|The Participants in the Forum of
Media Defenders in the Arab World
|With Journalist Waddah Khanfar
|With Haneen Zoabi, the National
|Workshop on Media Freedom, Amman
Forum for Media Freedom Defenders in the Arab World
The BHRM participated in the Forum for Media Freedom in the Arab
World, held in Jordan on 5-7 December 2011. Many Arab and foreign
human rights activists, journalists, actors, parliamentarians, judges,
legal experts and specialised researchers attended the Forum. The
main objectives of the Forum were to support and defend media freedom
through strengthening networking among media freedom defenders;
and enhancing collaboration between media professionals and human
right activists. This is in order to institutionalise media-freedom
defence efforts, prepare an Arab strategy to support media independence
and media freedom, reduce violations against it and enhance societal
environment nurturing of the media. The Forum was organised by the
|Amman-based Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists.
The President of the BHRM participated in a number of discussions,
including the new media and social networks. He contributed the
Social network websites have broken the monopoly of state media
and created many opportunities for the public to express themselves
and have helped in the creation of a public opinion that serves
specific causes. Although we cannot measure the effects of the new
social networks websites, they undoubtedly have produced and re-published
media materials which played an important role in moving the street.
Social network websites also played a crucial role in organising
public political movements and gave the youth the ability to co-ordinate
their efforts in an unprecedented way. In other words, they played
the old role of parties in organising, inciting and feeding the
youth with information. This is as well as directing them towards
political objectives far from censorship.
The role of these websites was more important than the role of
the media and some Arab satellite channels. This happened because
the success of these revolutions depended not only on the directing
of protests through the media, but also on the work of anonymous
ordinary citizens to organise. As a result of this, the Arab revolutions
did not have an identifiable leadership and thus made it difficult
for the regimes to oppress them and for the political societies
to control them.
Contrary to the state media, which is misleading and lacking
in credibility, the public media on the other hand proved to be
able to win the trust of the public. The important issue is that
network media belongs to the public and millions participate in
them. The ability of governments to control social networking websites
is very limited despite their attempts.
With regards to the question: did the Arab media create and incite
the revolutions or just covered the events? The Hasan Shafaie presented
the following points:
Some Arab media has played a part in promoting the Arab Spring
such as the Al-Jazeera channel; while others merely covered the
events. Despite the fact that most of the broadcasted material was
created by the youth, some channels played the role of the inciter
and their coverage had a specific political agenda.
In general, the coverage of the Arab state media was not objective
and resulted in the loss of many viewers and a lack of credibility.
The priority for these channels was based on political agenda however;
the BBC for example was the least affected because it was more professional
in its comprehensive coverage of the events of all revolutions.
With regards to the question of the roles of international human
rights organisations and what they achieved during the Arab spring,
Shafaie believes that their role has been positive. Their role was
to monitor and document human rights violations which increased
during the protest period. Their statements and their international
relations played a fundamental role in exerting political pressure.
Huge part of the international support for the movements of the
Arab spring was due to the activities and the work of these organisations.