The Arab World is in crisis, and the media should deal with it as such. This is what the chairman of Al-Masry Al-Youm Publishing House Abdel Monem Said Aly told audiences attending a symposium titled “Media and Crisis,” hosted by AUC’s Arab Media and Society journal. Speaking about the shifting role of media in the Arab region, Aly said, “The role of the media is not just as a flashlight, but to help the country out of national dilemmas, to reconstruct the destroyed.” His advice to Arab journalists today? Return to the basics: inform and provide knowledge. Resist the urge to play “public attorney.”
Head of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation Makram Mohammed Ahmed said that Egypt’s media regulatory council is in need of major reform, but faces multiple challenges including impatience from voices critical of government regulation and castigation by the foreign press. Ahmed defended the council’s decision to regulate religious decrees, sports, and Ramadan television programming, but said that restoring trust in the media tops the government’s agenda. “We won’t be viable unless we restore the professionalism and credibility of the media.”
Zeid Al Sabban, a longtime Arab League official representing the Horn of Africa and Sudan, complained of the lack of Arab media coverage of the ongoing conflicts in Darfur and Somalia. Arab media, he said, heavily relies on material from the foreign press. As a result, both conflicts are framed to reflect foreign interests: the deployment of peacekeepers in the Darfur crisis, and on piracy to the exclusion of humanitarian concerns in Somalia. Sabban argued that the Arab tribal conflict in Darfur that deepened after the signing of a peace accord in 2006 was ignored in the Arab press. He called for strengthening Arab and African media, to provide deeper and more meaningful coverage of events taking place in the region.
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