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Saturday, December 17, 2005

World Is Shaped by Media: Khaled

DUBAI, 6 December 2005 — Highlighting the role of media in a world that is being transformed into a borderless small village, Asir Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, chairman of the Arab Thought Foundation, said the media today shapes the world’s cultural and political and social orientation in the inaugural address at the fourth annual conference of the Arab Thought Foundation yesterday in Dubai.
Over a thousand participants from around the world are here to take part in the event whose theme is the “Arab and World Media: Getting it right.” The first of the two-day conference covered a wide range of topics regarding the role of the media, changes in the media and future challenges for the media. The conference had panel discussions, breakout sessions on specific issues and spotlight interviews with leading Arab personalities. The first day program left the audience asking for more.
Held under the auspices of Sheikh Mohammad ibn Rashid Al-Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai and minister of defense of United Arab Emirates, and in the presence of Jordan Queen Rania, the conference has gathered some of the highly respected and prominent Arab and international personalities and top journalists from 56 different countries. Prince Khaled said in his opening address that the issue of coverage and truth in Arab media is very important because it influences perceptions and decisions. He hoped that the Arab media would take this opportunity to build a better system of cooperation and dialogue, to learn from new technologies in the field and to ask foreign media to be more objective in its coverage.
Prince Khaled also raised some questions that were to be discussed during the conference, including whether the increasing number of Arab media outlets are doing their job in educating the Arab public and holding to Arab traditions or are they simply copying and promoting Western values and images. He also asked whether these outlets are able to introduce a new Arab message and convey it to others or are the Arabs still talking among themselves and whether they have succeeded in overcoming useless arguments and move to a more advanced stage of understanding.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said in his address that the role of Arabs is under threat of vanishing. Moussa urged that we need to think of our presence in a collective international mind, while warning against the exaggerations and lies in the media about Arabs. Moussa said we have to analyze the lies and come up with recommendations and ideas to help us face the situation with efficiency, while adding that we do have to accept ‘objective’ criticism to improve ourselves.
We face a lot of challenges — reforms, development, real democratization and religion, social and political issues and globalization. We need to understand them. We have started to address these, he said.
The first six breakout sessions of the day covered inside media coverage in Damascus, Cairo and Washington as well as such interesting topics as journalists in the line of fire, censorship and what’s next for radio. With the current situation in Syria, the Damascus session naturally brought in points about political challenges for Syria and the media. The journalists in the line of fire session was exciting, as it highlighted the dangers reporters face in Iraq and other war zones in accessing information. The session on censorship was also saw keen discussions, as it brought up points on the types of censorship and how reporters can get around censorship.
A point was made about how media does not need protection anymore; it is the people who need protection from media’s biased and self-serving coverage.
The first panel session on World Press: Power shifts and flash points was moderated by Arab News editor in chief, Khaled Almaeena. It set the tone for the conference as the panelists tried to answer some thought-provoking questions on how media influences people’s views and how it is influenced, the standards of professionalism, truth vs. respect of authority, reporting vs. analyzing, privatization vs. government subsidy and the issue of objectivity.
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, general manager of Al-Arabiya and one of the panelists, told Arab News that standards, journalistic professionalism and credibility is determined by the upper managers and editors.
This panel discussion was followed by an interesting interview of Prince Alwaleed ibn Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holdings, which owns a number of media outlets including some American channels that are perceived to be biased. The prince expressed his views on the Arab and American media and said that instead of complaining Arabs should take a more proactive role in changing things in the media regarding them.
“We can change the view of the Westerners but the effort should be made from our side. In line with this aim, two institutions have been set up at the Georgetown University and Harvard University which will focus on Arab studies and which can contribute to changing the Arab stereotype,” said Prince Alwaleed.
Questioned on the role of media in Iraq, Prince Alwaleed said that the US seems to be imposing the so called ‘democracy’ in Iraq by supporting numerous TV channels and newspapers. He said that this reflects the fact that the US does not really understand Iraq.
Prince Alwaleed said that there are too many voices quarreling in the form of more than 20 TV Channels and 100s of tabloids in Iraq. This, he said, goes against perpetuating stability in the country at the moment.
Another vibrant panel discussion came after lunch on what determines page one news. Editors of Arab and foreign newspapers exchanged views on the factors, obstacles and process of deciding on the front-page news stories and coverage. This was followed by another panel discussion on reporting on political Islam where the panelists differed on whether Islamic movements in the Middle East are receiving adequate coverage and what kind of coverage are they receiving.
Meanwhile, the panelists also pointed out to internal and external pressures in covering Islamic groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and what guarantees do reporters have on their safety in their pursuit of covering these groups.
This was followed by a very intense and moving interview of Saad Hariri, member of Lebanese Parliament, whose father’s murder turned a new page in Lebanon’s history. A full audience listened to Hariri’s vision of a peaceful and prosperous Lebanon in continuation of Rafik Hariri’s legacy. He emphasized on the need for an international tribunal in the prosecution of his father’s killers and a democratic independent Lebanon for all Lebanese.
Finally, there were breakout sessions on inside media coverage in Riyadh, Palestine and Beijing and three specific issues on youth media, the roots of prejudice and citizen journalism, a discussion on how bloggers and the Internet are changing traditional newsrooms and challenging policymakers.

1 comment:

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