The session discussed the role Arab Media played in the recent Arab Spring, and whether or not it had any part instigating it through the content aired on their channels. The panel was also utilized as a platform for the next episode of Muntaha's renowned program, "Hiwar Al Arab" or "Dialogue of Arabs", aired on Al Arabiya News Channel.
The panel included four speakers: Alexander Nazarov, Director at Russia Al -Yaum News Channel; Amr Khafagy, Publisher and Editor in Chief, Al Shorouk Newspaper - Egypt; Faris Couri, Editor-in-Chief BBC Arabic, and Nakhle Al Hage, Director of News and Current Affairs, Al Arabiya News Channel.
Addressing the challenges that reporters and media figures have faced since the beginning of the Arab Spring and the impact this has had on their delivery of credible and trustworthy news, Muntaha steered the discussion giving the audience a peek into each of the panelists' beliefs and professional values.
Commenting on the reality of the situation, Faris Couri, Editor-in-Chief, BBC Arabic said: "Arab TV channels and reporters are faced with several considerable challenges in reporting unbiased content and news for their viewers. Some of the stations are shut down by governments in certain countries; some even have their reporters expelled. But despite all the challenges and obstacles, one must find a way to report the news as and how they happen. As one of the Arab TV Channels operating in the region, we try to draw a clear picture of the revolution and major events for our viewers, getting them as closest as possible to the actual event, without having any third party or government affect the end picture. We are an unbiased entity and operate as one."
Commenting on the region wide accusations of the impact of TV stations has had on the Arab Spring, Nakhle Al Hage, Director of News and Current Affairs, Al Arabiya News Channel, commented: "Television stations are given far more credit in promoting or even affecting the Arab Spring, when in reality, they lack such power. Arab media was never responsible for the start of the Arab Spring; it just relayed the news as it is to the viewers who have the right to know what's happening around them."
On the other hand, Amr Khafagy, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Al Shorouk newspaper thinks that the media audience of today has considerably changed from how they were decades ago, "No Television Station has the power to convince viewers of anything. We are here to inform our viewers and readers of what's happening around us - what they make of it later, is beyond our power. Our viewers are far more intelligent than we give them credit for and are rational enough to know whether they are being misled or not."
And finally, when asked about alternative sources that television stations often rely on when faced with challenges in reporting and obtaining news; the panelists explained that there are several ways to rely on. Alexander Nazarov, Director at Russia Al Yaum News Channel, said: "While trying to look for other news sources, we keep our viewers and readers in mind and try to deliver the most credible information from the most trust worthy source. Sometimes, when banned out of certain places, we are only left with witnesses to base our reporting on."
However, according to Nakhle, at Al Arabiya: "While citizen journalism is one of the most important methods we rely on in Arabiya when left with no other source, we have certain standards against which we verify every news element to ensure that our viewers receive the most credible and reliable information."
The 11th Arab Media Forum was held a week after the Arab Media Outlook Report for 2011-2015 was published. The report presents an overview of the regional media industry, and showed that the channels belonging to MBC Group are the most prevalent and highest viewed in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Morocco.
Al Arabiya News Channel was the official media sponsors of the 11th Arab Media Forum held on the 8th and 9thof May 2012. It is also worth mentioning that a reception was hosted by Al Arabiya team on the first day of the Forum, and created a platform for the industry's influential figures to interact and meet. Moreover, Al Arabiya's guests were introduced at the reception to the brilliant work of the famous Syrian Cartoonist, Ali Farazat, known for his daring paintings that call for freedom of speech in the Arab world.