‘Technology has transformed Arab media’


The emergence of new technology has transformed Arab media, delegates at the seventh Arab Media Forum were told on Wednesday.

Speakers highlighted the power of new media, particularly the internet. The expression of journalistic freedom through avenues such as blogs and the internet’s continuous accessibility were given as reasons for the growing acceptance of the web as an enabling mechanism for the media.

“A new chapter is being written in the Arab world thanks to the internet and blog sites,” Jihad Al Khazen, a writer at Al Hayat newspaper, told the forum in Dubai. “The Arab media is undergoing rapid changes with the advent of technology but is still restricted and suffers from lack of resources.

“Nearly 61 per cent of media in the region face restrictions, barring certain satellite stations that have managed to raise the bar and present a realistic picture to international audiences.”

Participants agreed that the media had changed from an industry that hinged on talent and tradition to one where technology and technological developments were the main driving forces.

The Arab world, with more than 1,000 media outlets, including print, broadcast and new media, was said to be undergoing changes.

Speakers at a session called “Are transformations breaking the traditional mould of Arab media?” recommended the integration of new and old forms to provide user-generated content.

This would help sustain traditional forms of media at a time when print was slowly but steadily fading in the developed countries, creating increased opportunities for the electronic press. The United Kingdom, for example, witnessed a drop in print subscriptions of nearly four per cent annually while internet usage was booming.

Other matters discussed included the training of journalists, the impact of the visual media and the media’s role in tackling everyday issues. Dr Hessa Lootah, of the UAE University’s College of Media Sciences, spoke about the significance of training and the need for raising awareness of the media as a key information tool among the local population.

“The majority of the population in the UAE is poorly educated and relies heavily on TV as a medium of information,” she said.

“It’s our job to produce content and expose them to information that benefits their development and encourages more integration among various communities in the region.”

Dr Lootah stressed the need to introduce modern media courses in universities across the Arab world.

The seventh annual forum – which has the theme Bridging Arab media through technology – has attracted more than 500 local, regional and international media professionals. More than 50 academics and industry experts are attending the two-day event, which ends today.

The transformations session was moderated by Mohammad Farhat Al Harthi, Editor-in-Chief of Sayidaty and Al Jamila magazines, and included a speech by Danny Bottoms, Executive Vice-President and Chief Executive of Showtime.