DUBAI- Media scholars have appealed to media professionals to commit to ethical values which they said have been “hugely compromised” due to political affiliation and undisclosed sources of funding.
The scholars concurred that instabilities that have been realized in Arab countries have made significant contribution to ethical abuse, mentioning TV coverage of the Egyptian political crisis.
The session, “Media Reality Following the Arab ‘Autumn’” which was moderated by Sky News Arabia anchor, Fadila Al Souissi, featured Abdullah Al Shayji, Head of Political Science Department in Kuwait University; Aisha Sultan, an Emirati author of “Shita’ Al Hikayat” as well as a Columnist for Al Ittihad Newspaper; George Semaan, a Lebanese political writer and Ma’amoun Fandy, a prolific author and Director of London Global Strategy Institute.
The panel discussed whether the Arab Spring is fading into autumn or still unfolding, and how has the Spring affected media objectivity.
Aisha contended that the main cause of ethical abuse was the improper source of finance, calling for involvement of government and private partnership or else media professionals should resign ‘like was the case in Egypt.”
She said; “Respecting the mind and ideology of the audience is essential, but what we see is the skewed opinions of presenters dictated by the funders.”
“Dr Abdullah Al Shayji has just mentioned that 78 per cent of Arabs get their news from television, yet Sky News Arabia figures show that 92 per cent of audience does not trust their sources of information. It is intricate. The main cause is source of funding. The media professionals have a choice of either playing to the gallery or sticking to ethical conduct.”
Ma’amoun said that whereas funding is the source of survival and operation, “we should be asking for the source of funds. That way, we shall have news covered for the public but not hid away from people or presented as warped.”
For George, Arab media has contributed to local conflicts because it wants to copy the Western model. “Yet we are very different communities. Media is a reflection of the community, so you just don’t have to transplant one model into any community.” Aisha supported this view.
Dr Al Shayji expressed dismay on how the media has turned to producing lies. “Some people pay to have a better opinion presented on television channels. We used to say that a picture tells a thousand words, but they’re now telling lies. The media has become faster, but with coloured, rosy and doctored pictures.”
A regular contributor to local Arabic papers, Dr Al Shayji observed the Arab media has been put in a “tight corner because they are used but the consequences shall be felt for a very long time. People are more informed and are more engaged,” he pointed out.
The two-day 13th Arab Media Forum running under the theme, ‘The Future of Media Starts Today’ ends on May 21 at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.