Yesterday, on the last day of the forum, I had breakfast with Ethan Zuckerman and Danny Schechter of Mediachannel.org. It was pretty quick because we had to rush to the first panel of the day, especially Ethan who was speaking at that panel. The panel was about media and power, and the speakers talked about many different things, including how political manipulation can affect the freedom of media.
Faisal al-Qasim, as out spoken as usual, said the media masters in the West had lost the media wars in the Arab World, which is true. But he also did not miss the chance to come up with a new word, because obviously Arab dictionaries lack those ones, saying Arabization (العوربة) has killed globalization.
Amy Goodman, who received a lot of applaud for criticizing the American media, said that in this era of globalization, “nothing is more important than media.” She thinks that American media has reached an all time low, to the extent that MSM started to name war the same name that Pentagon named it. Goodman thinks journalists should experience what does it feel to be at the target end in order to give a fair coverage of the war.
“If a country is in the news and they need help, they get it,” or at least this is what Ethan Zuckerman thinks. Zuckerman said the thing with MSM is that big countries get more coverage, and this situation does not help to solve problems in places like Africa and central Asia. He also emphasized on the role of blogs in changing this, pointing to me (I was sitting in the front row) as an example, and saying that my blog that gives him a good idea about what’s happening in Saudi Arabia.
IMHO, the second panel, titled “Al Jazeera in the Mirror,” was more for Al Jazeera guys than for the audience. I did not enjoy this panel very much, but one thing that caught my attention was Naomi Sakr’s comments regarding the latest pilgrimage tragedy. “Rather than being accountable to the people, the Saudi government blamed Al Jazeera for covering the events,” she said. That simply did not make sense to me. She said that Saudi newspapers, instead of covering the tragedy, had emphasized on the Al Jazeera coverage of the event, which was really bad, and according to some guys from Al Jazeera, was “unprofessional.” Moreover, an insider told me that the person responsible for opening the line for people to call in during that coverage was punished for his decision. I am Saudi, I follow the Saudi newspapers, and I can tell you that they emphasized on the failure of the government bodies to handle the situation, and criticized them on that. Those who criticized Al Jazeera for their coverage were Op-Ed writers and columnists, not news reporters. Probably Al Jazeera guys thinks that I don’t know much about the profession of journalism, but I can say for sure that I know the difference between opinion and news coverage.
The final panel, “Listen! Voice of Youth,” mainly tackled the interaction between media and the young people. Shaden Abdul Rahman leads off with some statistics, and she thinks that Arab World do not take Arab youth seriously enough. She says that media outlets available for the youth are very limited and do not represent them appropriately, and that they need to have more space to address their issues and contribute to solving important issues such as Palestine and Iraq.
Joslyn Massad tried to tell the audience about how she was brainwashed by the powerful American media. She talked about her experience as an Arab American, and about her parents who watch Fox News all the time. However, I think she was hurt when a journalist in the audience blamed her for not speaking in Arabic. “If you say you are proud of your culture, why don’t you speak its language?” she asked. I think it was inappropriate because Joslyn was actually trying, and when she decided to take Arabic classes for the first time in college, almost nobody supported her.
Khaled Al-Niemah, a young Qatari who was not listed in the program, wanted to see media that have values. But he kept on repeating many clichés, which made his argument weaker, and he kept on saying that youth are the future leaders of the nation, to the point that I told Haitham Sabbah, who was sitting next to me, “I don’t want to lead the nation! Just leave me alone!” At the end of the panel, Ahmed Ashour of Al Jazeera announced the project I told you about in my previous post.
After the end of the forum, a group of the participants, including me, have decided to have dinner at a restaurant outside the hotel. We were about eleven, and the majority were Egyptians. At the dinner I had the chance to meet Amira Howeidy, political editor of Al-Ahram Weekly, who told us some of her thoughts regarding the new Al Jazeera International channel. That evening has come to an end awkwardly in a way that I don’t think this blog is the best place to talk about it.
All in all, it was a very good event, and I really enjoyed the experience. And even though not many bloggers were there (I mean those invited because of their blogs and not journalists who blog), blogging was one of the main headlines in the forum and it was almost mentioned in every panel. Blogging has received a very good exposure at this event, and I’m extremely glad about this. I had a really good time, and I’m looking forward to attend next year.