Annenberg visits the Middle East

Media courses aim to educate and train journalists, lawyers in Afghanistan

· March 3, 2011, 5:28 am   ·  Updated March 3, 2011, 12:00 am

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The University is now shipping the Annenberg School for Communication into a war zone.

Adam Levin, the Annenberg director for the Afghanistan Media Development and Empowerment Project, is currently teaching in Kabul, Afghanistan to help lay the foundations for a media infrastructure in the country.

According to Levin, Annenberg hopes “to empower local media in Afghanistan” by educating and training both journalists and lawyers.

In order to do this, Levin is working closely with law students and lawyers so that they can become “legal resources to journalists and media organizations.”

Their work is not easy. Levin has to deal with life-threatening security concerns on a day-to-day basis. Meetings must be re-scheduled due to suicide bombers. Checkpoints and private security guards have become the norm. It’s clear that “there is a war going on,” Levin said.

But despite the risks associated with the project, Levin plans to return to Kabul in future months to continue overseeing the project.

Director of Annenberg’s Center for Global Communication Studies Monroe Price is helping direct the media infrastructure overhaul in Afghanistan.

Since Annenberg “has developed an experience and reputation for helping to define techniques for understanding media law and policy in complex environments,” it was approached by international independent media nonprofit Internews. When Internews received funding for Afghanistan-based projects, the non-governmental organization approached Annenberg.

The project grew out of past activities CGCS has done internationally, including law and media training programs and the Monroe E. Price International Media Law Moot Court.

Price is working as the principal investigator on the project and works with CGCS “to provide insight” into media and law in a transitional society like Afghanistan.

This will provide technical assistance in media and governance through education and research. For Price, education is a “small part of an overall media development picture.”

Over the next few months, Levin and Annenberg will be working on three main training programs in Kabul. They will cover media law, media management and telecom law in courses held in April, May and June. These classes will target those lawyers “with an interest in media law,” Levin said.

To educate future lawyers, Levin is pivotal in organizing and running a moot court competition. This competition will provide students and professors at local universities with “practical legal experience … to gain and develop legal skill sets,” Levin said, adding that it will also allow students to “increase their confidence in public speaking … and interact with other like-minded students.”

The competition simulates the main components of a trial, and Levin will be working closely with students and professors to create teams and prepare for the competition, which will take place in September of 2011.

In general, the AMDEP works closely with local organizations. Levin believes using Afghan aid for Afghans is central to preparing the country for a transition to stability.

According to Levin, most international aid directed toward Afghanistan has been for what he referred to as “hard infrastructure” such as roads and electricity. But now, as American and international forces plan to decrease their involvement, there is a trend toward developing “legal infrastructure [and] strengthening academia and the business sector,” Levin said.

Levin said he believes there is a “concern for how Afghanistan will operate” after foreign forces withdraw. Annenberg and the AMDEP hopes to foster the foundations for a strong future in Afghanistan.

Price hopes CGCS can discover “what can be done to make the use of media a more effective [institution and] more of a contributor to effective governance and democratic practices.”

“We think that the way an information system is shaped is an important element as the society develops,” Price said.

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