Reform, Democracy and the Media

A media conference held by Al-Jazeera TV channel in Qatar this week tackled the thorny issue of what role, if any, the broadcaster should play in spreading political reform throughout the Arab world.

There are different views on this from people arguing that all media has an obligation to be involved in politics, to others who think that media should just inform and not reform, while other people would just like to see the channel translate its audience growth into income (obivously management, “I don’t care what you do! Just show me the money.”).

Anyway, I think this is a very interesting and important issue.

Al-Jazeera has access to over 35 million viewers who trust it and believe what it tells them. I don’t know of any political party in the Arab world that enjoys that kind of privilege.

So should it take advantage of this to push reforms?
Or should it just keep itself to informing people and opening their eyes to the truth?
And if media chooses to interfere with politics, where is the limit?

I think that Al-Jazeera have been a good source of non-propaganda news and a great forum for different people to express their opinions over the past years. That in itself reformed Arab media in a way and pushed for more transparency.

They can’t play the role of a political party because they’re not but they can contribute to and push forward the reform process by offering different opinions, showing what the truth really is and breaking the old limits of speech freedom.

The media can challenge and pressure governments putting them in a position where they have to be transparent, change and listen.

Still, having media interfere with politics isn’t always good because of the media’s power to sway public opinion according to it’s ideas or interests sometimes.

So, yes for media contributing to reform, no to media controlling it.

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Mohamed Marwen Meddah is a web development director, amateur photographer and web enthusiast from Tunisia, currently living in Canada.

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