My mentor, Doyen of Arab journalism, the late Ghassan Tuneni has always said, being a journalist was his favorite and most precious title. His version of journalism is fast disappearing. He could respect all opinions even if he disagreed with them. He was a journalist’s journalist and a role model in the practice of this sacred profession, that has earned itself the distinctions “troublesome” and “powerful.”
Lately, I have been examining our performance as journalists and media organizations with growing concern. I believe we are slipping back by becoming mouthpieces, albeit not always by choice. Sometimes harsh conditions -- political, social or economic -- overshadow the ultimate desire for truth and the relentless effort we are called upon to put forth to reach it.
From a Japanese journalist abducted and beheaded by ISIS in Syria, to fellow Arab journalists and bloggers being jailed by current regimes or assassinated by evil forces that cannot take the truth they speak. True journalists are targeted and in danger today more than ever. On to media giants exercising self-censorship to avoid being suspended, and others being shut down altogether.
Who is advocating for “journalism” in the Arab world today? Who is defending the rights of journalists? I know of certain individual efforts, but they are not enough unless they collaborate together, share one voice and encompass the larger group of silent individuals.
How can any of us -- professionals, educators or trainers -- be role models if we each have a version of what journalism is or ought to be? If we can’t teach openness and freedom, if we don’t teach respecting and presenting opposing sides, if we don’t call things as they are without fear of repercussion, if we can’t tackle any topic without being called names. How can we promote journalism if everything we write has to conform to the status quo or has to be sponsored by a brand to reach the masses?
The entire world needs a media revival but no one needs it more than our Middle East. Unfortunately, we can list many reasons that stand in our way, but this does not mean we cannot change things; quite the opposite. It means we must regain our voice as a silent majority of journalists that can make a difference and not allow the forces of tyranny and evil to thumb us down further.
In our profession, the troubles are many these days and the power is none. We should at least balance the two and tip things in the other direction before it becomes too late.