Seminar Discusses the Role of Media in the “Arab Spring”

Media experts who participated in a Birzeit University seminar on “Media and the Arab Spring” held on January 23, 2014 said that the Arab media has fallen into a political trap and become biased.

Journalist Aref Hijjawi, a veteran of Al-Jazeera and BBC satellite channels, said he believes that the problem lies in confusion between cause and effect, indicating that members of the public believe that the Arab media is playing an active role in creating the Arab Spring and forgetting their main roots, which are oppression and injustice suffered by Arab citizens – a strong motive for change. He said, too, that every media organization has its own editorial agenda.

Former government spokesperson Noor Oudeh argued that the reason that the media is biased is that its funder has a position, as such the media war is an extension of conflicting countries’ interests. This moves the concept of media out of the realm of dialogue and mutual respect into conflict and attempts to humiliate.

Associated Press correspondent Mohammed Daraghmeh agrees with Oudeh that there is bias in the Arab media, referring to the fact that the public has little respect for the main satellite channels, a view shared by Al-Quds newspaper journalist Walid Abu Sarhan and Birzeit University media professor Nasha’t al-Aqtash, who also spoke at the event. The percentage of Al-Jazeera viewers dropped by 40% in 2013, for example, according to the latest study on the subject.

Sky News correspondent Firas Lutfi noted that some journalists have been put in danger because of their employers’ agendas.

Arabiya TV correspondent Khaled al-Qasem called upon the media, which includes television, radio, and newspaper, to be an independent and respectable media instead of resorting to social media for its sources.