Participation for the prestigious Arab Journalism Awards in its eighth edition has exceeded all expectations, with the number of entries touching 3,113 – an increase of 19 per cent over the previous year.
The Arab Journalism Awards are worth a total of $250,000 (Dh917,500) and comprise 13 categories, including the Media Personality of the Year, which is one of the most important prizes.
Maryam bin Fahad, Executive Director, Dubai Press Club, said the increase represented a major milestone for the award programme, the winners of which will be announced and honoured in April this year during the Arab Media Forum.
"We will announce the names of three shortlisted candidates each in every category by early April. Entries from Egypt outnumbered all other countries, representing 32 per cent of all entries received, followed by Saudi Arabia with 10 per cent, Kuwait with seven per cent, the UAE with six per cent and Lebanon with four per cent. The increase in the number of entries reflects the growing popularity of the Arab Journalism Awards in the media circles in the Arab World," she said.
Attributing the spurt in participation to the concerted efforts of the newly constituted team that worked on the award programme, Bin Fahad said their efforts included the development of a special website for the award to facilitate communication between the media personnel and the Club, the promotional tours to several Arab countries over the last three years, and the arrangements made in partnership with some media organisations and journalists unions to co-ordinate the dispatch of entries for the award without involving any financial or logistical burden on the participants.
"The fact that Mauritania is participating this year for the first time is a matter of great delight for us. Now that classification of the entries has been completed, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the team, the judging process will soon begin. Around 60 senior media experts have been appointed to evaluate the entries, with five to six judges being put in charge of each of the 13 categories. In order to ensure transparency and integrity of the judging process, the judges have been drawn from as wide a geographical area as possible within the Arab world," Bin Fahad said.
Describing the process in detail and touching upon the criteria for the selection of the winners, Bin Fahad said the judges would not get to see the names of the participants or the publications in which the entries were published.
" The judges will not be repeated even once to ensure maximum integrity for the process. The judges evaluating entries in any category would not even know the other colleagues involved in the same category. The head of the judging committee for each category is bound to abide by the recommendations that he receives from the other members. The entire process has been designed in such a way that high levels of transparency and objectivity prevail at every stage in the run up to the selection of the winners," she added.
Shedding light on the five most popular categories, Bin Fahad said that Investigative Journalism topped the list with 16 per cent, followed by Press Interviews with 15 per cent. "Cultural Journalism and Political Journalism make up the third and fourth most participated categories, constituting eight per cent and seven per cent respectively of the total entries. A notable development in this context is the fact Health Journalism, a new category introduced this year, has come fifth with six per cent.
"In terms of the number of entries, Health Journalism entries were just 20 less than the entries in political journalism. This goes to show the growing relevance of this sphere," she said.
Bin Fahad has called upon women journalists to come forward and participate in the Arab Journalism Awards and Arab Media Forum more actively. "Actually, 76 per cent of the entries for the award came from men. It is relevant to note that two of the winners last year were women. We wish the participation of women journalists sees a remarkable increase next year," she hoped.