Press role in Middle East under attack

Caitlin Pike

Calls for journalists to report the Israeli Palestine conflict with
greater clarity were made at a debate on the media and the Middle East
at Chatam House this week.

Professor Greg Philo, author of Bad News from Israel, said gaps in
public knowledge about the Middle East were related to gaps in
information provided by broadcasters.

He was speaking at the launch debate of the Chatham House and Associated Press Television News Middle East Forum.

Journalists in the audience challenged Philo, saying it was “not a hack’s job to explain the history of conflicts” as part of supplying the news.

Dr
Percy Kemp, an operational intelligence expert on the Middle East,
spoke of the interaction between truth, power and the media. He told
the audience truth was no longer something governments and consumers
were very much interested in. “Fear has become the commodity that
sells,” he said, especially since 9/11.

The debate looked at the
impact of the new Arab media and the problems and pressures faced by
the Western media in covering the Middle East.

Mouafac Harb,
director of news at Alhurra – a new Arabic-language TV network
specialising in news and information – spoke of the development of new
media in the Middle East, saying that individual Middle Eastern
journalists were proving themselves as a reliable and valuable resource
to global news organisations, supplying them with footage and reports.

Nadim
Shehadi, acting head of the Middle East Programme at Chatham House,
said: “The importance of a debate on the media in this context goes
beyond its role as a provider of information. It is part and parcel of
the instruments that affect the way the conflicts in the region unfold.”

Chatham House and APTN will host a series of events on Middle East issues throughout the year.

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