Communications and Society Program
Communications and Society Program
Arab-US Media Forum
The Arab-U.S. Media Forum is an ongoing initiative of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program to address the impact of media in spanning the cultural and informational divides between the Arab world and the United States. The Forum consists of highly selective roundtable dialogues among two dozen journalists, editors, publishers, bloggers, new media entrepreneurs and other experts from both regions.
The dialogues focus on practical approaches for improving media coverage and bridging these divides through collaboration, exchange and networking. From these meetings, participants gain a network of peers across borders, solidify their understanding of the issues, and – in view of their leadership positions – speak about the concepts in other venues. In addition, the group makes recommendations that can be implemented individually or by collaborative action.
Forum meetings have taken place in Luxor, Egypt; in Dubai, UAE; in Jordan at the Dead Sea; in Washington, D.C. and at the Wye River Conference Center in Maryland, USA. From its inception in 2004 through 2009, the Forum has been convened in partnership with the Ford Foundation as the primary funding partner. Publications covering the Forum’s activities are available at the Communications and Society Program's website, www.aspeninstitute.org/c&s.
We are extending the reach of the Forum through the creation of a new Aspen Institute Arab-U.S. Media Alliance social network, located at www.arabusmedia.org. Building upon the network of individuals and organizations already formed through the Arab-U.S. Media Forum, the Arab-US Media Alliance social network is designed to be a trusted, neutral venue for journalists, media professionals, social networks, bloggers, educators and other societal leaders to engage in dialogue and discovery, and foster collaboration between Arab and U.S. cultures. Membership in the Arab-U.S. Media Alliance social network is currently by invitation only and limited to Forum participants, alumni and a select group of media professionals and other experts nominated by Alliance members. The Arab-U.S. Media Forum group on Facebook is an open forum for public exchange and engagement on the issues addressed by the Forum. Interested individuals may also follow the Forum’s activities on Twitter using the #arabusmedia tag.
For more information, please contact: Amy Garmer, Director of Journalism Projects, email@example.com.
The New Media Environment: Paths to Understanding
March 26-28, 2008
Dead Sea, Jordan
Fifteen U.S. and 15 Arab media leaders explored the opportunities presented by new technologies and new personal networks to promote greater understanding between Arab and U.S. cultures at the Aspen Institute Arab-U.S. Media Forum, "The New Media Environment: Paths to Understanding," held March 26-28, 2008 at the Dead Sea in Jordan. Forum participants concluded that media executives, publishers and journalists must exercise bold leadership to foster understanding between Arabs and Americans. "New media" such as weblogs, social networks (Facebook) and virtual worlds (Second Life) provide innovative approaches to this end.
The conference was opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Rym Ali of Jordan, herself a former reporter for CNN and other international news agencies. In a keynote speech notable for its insightfulness and eloquence, HRH Princess Rym challenged participants to lift the veil on the taboos held by media outlets in both regions, even as we begin "grappling with the potential consequences of the overflow of un-regulated content, some of which goes against inter-cultural dialogue and understanding." She summed up the critical issue in this question to Forum members: "As information circulates beyond borders, and audiences are multi-faceted and multi-cultural, with different sensitivities and concerns, how do we ensure, when it comes to freedom of expression, that the highest humanistic values to which we adhere, and that are spelled out in the universal declaration of human rights, are not lost?" Read full text of Princess Rym's keynote speech.
For the next day and a half, Forum participants examined the problems and opportunities facing media and societies as the information and communications environment continues to evolve. Particular consideration was given to developing ways to strengthen the enabling environment for media in each region in order to encourage positive aspects of new media that bridge cultural differences and lessen the impact of divisive qualities that can further the rift between cultures.
