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Experts for more media freedom

Preeti Kannan
Filed on April 25, 2007

DUBAI — Speakers at the Arab Media Forum, which opened yesterday, emphasised the need for liberty and freedom of Press for the development of organisations. Media cannot develop in the absence of political freedom, according to Rafic Khoury, editor-in-chief of Lebanon’s Al Anwar newspaper.

In the opening session, ‘Developing People, Developing Organisations,’ Khoury said: “We tend to separate media and society. But media is related to people, who have opinions that need to be voiced.

“Unfortunately, writers are afraid of writing because of extremists.”

Voicing concern on the same lines, secretary-general of the Federation of Arab Journalists from Egypt, Salah Eddin Hafez, said: “We are in a world of information explosion.

“It is important to separate editorial from administrative management.”

He also suggested that people should take advantage of technology and telecom and highlighted that training people is the key to developing media.

The delegates also pointed out that more collaborative action was required to manage the ratio between advertising and programme content.

Mansoor Al Jamri, editor-in-chief, Al Wasat newspaper in Bahrain, spoke of the need for an independent body to regulate advertising and public relations industries in the GCC region.

“There is no mechanism in place to prevent the impact of advertising on managerial decisions regarding programme content in the newspaper sector.”

Similarly, chairman of Lebanon’s New TV Tahseen Khayat urged government and research companies not to stifle creativity in the media and said that governments must set in place anti-trust laws to guard against this practice.

Experts also felt that the development of Arab Press was important for East-West relations. The Arab media would have to go an extra mile to bridge the cultural gap and help in fostering relations between the two, they said.

Acknowledging the gap in communication, Judith Kipper, Adviser, Middle East Programmes, Council of Foreign Relations, US, said: “There is a gap in understanding, but it is not the job of the media to bridge the gap. Societies should do it. In the West, especially in the United States, we need to hear moderate voices loud and clear.”

Kipper spoke on ‘Reaching Out Across Cultures’ and reminded the audience that media alone could not bear the sole responsibility of communicating between cultures. Institutions such as universities also play a vital role in nurturing tolerance among cultures, she pointed out.

The Arab Media Forum, which is being organised since 2001, is aimed at opening channels of dialogue between the Arab and Western media to promote better understanding among different schools of thought.


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