Mass Media in the Arab World and Beyond – Politics and Ethics

In Zusammenarbeit mit dem Goethe Institut Ramallah, der Universität Bir Zeit und der Al Quds Universität

Zweitägiger Workshop zu den Schwerpunktthemen Medienethik, Zukunft von Lokalsendern und Rolle von Medien bei der Entwicklung einer demokratischen Gesellschaft


International Conference

February 19 - 20 2005, Grand Park Hotel, Ramallah

Arab mass media have changed tremendously over the past decade. While the period before the advent of satellite broadcasting and the internet was characterized by blatant state control and censorship, the new technologies have opened a sphere for a new Arab debate on public affairs. However, authoritarian regimes in the region are trying to cope with the new situation, and they are not helpless. Even in times of so-called “globalization”, the state still matters. Media policies in many Arab countries have been adapted to the media developments. New censorship laws have been introduced and regimes have extended their influence to the satellite realm. The global environment after 9/11 and the Iraq war 2003 has created new challenges to the Arab media. In such a complicated situation the international conference “Mass Media in the Arab World and Beyond – Politics and Ethics” seeks new perspectives.

Is there a chance for the Arab media to contribute to political development in the Middle East? Arab satellite broadcasting, which has been applauded to have opened up a new public sphere conducive to democratization, has also come under severe critique after 9/11. Especially the style of reporting on regional conflicts in Israel/Palestine and in Iraq is criticized as being one-sided and mobilizing for conflict, not for peace. While Al-Jazeera was one of the first channels to broadcast original Israeli voices to Arab audiences, the question remains justified whether Arab satellite has lived up to its promises. What is the future of Arab news networks and other Arab broadcasters beyond the current Al-Jazeera model especially after channels like the Saudi financed Al-Arabiyya search for a reform of news reporting? What are the ethical challenges inherent in the current situation?

While as a result of Al-Jazeera’s critique of many Arab governments Arab television has been labelled by some observers as being a virtual Arab “political party”, media can surely not compensate for the lack of civil society organization and the weakness of the existing opposition. The stagnation of the Oslo peace process seems to have influenced the Israeli and the Arab media. But this raises the question of whether the media should play the role of mediating the conflict or reinforcing the existing political and psychological cleavages?

While world-wide attention is granted to a few Arab news networks, national and local media – TV, radio as well as the press – get out of focus. However, one must bear in mind that national television and other national media have bigger audiences than transnational networks, although some pan-Arab satellites, like MBC or Al-Jazeera, have made strong inroads. For national mass media, globalisation has only just begun. Arab governments have opened up new opportunities in the last decade that gave more room to private competition in the press as well as in the broadcasting sector. However, the legal situation is still characterized by flagrant insecurities for journalists and other media workers. The Arab world is still far behind the global trend for more freedom of opinion and heightened media freedom that has occurred over the past 25 years. Is the Arab Middle East a bulwark of authoritarianism, or is change for the better merely slower and not always easy to discern?

While pointing to deficits of Arab media is justified, change can only come about in the context of regional and global changes that seem direly needed. It is not only that Israeli and western media have to reflect their style of reporting on the Middle East and the Islamic world. The attacks of 9/11 and the much contested Iraq war in 2003 have also reinforced the US administrations’ broadcasting initiatives in the Arab world, and radio stations like Al-Sawa and TV channels like Al-Hurra were designed to make inroads into Arab public opinion and improve the devastated image of the US in the region. While foreign broadcasting in the form of BBC World Service has attained great merits that are even acknowledged by critical observers in the Middle East, the US efforts represent a roll-back to the propaganda approaches of the past. Most critics maintain that US foreign broadcasting is one-sided, pro-US foreign policy and pro-Israel, with no support at all for the democratic opposition in the Middle East. Is US foreign broadcasting helping to drive Arab media into the wrong direction of conflictual world views? Or is it a legitimate device of a democratic country like the US to promote its policies?

Fundamental issues of ethics are raised at this point. How can media ethics with its traditional concerns for concreteness and piecemeal approaches be related meaningfully to the momentous changes afoot in the Arab world? Are media councils or in-house controls (media ombudspersons) more suitable for the Arab media?

