Mobile journalism expert calls out all-male panel, highlights female colleagues


Yusuf Omar

Mobile journalism expert, Yusuf Omar, has denounced the practice of enlisting all-male panels at conferences and festivals.

On Tuesday November 21, Omar was scheduled to speak to a roomful of people about his work using mobile phones to make short documentaries at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. However, he decided that since all the five other speakers were all men, he would bring in some female voices to the panel.

So, instead of talking about his work, he highlighted the work of 11 female mobile journalists around the world.

“I was at a conference in South Korea recently, and this is the panel of all the speakers we had there”, Omar said pointing to a slide of his presentation featuring a group photo of 16 men.

“But the real problem here is that there wasn’t a single woman speaking on the panel in South Korea. And if I look at the panel here today in Amsterdam, they are 80 percent white, 100 percent male. This is a huge problem… This is a colossal error on behalf of so many things in the film industry.”

He goes on to add the original purpose of his talk but says “I am not going to do that…I am going to speak about a bunch of women who are mobile story tellers around the world and doing amazing things that you guys should be paying attention to.”

To the sound of applause, he begins to show the videos of  female mobile journalists and educators around the world talking about their work. Some of the women who talked about their work included Australian educator Corinne Podger, South African journalist Zola Brunner and Eleanor Mannion who is said to be the first person in Europe to have a documentary filmed entirely on an iPhone to be shown on national television.

In an interview, Omar, a former CNN journalist, told me he planned to change the topic the day he was scheduled to give it after seeing the makeup of the panel.

Earlier this year, after the South Korean conference, he made a pledge on Facebook not to speak at anymore conferences if the panel was made up of men only.

Omar left his job at CNN earlier this year to cofound Hashtag Our Stories with his wife, Sumaiya Omar, an acclaimed mobile journalism trainer in her own right.

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