Arab-European Dialogue participants: Media creates gap between civilizations [Archives:2005/904/Local News]

December 19 2005

ADEN,Dec.17)When the media covers events, it indirectly depicts, whether intentionally or unintentionally, a particular image of others to its audience. Therefore, media plays a critical role in any civilized dialogue. This was the central idea stressed in a December 13-14 seminar in Aden entitled, “Media Role in Arab-European Dialogue,” organized by the German Embassy and the Sana'a office of the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).

Participants, all Yemeni and German media experts and intellectuals, discussed media's responsibility in understanding and misunderstanding others. Main topics included depicting the European image in Arab media and the Arab image in European media, covering events from their perspectives and creating realistic images of each other.

Aden Governor, Dr. Yahya Al-Shuaibi, opened the seminar saying that holding this seminar in Aden was significant, as Aden is home to the oldest radio station and the oldest newspaper in the Arabian Peninsula.

According to participants, there is a western media stereotype of Arabs that does not reflect the reality of the Arab world. Sammer Abu Al-Fooh, reporter for Die Welt in Cairo, said western media tends to generalize facts and as a result, many Europeans form a particular image and perception of the Arab world. This perception is not always real, as the Arab world is regionally, politically and culturally diverse. She added that when western media handles subjects like women's rights, Islam and terrorism, most Arabs do not welcome such coverage as it reflects a general view of a particular community, giving the impression that the whole Arab world is undergoing the same problems. She referred to an incident in Alexandria, in which a Muslim group demonstrated against a play they claimed was anti-Islamic. Muslim and Christian groups clashed during demonstrations. Western media coverage of the event gave the impression that all Muslims were attacking Christians.

However, Al-Fooh affirmed that many western media are distinguished for their neutrality. She insisted she has never been asked to cover an event in a particular way Referring to some foreign media's neutrality, she said many Arabs prefer to follow news (particularly war or disaster news) from foreign media, especially those using Arabic language.

A reporter for Der Spiegel in Cairo admitted there is insufficient coverage of the Arab world in western media. He linked such insufficiency to difficulties reporters face, which prevent them from conveying the whole truth.

Lack of sources in providing information, depending on official media under governmental monitoring, ignorance of Arabic language, lack of knowledge of Arabic life, culture and history and inability to get visas are some difficulties that face foreign reporters in the Arab world, forcing them to make narrow general coverage.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Faqi, master of political science at the University of Sana'a, said the Arab man has been depicted in European books, stories, movies and curriculum as a “narrow-minded