Another medium that has been much debated is the internet. While the number of internet users in the Arab world is still very low, differences between various countries are observable. Jordan, for one example, has prided itself to host the longest street with internet cafés in the world (documented in the Guinness Book of Records). Especially young middle-class Arabs line in front of internet cafés from Casablanca to Baghdad. For many Palestinian youths living under occupation the internet is often the only door to freedom and to the world. However, the question remains to what degree the internet is already a political tool. Has it improved political networks and enhanced the manoeuvrability of Arab civil society?

Conference program

Saturday, 19/02/05 10 to 5 p.m.

10:00 - 10:30 Opening

Nabil Amr, Former Minister of Information and Palestinian Legislative Council

Daoud Kuttab, Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University

First session - Chair person: Hani Al-Masri

Arab Satellite Broadcasting and Political Development in the Arab World

10:30 – 12:00

Naomi Sakr, professor of communication at Westminster University, London

Arab Satellite Television: Has It Lived up to the Promises?

11:00 – 11:30

Dana Suyyagh, senior producer, Al-Arabyia, Dubai

Beyond Al-Jazeera: New Trend in Arabs Television

11:30 – 11:50 Coffee Break

Political Conflicts in the Arab World and their Coverage by Mass Media

11:50 – 12:20

Mohammad Daragma, Correspondent to Associate Press (AP)

The Coverage of the Mass Media in the Arab World to the Palestinian Israeli Conflict

12:20 – 12:50

Waleed Omari, Director of Al Jazeera Office in Palestine

Political Conflicts in the Arab World and their coverage by Mass Media

12:50 – 14:00 Lunch buffet

Second Session- Chair person George Khleifi

The Future of National and Local Mass Media in the Arab World

14:00 - 14:30

Mohammed Dajani, Director of American Studies Institute, Al-Quds University

Censorship and the Future of Media Freedom in the Arab World

14:30 – 15:00

Daoud Kuttab, Institute of Modern Media, Al-Quds University

Palestinian Media in the Abbas Era

15:00 – 15:30

Fathi Natour, Manager Farah TV Jenin

The Independent Visual Media Means in Palestine – Reality and Ambitions

15:30 - 15:50 Coffee Break

The Global Media Landscape: Is it Conducive to Political Development in the Arab World

15:50 - 16:20

Dr Oliver Hahn, postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study in International Journalism at the Journalism Institute of Dortmund University, Germany

Modern Arab and Western Satellite Newscasters between Cultural Commitment and Propaganda Dialogue

16:20 - 16:50

Khalil Assali, Director of Radio Sawa, Jerusalem

US Foreign Broadcasting: A personal Experience

16:50 - 17:00 Closing

Sunday, 20/02/05 10 to 2 p.m.

Third session - Chair person: Khalil Shaheen

Media and Ethics

10:00 - 10:30

Anthony Löwstedt, The Palestinian Initiative for Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, Miftah, Jerusalem

Rights and Duties of Journalists with Regard to Dignity, Death and Dying

10:30 - 11:00

Nibal Thawabteh, Researcher and Lecturer at the Media Institute in Birzeit University

Media Ethics in the Middle East: Any Differences to the Rest of the World

11:00 - 11:20 Coffee Break

Internet in Palestine-Breaking Through the Isolation of Occupation

11:20 - 11:50

Dr. Mashour Abudaka, Executive Director The Palestinian IT Association (PITA)

A Door to the World? The Role of the Internet in the Palestinian Occupied Territories

11:50 - 12:20

Samer Sabri, Director of Palestine Online, Ramallah

The Internet as a Political Communication Instrument in the Arab World

12:20 - 13:20 Lunch buffet

13:20 - 14 :00 Round Table Open Discussion


Zum Kalender hinzufügen


Grand Park Hotel, Ramallah


Dr. Canan Atilgan

Dr. Canan Atilgan

Leiterin der Abteilung Naher Osten und Nordafrika +49 30 26996 3928