at once by publishing online.

He criticizes Kurdish media for not being able to compete with other foreign news agencies. International agencies have become a beacon of non-partisanship to some degree and strictly focus on reporting facts without personal inferences.

“What we lack in Kurdish media is the ability to leave our political ideologies and affiliations out of our broadcasting and reporting techniques,” says Omer. He blames this on the continuous outpour of propaganda from agencies allied with specific political parties.

By holding onto their political affiliations and ideologies, Kurdish new agencies have produced ‘lingo’ and ‘jargon’ that plagues their news telling. This vocabulary is inappropriate and lowers the prestige of Kurdish news agencies when compared to other foreign agencies.

In order to compete with the likes of CNN and BBC, Kurdish news agencies need to learn to use a neutral language of reporting. “A lot of the language we read is very insensitive and international news agencies don’t see it as a legitimate source to use in their own stories,” says Omer.

A lot of Kurdish news reports are one-sided and in effect become very biased in their reporting. “There must be a sense of balance for the reader,” says Omer, “so it’s important to get the story from both sides of the issue.” In reporting and news stories we are never limited in the number of sources we use, so there should be no reason why one voice receives attention over another.

The only exception to not using neutral language is when you use a direct quote from an individual or group with direct ties to the issue or event you’re writing about.

A successful news story should have short simple sentences, and the wording needs to be written with a conscious mind. The journalist must accept that with the varying dialects in the Kurdish language, their word choice should reach a majority of readers without being lost in the dialect of their region.

Finally, Omer touched upon data-based journalism before he spent an entire session writing a new story with the participants. Using data from John Hopkins University – Coronavirus Resource Center, Omer pulled statistics of deaths and those infected and sentence-by-sentence wrote a full news story with the participants.

The purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate how to condense a large report and statistical data into a simple news report. It’s important that the news story be simple enough for the average reader to read without confusion or misunderstandings.

Omer’s last words to Kurdish journalists, “your job as a journalist is not freeing the oppressed. You’re responsible for reporting facts.”

Lesson 2: Isabel Kaser, “Gender roles, Women, and Kurdish Society”

In modern Kurdish history – specifically in the twentieth century, we’ve witnessed women hold prominent roles in writing their own identities and how these identities fit in Kurdish society. 

Dr. Isabel Kaser, a lecturer at the University of Bern in Switzerland, dedicated years to her research on gender studies. Most recently, she completed her doctoral thesis on the Kurdish women’s freedom movement at SOAS.

She spent several years living in Kurdish societies in the middle east observing and researching the current status of Kurdish women and what has become of their identities. She argues, “gender norms are never fixed and they may shift because of reasons such as war, migration, modernization, conflict, insecurities, etc.”

From her research, she asserts that “analyzing gender is also an analysis of power in that society.” Part of her research took place during the beginning of the war on ISIS, and her focus turned to the role women played before and after the conflict.

She observed, and she says this is not specific to Kurds – in fact, she pointed out El Salvador as well, that during the conflict and war women become a part of the resistance movements. She says that conflict opens up spaces for women to take on roles outside of the private sphere that they were once limited to.

“Once the conflict is over, women are pushed back into their conservative roles of private life,” says Isabel. Most often, the ruling class in politics is men and they promise to change and equality for women, she says, but significant roles and responsibilities are never given to women in a proper way.

Isabel says that Kurds are very unique in their approach to gender identity, in that there are four separate agendas from each region that aim to define justice and fairness with regards to gender roles and identities.

Interestingly enough, Isabel concedes that more often than not a lot of the literature on gender studies focuses on women in society. But she says, men are also a part of gender studies and deserve recognition for the transformation their identities go through pre-and post-conflict. “Just like every new revolution promises a ‘new woman’ it also promises a ‘new man’.”

Isabel says for her next research project, she aims to look at the creation of identity in the context of culture and art.

Written by Veen Sulaivany with Contributions from Defne Mercan Hocaoglu

Edited by Murat Bayram

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