Knight International and UNDP Launch First Online Network for Young Journalists in Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria (May 29) – The first online network for young journalists launched in Syria this week. Called Tawasul – Arabic for “connecting” – the network features multimedia stories on social issues, including photographs, cartoons and animation. The network also enables journalists to share ideas and resources.

Tawasul’s Web site, (in Arabic), tackles tough issues. One video report uncovers pollution problems in the capital’s main river. Another chronicles a teenager’s battle with a debilitating disease. An online piece explores the debate over Syrian citizenship for children with a foreign parent. Various photo essays address topics such as education, poverty, women’s rights, and the environment.

The initiative is a collaboration between the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Syria and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). ICFJ runs the Knight International Journalism Fellowships, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“Because of this project, a new way for people to tell their stories to each other — and the world — has come to be,” said Eric Newton, vice president of the journalism program of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “That’s what Knight International strives for: focused work that produces lasting, visible change.”

Prior to the launch, Knight International Fellow Mariam Sami led the training of 59 Syrian journalists under the age of 30. She mentored them in covering social issues and on producing online stories. She also helped develop the network’s organizational structure. After the launch, the journalists in the Tawasul network will take responsibility for the site, with ongoing funding from UNDP.

“This project brings Syrian youth into the digital arena and gives them a place where they can report on important issues,” said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. “In the end, these journalists will identify hidden problems and find solutions that can only improve life in Syria.”

Before starting up Tawasul, Sami, an Egyptian, began her Knight Fellowship in Lebanon. She helped create “Arab House,” a television program that focused on social issues common to both Lebanon and Jordan. She worked with Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) to develop joint programming with Jordan Television (JTV) on solving problems such as pollution, poor transportation, scarce water and substandard education.

Dr. Mohsen Bilal, Minister of Information of the Syrian Arab Republic, hosted the official launch at the Reception Hall of the Ministry of Information. Dr. Tayseer Riddawi, head of the State Planning Commission, and Ismail Ould Chiekh Ahmen, the UNDP Resident Representative, also attended. Elisa Tinsley, Director of the Knight International Journalism Fellowships represented ICFJ. The Embassy of the United Kingdom funded the program. H.E. Simon Collis, Ambassador of the United Kingdom, spoke on behalf of the British government.

The International Center for Journalists, a non-profit, professional organization, promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition. Aiming to raise the standards of journalism, ICFJ offers hands-on training workshops, seminars, fellowships and international exchanges to journalists and media managers around the globe. For more information, visit

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation invests in journalism excellence worldwide and in the vitality of U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950, the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression. Knight Foundation focuses on projects with the potential to create transformational change. For more, visit