Media Reform: Professionalism and institutionalism

07-10-2017 06:38 PM

Mary Fikry

Swedish Institute Alexandria (SwedAlex) in cooperation with the Arab Forum for Alternatives and the Arab-German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities, held a two day media conference on 24-25 October 2017 in Beirut under the title: “Media reform: Professionalism and institutionalism.”
The conference aimed at responding to challenges to professional journalism, both in the region and globally. The economic challenges to printed and traditional media is a global phenomenon as a result of new media development, as well as the opportunities with broader and wider tools for communication. The major difference between Europe and the Middle East and North Africa Region is related to weaker institutions for upholding principles of journalism and the many governments efforts to extensive regulations for both new and old media.
In opening the conference, Mr Peter Weiderud, Director of SwedAlex said that the principle which make journalism the fourth pillar of governance in an open and democratic society. The first obligation for journalism is the truth. Its loyalty can only be with the audience. Its essence is a system of verification. And its practitioners – the journalist – must remain independent from those they cover.
The conference discussed “the future of print media” which loses its financial base when subscribers and advertisers go elsewhere, and Internet is faster and can tailor special interest. While that development poses a threat to professional journalism in Europe, which has built strong institutions on old media structures, both threats and opportunities are more complex in the MENA Region.
The CEO of the Association of Swedish Publishers, Jeanette Gustafsdotter, described the Swedish model of self-regulation, which is built on a shared responsibility for upholding the system from both journalists and publishers.
When we manage the self-regulation, which we have done for the last 100 years, we can benefit from largest freedom possible. However if we fail, we would have to accept stricter regulation. So we act in self-interest, she stated.

The conference also discussed media ownership, improved education of journalists and also gave space for “Youth visions on Arab Media”. In the closing remarks, the Director of the Swedish Institute, Mr. Peter Weiderud, said: ”Journalism as the fourth pillar of governance is not a Swedish, European or Western idea. It is a global right, emanating from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone has the right to be informed with the best possible truth. The MENA region is no exception.”

Watani International
7 October 2017

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