Monday, May 7, 2012

Waiting for the Arab media Renaissance? It might never come!

When I wrote about my excitement to be part of a media revolution to accompany the Arab awakening sweeping the region, I meant every word I said. I truly believed and still do, that a free flow of information and an independent media corps are essential to the advancement and thriving of any free or aspiring to be free society. I also believed that Arabs are ready for a major media shift and that they will fire their media propaganda machines as they were overthrowing their tyrants and dictators.
My writing a year ago as the entire Middle East was starting to spring forward towards what looked like a very promising future. I gladly joined the freedom bandwagon thinking (perhaps naively) that change is coming faster than we thought. Instead, we’ve seen the region fall back in its freedoms and revert back to old habits and old games in the past year. So much so, that I am now losing any hope for a true renaissance in Arab media.

What we’re seeing is a mere continuation of the old regimes, in government, civil societies and media. What looks like new organizations are merely old ones dressed in new outfits pretending to offer something new but in fact carrying the same old messages and speaking for the same old masters. Agenda-driven media abound from Lebanon to Egypt and beyond. The recently launched new stations just like the ones about to be launched don’t promise anything other than to be mouthpieces of governments, individuals or parties.

It’s easy to say media organizations give people what they want. It can also be said that people consume the media given to them. It’s undoubtedly a vicious circle worldwide that does not seem to have an ending any time soon.

I dedicate this article to friends and colleagues who are suffering at the hands of oppression, censorship or simply poor pay or no pay at all. Media professionals such as those hard-working Lebanese journalists stuck in a power struggle between a doctor, a sheikh and a prince! Without taking any sides in the conflict, my heart bleeds for the employees of PAC/LBCI/LBC or whoever their real employer is today or whoever it might be tomorrow. It is them I was so excited to work with a year ago. Their determination, talent and enthusiasm gave me so much hope that the Arab media renaissance might start there. Alas, as they wait wage-less, they are lost most probably hope-less and juice-less.

At the rate things are going, we are witnessing a media depression across the region. People need to realize the importance of free media and demand it now before it is too late. As consumers, the power is totally in viewers, listeners and readers’ hands to bring change or accept the offering as is since that’s what they are consenting to and paying for.


Keep the conversation going...

Anonymous Anon said...

Ms. Nasr I agree wholeheartedly. As a Lebanese journalist myself (who has multiple responsibilities at a Lebanese newspaper and still only receives barely over $1,000 a month) I was censored on a particular story simply because the editors felt the piece (which was a fluff piece in all honesty) might offend some of the owners.

May 7, 2012 at 9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A free media with journalists able to write about tough topics is crucial to building democracy. Journalists bring the truth to the world. Without their bravery injustices will continue throughout the world. Excellent article on a very important topic.

May 8, 2012 at 12:32 PM  

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