Arab and American participants agreed to work together on projects that will increase the knowledge and strengthen the capacity of U.S. news organizations covering the Middle East and Arab affairs. For instance, American publishers invited Arab bloggers to contribute to their online sites, recognizing the need to provide stronger voice of Arabs in American public discourse. Following the conclusion of the conference, Huffington Post (represented at the Forum by CEO Betsy Morgan) published this post by Forum participant and Bahrain-based blogger Mahmood Al-Yousif summarizing the conference. Arab and American participants agreed on the need to promote excellence in Arab journalism and that civil society organizations and particularly institutions of journalism education have to be on the forefront of these initiatives. In her speech, HRH Princess Rym announced the creation of the Jordan Media Institute, JMI, as a new media institute in Jordan that "aims to set new professional standards in journalism education in the region.” Other collaborations and initiatives are expected to develop from the Forum. Participant Joshua Fouts posted his thoughts on the Forum and the potential for Arab and American journalists to meet in virtual space on Dancing Ink Production's "Dispatches from the Imagination Age".
Dead Sea Scrolling, the report of the 2008 Arab-US Media Forum, explores the impact of new media in spanning the cultural and informational divides between the Arab and American worlds. Leading Arab and American journalists and media entrepreneurs discuss the budding transparency and openness enabled by new media and confront the harmful stereotyping in which both worlds so readily engage.
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Covering the Other: Intolerance and Bigotry in the American and Arab Media
December 2-5, 2005
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
June 7-9, 2006
Throughout history, groups have discriminated against other ethnic and religious groups by, among other tactics, stereotyping, demonizing, distorting and disparaging them. While journalists have the opportunity to ameliorate the problem and build understanding and acceptance among peoples, sometimes they do the opposite, fueling misconceptions and prejudices. These issues have arisen in recent years in both American and Arab press organizations.
In December 2005 the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, with grants from the Ford Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, convened its third semi-annual Arab-US Media Forum in Dubai, UAE. The Forum entitled “Covering the Other: Intolerance and Bigotry in the American and Arab Media” met to identify and address the difficult issues of tolerance and discrimination.
In Dubai, journalists, editors, columnists and publishers from the US and the Arab world engaged in a constructive dialogue on the ways that media in each region cover "the other," meaning ethnic and religious minorities and people of other nationalities. Two concrete results of the meeting are David Ignatius’ “Courage in their Coverage” column in the December 7, 2005 issue of the Washington Post and Kevin Sites’ blog entry on his experience at the meeting in Kevin Sites in the Hotzone on Yahoo!.
The Arab-US Media Forum reconvened in the Spring of 2006 to continue the discussion begun in Dubai.
Framing the Other: Bias or Imbalance? includes insightful essays and commentary by Arab and U.S. journalists present at the forum about bias in the media and recommendations towards better, more balanced coverage.
Through the Looking Glass: American and Arab Media
March 14-16, 2004
June 9-11, 2004
Maryland, United States
Journalism, under any conditions, is a difficult and controversial, yet immensely influential craft. This is certainly the case in the two regions of the world with which we are particularly concerned, the Arab Middle-East and the United States. For a variety of reasons, many leaders and journalists in the one region believe that their culture or country is not adequately depicted in the other.
In a time of great mistrust within and between these two regions, it is incumbent upon the journalistic institutions to foster greater knowledge and understanding of the others culture. Yet in each region journalists find themselves facing barriers to achieve this objective, whether pressures of patriotism from within or outside the organization, issues of ownership and the marketplace, or general (mis)perception of the underlying truth of another culture.
To address these concerns and improve understanding across cultures and regions, the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, in cooperation with the Ford Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, convened the Aspen Institute Arab-US Media Forum. These roundtable meetings brought together two dozen leading journalists and experts from the Arab Middle East and the United States to explore fundamental media values and approaches, enabling each group to appreciate and understand the similarities and differences among their professional journalistic issues and practices.
Through the Looking Glass: Arab and American Media Leaders Debate, Dialogue and Rededicate offers commentary, data and reflection on the topics discussed at the Forum. The primary pieces were written by WorldPaper founder, Crocker Snow, Jr. and our moderator, Arab journalist Hisham Melham.