Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Georgetown Conference Scrutinizes Arab Media

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Georgetown Conference Scrutinizes Arab Media

Article excerpt

Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies held a conference Oct. 7 titled, "Uncovered: Arab Journalists Scrutinize their Profession." Panelists representing various Arab news media outlets engaged in a lively, and at times heated, debate on the current state of Arab media, including the effects of satellite television and technological developments on the field.

Thomas Gorguissian, Washington correspondent for Lebanon's An-Nahar newspaper, sparked a discussion with his first statement: "I wish I could announce that the state of the Arab media is strong...but, realistically speaking, that is not the case right now." While the pan-Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera brought a new "momentum" in news coverage to the Arab world, Gorguissian noted, the network still has its limitations.

"There is no free movement or access to officials," he maintained. "Reporting will only come from the United States or Europe, not from Arab capitals." Expounding on this point, the correspondent said Arab governments have a "constant desire to control" their journalists, specifically by closing newspapers and detaining journalists.

On the latest trends in Arab media, Gorguissian observed that Dubai is considered a "hub of electronic media," and said it will likely play a role in shaping pan-Arab media. He concluded by asking for more analysis regarding economics and the "role of giant media."

Focusing his remarks on "broad trends in the mass media," Kami Khouri, executive editor of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper, said the media is a "reflection of the wider political culture from which it emanates." Arab media, he added, present "extreme expressions of political sentiments and polarization."

Khouri observed that there is a "great proliferation of media taking place" in the Arab world, including FM radio stations and off-shore press, with newspapers published in one Arab country now being distributed in others.

There is "less government control, broadly speaking" of media outlets, he maintained, and the liberalization taking place is causing "much greater commercial impact across the board." With few exceptions, Khouri explained, Arab media outlets are "market-driven institutions, not ideological."

Government-owned media are losing their audience share along with their credibility and legitimacy to private media, Khouri noted. …

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