A panel on ‘Arab Media and Sectarianism’ at the 13th Arab Media Forum in Dubai has called for further investment in freedom of expression, encouraging national identity and public freedom to fight sectarianism.
With the increase of exasperation in the Arab World due to the various political developments and major geo-social changes, sectarianism is dramatically exacerbating the scene, panelists on the session said.
The panelists, including Baqer Al Najjar, Professor of Sociology, University of Bahrain, Emad Gad, Head of International Relations unit, Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, Egypt, Lokman Slim, Writer and Publisher, Lebanon and Mshari Al Thaydi, Columnist from Saudi Arabia, were of the view that political regimes should stop the media channels that foment sectarianism.
The real danger accrues as this sectarian antagonism creeps to media channels. Closing their eyes to all human values and media professionalism, many media platforms focus their efforts, and collect revenues, by adopting this approach.
The session, moderated by Rima Maktabi, anchor and senior reporter of Al Arabiya News Channel, was unanimously told that there still exists sectarianism because of the policies of some Arab regimes, supported by world powers.
“These regimes are responsible for this sectarianism, perpetrated to serve their own interests and they use media channels to foment them. In fact, Muslim Brotherhood used this while they were in power,” said Emad Gad.
According to Lokman Slim, “everything is not lost.” Now is the opportunity to restructure after having lost several values. We have to change our culture.”
Baqer Al Najjar would not blame the media alone for this state of affairs even as other panel members subscribe to this view. “Media is not the only one to blame; it’s a tool, used by many regimes in order to justify their deeds.”
“Media can report conflicts, but they should exercise caution and should be careful to avoid fomenting hatred among people,” Mshari Al Thaydi said.
Emad Gad said: “The problem is the use of media. People are sitting and watching news, instead of buying newspapers and politicians are using this opportunity.”
Baqer said the Arab region has not been able to establish a model state that does not discriminate on religious and ethnic lines.