Panellists Concur Complete Neutrality in Reporting is Impossible to Achieve although Objectivity is a More Realistic Goal
Dubai-UAE: 9 May, 2012 – The Arab revolution has challenged news agencies to build an objective narrative of the stories on ground. However, given the huge geographical spread of the Arab revolution and the polarisation of opinions across populations, it is virtually impossible for the media to maintain complete neutrality in their reporting, pointed out panellists during a session on day-two of the 11th Arab Media Forum (AMF 2012).
The comments were made at a session titled ‘News Channels and Arab Revolutions: Questions about Coverage and Performance’. Held in collaboration with Al Arabia News Channel, the segment analysed the competence of news channels in dealing with the geo-political transformations in the Arab world.
Moderated by Muntaha Al Ramahy, Anchor, Al Arabiya News Channel, the session was also headlined by Alexander Nazarov, Director of Rusyia Al Yaum news channel, Russia, Amr Khafagy, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Al Shorouk Newspaper, Egypt; Faris Couri, Editor-in-Chief, BBC Arabic, UK; Ibrahim Helal, Director of News, Al Jazeera News Channel, Qatar, and Nakhle El Hage, Director, News and Current Affairs, Al Arabiya News Channel.
The speakers concurred that gaining access and freedom of movement for correspondents in sensitive locations was another major challenge faced by media organizations. This impacted their ability to access and cover both sides of the story and led to the relay of lop-sided narration. To overcome such scenarios, media channels resorted to airing selective footage that were produced and submitted by non-media witnesses and satisfied the minimum threshold of professional authenticity.
On the question of the influence Arabic news channels have had on shaping regional opinion, the panel said the proliferation of Arabic news channels has resulted in different, even conflicting versions of news stories that could cause chaos among the audience. Fortunately, target audiences have displayed adequate maturity to distinguish facts from sensationalism in most instances, the panel said.
Commenting on the need for the media to maintain objectivity, Alexander Nazarov reiterated: “There is a possibility that the audience can be emotionally manoeuvred if a report is not put into context or if the impact of a small incident is blown out of proportion.”
The session additionally raised questions about professional mistakes made by establishments while authenticating their sources of information. Debating on whether these mistakes were professional oversights or part of a well-planned agenda and editorial policy, Faris Couri stated: “Every day, we reject hundred of pieces of news as the source cannot be verified. Even at a time when the news gathering process is less than ideal, we cannot air or publish information that is not obtained from a reliable source.”
Speaking on the impression that the media has been used to inflame an already sensitive situation, Amr Khafagy said: “Multiplication of media outlets have led to a profusion of views. The same piece of news is commented upon and presented in different ways. The viewer or the reader in many instances is smarter and intelligent. They know that all news organizations have affiliations and sport their own agenda, which are often times positive. So for a news organization to have an agenda does not automatically detract from the credibility quotient of its reporting.”
Outlining the obstacles to field work, dangers that correspondents are exposed to, and the deliberate jamming some channels experienced during the coverage of the uprisings, Nakhle El Hage commented: “News thrives on crisis. The Arab Spring has come with its own set of challenges which has taken most of the regional media by surprise. Major events of colossal magnitude happened so quickly. I believe Arab news channels dealt with the situation very well on the whole.”
Themed ‘Arab Media: Exposure and Transition’, the 11th Arab Media Forum has drawn the participation of regional and international journalists, as well as influential decision makers, opinion leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.
In the run up to AMF 2012, Dubai Press Club released the findings of the fourth Arab Media Outlook, providing projections for the regional media sector up to 2015. Every attendee to AMF 2012 has been handed a copy of the report.
The Arab Media Forum has garnered year-on-year success through the past 10 editions, validating Dubai and the UAE’s ability to host such high-profile events that draw a significant international media presence.
The Arab Media Forum is the Middle East’s most prominent media event every year. Beginning in 2001 and organized by the Dubai Press Club under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Forum has consistently tried to facilitate in-depth debates and exchange of ideas on the media in the region. www.arabmediaforum.ae.
Dubai Press Club (DPC) is the Arab world’s preeminent media development organization. Established in 1999 as per the directives of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Club has evolved over a period of one eventful decade into the most sought after platform for heads of state, eminent government officials, intellectuals, writers and other dignitaries to reach out to the media and communicate their message. It offers unparalleled services to its journalist members. It has played a pioneering role in the development of the Arab media through a host of media development initiatives, the most vital among them being the Arab Media Forum, the Arab Journalism Award and the Arab Media Outlook. www.dpc.org.ae.