Cultural diplomacy can correct Arab image in the West: Experts

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Cultural diplomacy can correct Arab image in the West: Experts
Faisal Abbas, Mark Donfried, Hadley Gamble and Nathan Tek during the panel discussion on 'The Arab Image in the West' on Tuesday.

Dubai - Nathan Tek highlighted the lack of coverage of the Arab world in the American media.


Amira Agarib

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Published: Tue 2 May 2017, 10:06 PM

Last updated: Wed 3 May 2017, 12:12 AM

A cultural diplomacy is the need of the hour to correct the West's misconceptions about the Arab world, said panelists at a session on the second day of the Arab Media Forum in Dubai on Tuesday.
During the session titled 'The Arab Image in the West' moderated by Saudi journalist Faisal Abbas, Nathan Tek, US State Department spokesman for the Middle East and the Gulf; Mark Donfried, executive director and founder of the Berlin Institute for Cultural Diplomacy; and Hadley Gamble, reporter of CNBC in the Middle East; stressed the need for innovative efforts to change the negative image of the Arab world in western media.
Nathan Tek highlighted the lack of coverage of the Arab world in the American media.
"The US has always had good relation with the Arab world. Most of the Arab countries have close political, economic and security ties with the US," he said, adding that the US is not Isolated from Arab world.
The American diplomat pointed at the presence of a large group of branches of the American University in Arab cities as one of the means that can contribute to building a bridge between the Arab and American cultures.
"The positive developments in the Arab countries, such as the UAE Space Programme and Saudi government's development package, can contribute to spreading a positive image of the Arab world in the West. We need to develop short and long term strategies to promote the process of cultural exchange," he noted, adding that media should consider focusing on positive news about the Arab nations.
Hadley Gamble emphasised that the problem lies not in the way the American citizen is dealing with the Middle East, but also with the educational and cultural level in the West.
"Media has an influential role in disseminating positive messages and clarifying fallacies. Media institutions from both sides should focus on matters that generate interest in the common man, rather than concentrating on repeated topics," she said.
Mark Donfried stressed that correcting the misconceptions needed to be known as "cultural diplomacy" instead of political diplomacy. He pointed out the successful experience of West Germany after the end of the World War II, which turned the country into an influential state after it was seen as the centre of the 'axis of evil'.
"Cultural diplomacy can contribute to the transfer of Arab-West civilisational dialogue to wider horizons, if it is used optimally," he stated.
All the panelists asserted that media should exert efforts to enhance the image of Arabs.
Arabs needs to have long-term partnership with the US in various fields. For example, there should be exchange of visits in the field of education. Arab governments should provide scholarships to young Americans to study and know the Arab culture and to have experience of their life, they suggested, noting that many Arab students receive scholarship in the US.
'81 per cent Americans don't know where the Arab region is'
An online survey conducted among more than 2,000 American participants revealed that 81 per cent of the Americans don't even know the location of the Arab nations.
Results of the survey conducted jointly by the Dubai Press Club, Arab News daily and YouGov was presented during a panel discussion at the Arab Media Forum on Tuesday.
"The report was prepared in the light of an online survey of more than 2,000 participants with different demographic characteristics in terms of gender, age, cultural diversity, educational level and political orientation to represent the various segments of the American population. A total of 24 questions about the interest of those surveyed in the Arab region, their confidence in the media and whether they want to visit an Arab country were asked to find out the views and impressions of participants on topics such as Islamophobia, military alliances in fighting terrorism, and the role of the media in clarifying the true image of the Arab world.
The report showed that nearly a quarter of the participants follow the news of the Middle East region, especially those aged 30 years or more.

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