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Introduction to the Third Annual Al Jazeera Forum April 1, 2007

Posted by Muhammad in ajforum07.

A sunny day in Doha and Al-Jazeera’s 3rd Annual Forum begins at the Sheraton Hotel in Doha. The forum began with Sheikh Hamad Bin Thamer Al Thani, the chairman of Al-Jazeera, stating that he hopes that the conference will be able to enrich the dialogue among journalists regarding their role in global media. He said a serious analysis needs to be conducted into the role of media and journalism, especially in the present time where journalists are experiencing very difficult times. The many Al-Jazeera bureaux being closed worldwide, with the latest being the bureau in Somalia was given as an example.

Wadah Khanfar, Al-Jazeera’s General Manager then introduced the theme of the conference with his address speaking of the ethics of journalism and in particular the partiality of journalists. Many journalists are today getting killed and jailed for no other reason than pursuing the purpose of their position: to seek the truth. In a post-9/11 world, authority has asserted its position of power to always present its own account of events and hence, control the media. It is the job of journalists to fight this type of media hegemony, to maintain objectivity and show both sides of the stories they cover.

Another issue is that of journalists leaking, and pushing, information which subscribes to political agendas of any particular group. Hence the need for Al-Jazeera to check and double check the information they receive to make sure that they aren’t used as conduits for any particular government. By nature and by definition, journalists need to stand up against authority and any form of oppression, hence, those news organisations who publicly apologised for their coverage of the Iraq war need to be applauded.

Journalists also need to be more aware of the societies from which they report, we sometimes only have a shallow understanding and need to go deeper and really understand the lives of the people in the areas we cover. Journalists, when conducting in-depth journalism, need to take into account two perspectives when reporting: respecting the history of the place they are in and trying to forecast the future of the region by analysing the events which have taken place.

TV journalism, where the fast pace of journalists chasing stories, submitting photographs and video footage, it is here that the type of thinking where objectivity needs to prevail and showing the different sides of the story is paramount. A good example of this is the recent Iraq war where every news agency was broadcasting footage of fighter jets taking off, cameras showing the viewpoints of fighter jet pilots and finally, the bomb as it drops on its target. However, when the other side was shown, the houses and families destroyed by the bombs… it was described as too graphic and not to be shown. And so, the purporting of the idea that only one side of the truth should be broadcasted.

Hence, the editorial policy of news organizations must not substantiate journalism which succumbs to pre-conceived notions, all sides must be shown. We need to get rid of the superficial media, and present journalism which is not afraid to show what is real.

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