Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Monday, July 31, 2006

US-Egypt Friendship Society Hosts Discussion on the Paradox of Egyptian Press

USEF hosted a discussion Wednesday on the paradoxes of Egyptian press. Tarek Atia, editor of Al Ahram Weekly, Adel Iskandar, author of Al-Jazeera: The Story of the Network that is Rattling Governments and Redefining Modern Journalism, and Howard Schneider, a Middle East Journalist for The Washington Post were on the panel for the discussion.

Adel Iskandar believes that Arabs are experiencing media schizophrenia. This means that the events that they are witnessing on the streets are not what is being reported by the satellite media, and this is confusing for them. He says that there is a vital dimension to Egyptian media: steadfastness, meaning they will not take advice or objectives from abroad. He believes that a well informed populace is the best way to make sure tyranny does not take control. Iskandar also expressed what he sees as the vital points for Egyptian Press. They are:
1. The importance of assuring press laws are not anti-climactic
2. The objectivity of the press/principles of the press
3. The impact of external forces: having an audience that can differentiate between conspiracies.
4. Encourage a slow diminishing of media schizophrenia
5. The agenda of press openness will be driven by the press, not others—it will grow out of the press syndicate.
6. The idea of the observer phenomenon: the idea that Egypt is being watched – a desire for accountability.

Tarek Atia discussed his views on where Egyptian media is headed and where he believes it should be headed. Atia admits that the market is skewed in favor of publishers who are aligned with the government, but he believes that it is getting better. Atia also mentioned how the influence of the internet is changing the face of Egyptian media. Bloggers have become a ‘watchdog’ for the press, encouraging the media to report on the political issues that people are reading about on daily blogs. However, Atia is not sure how effective this will be in the long run, since the internet can be hard to find, and in most cases can only be reached by the elite.

This is where Atia says the media is going:
1. Media as a business: editors and administrators are forced to look at what their public wants. People require more from media than they used to.
2. Journalists are not prepared to give up the rights they have earned in the last several years, so do not expect them to.
This is where Atia believes the media should go:
1. There should be an emphasis on identity politics – talking about what it means to be a modern day Egyptian.
2. More investigative reporting.
3. Generate more literary journalism – in depth stories that delve into the minute details of normal people, not the rich and famous. This will force people to think of others.

Howard Schneider discussed what he believes to be the two main paradox’s of Egyptian press. They are:
1. Egypt is a society that has free press, but it does not have any public information laws (like the Freedom of Information Act in the U.S.).
2. One can see an acknowledgement that disclosure is necessary, but there is a line drawn and it does not show everything.
Schneider says that there is no template to say whether or not government officials are acting in the public’s best interest, or their own. Egypt receives a lot of military aid and journalists should be asking how much of that money goes towards the salaries of the top 10 ranking military officials. He says that without public information laws, one can not have a real, effective democracy.


Post a Comment

<< Home