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Lawrence Lessig – Keynote Address @ Al Jazeera’s 3rd Annual Media Forum April 12, 2007

Posted by Muhammad in ajforum07, Al Jazeera, Media Forum.
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Lawrence Lessig started out by covering the advertising currently aired regarding the current US Presidential Race where the democrats were using Apple’s famous 1984 ad to make a point.
He then went on to talk about “Democratising media” and how what’s currently happening in the world is an emergence of Broadcast democracy, Blog democracy and a Bottom Up democracy. Using media to say things differently, making us remember our ideals.

Creating a Read-Write(RW) culture, where people participate in the creation and re-creation of their culture instead of a Read Only(RO) culture, where culture was consumed but the consumer did not create… and hence, creativity was displaced.

The 20th century was the gateway to the RO culture and the RO democracy which gave the “Image of the quiet” masses listening to the message of the Big Brother. In the 21st Century moving from RO to RW and Blogs are on the leading edge of what we should look at as RW culture.

There are, however, three threats to this form of speech (1) Is it any good? (2) Does it help? (3) Is it “Truth” that it speaks to power? Truth and Fairness are not becoming a part of the new culture of media – Internet. Truth, fairness and accuracy are lost in this democratised media.

IP Wars, Copyright wars – corporations fighting against new forms of media and technology to stop piracy. The “Terrorists” in this war are basically the children who use this new technology. “Piracy” is the term used when they want to stop the use of shows without the consent of the creator. The effect of stopping this media is a form of censorship.

The technology can’t scan and see if the content is used fairly… therefore “fair use” gets thrown out the window as well. An example… Greenwald was making a movie in 2004 called “The Whole Truth about the Iraq War” where he required the use of a one minute clip about the Presidents reasons to go to war. ( About one minute in total) and NBC said no because it was “Not very flattering to the president”.

Networks want to keep control over their content. Slow changes in the structure of the internet pushed by government and commerce. Most innovative inventions and creations are done by kids and non-Americans! (Google, Hotmail, etc.)

We need to reject both extremes – between perfect control and anarchy. The ultimate test of the ideal “freedom of speech” is that your perspective is allowed in my country (America). You (addressing Al Jazeera) need to be better at embracing these ideals than we are. Provide some free content for commercial and non-commercial use – spread the culture. Right now we have RW culture, RW politics, RW democracy. These aspects can be lost again… and we should fear this reversion because RW culture is not in the interest of those in power.

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Al-Jazeera – The New Media Era April 11, 2007

Posted by Muhammad in ajforum07, Al Jazeera, Media Forum.
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Al Jazeera had a stand at their 3rd Annual Media forum which they called Al Jazeera New Era. They even gave away those cool coffee mug flasks with the logo on it… anyway… the point of it was to show the vast advances and possibilities available for Citizen Journalism.

They were interviewing the speakers at the conference via a Nokia N91 cell phone and a minute later the video interview was already up on Youtube. The same was done using Flickr. Another cool bit of technology they had going was video on Cellphones, in which the interview was conducted and as soon as it was completed an MMS was sent out to whoever had the pre-setup phones available and all you had to do was click the link in the MMS, and the interview started playing direct on the mobile phone.

I was blown away. Even Lawrence Lessig was blown away, wanting to know more about the technology and how it will be implemented.

The main aim of this was to highlight the possibility and also take advantage of it. Delivering Al-Jazeera’s already popular content to as many platforms as possible. This innovative way of spreading news and information is excellent for overstepping the boundaries put up by those who only aim to commercially benefit from content. It will allow Al-Jazeera to step over continental boundaries and broadcast itself to whoever wants to know, wants to listen, wants to see the opinion and the other opinion.

Flickr Photo’s

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Mainstream Journalism and the Role of the Journalist. April 10, 2007

Posted by Muhammad in ajforum07, Al Jazeera, Media Forum.
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Q&A Session on Parachute Journalism vs. Journalism of Depth at Al Jazeera’s 3rd Annual Media Forum

Things highlighted during the Q&A session with the panel was that is isn’t possible to do in-depth journalism on critical issues, especially if you’re part of a mainstream news organisation.  The hope lies in independant media such as Democracy Now and Indy Media for this to succeed.  Blogs are also an essential tool in conducting in-depth journalism.

It was agree that the role of reporter has nothing to do with the Western vs. Arab Media debate.  Everyone makes mistakes, but in the end it depends on the reporter having a real sense of being fair and balanced.

Should reporters report what is actually happening or try and tailor the reporting to give the audience what they want?  This was seen as a big issue and the example of the Darfur conflict was given where reporters would go in-depth into stories which serve the official account of what was going on and did not delve into issues which were equally important but did not serve the official account.

Is there such a thing as objective Journalism?  The unanimous answer was “no”.  With Investigative journalism you end up reporting  situations according to your point of view and your own values.  To counter this, journalists need to put their allegiance to something greater than their own valuesin order to report the truth of situations without tainting it.  In the current context, humanitarian aspects of rights and freedom need to be communicated to different audiences according to their understanding of the world.

The idea of journalistic neutrality is paper thin if you look at the current situation with so many journalists being attacked, kidnapped or killed.  Those who control the wars will undoubtedly try and control the media.  They need to win the hearts and minds of the people first, and so achieving this ideal of journalistic neutrality will get harder and harder.

David Marash pointed out that sometimes there is a lack of time (on TV) and space (In Print) in order to really report in-depth into various stories.  Other panelists disagreed with him pointing out that if you look at US television, you can watch for an hour and see only rubbish whereas you can watch a journalistic program for a minute and get to the truth.  Pictures can also speak a thousand words.  There is no easy answer for this though since news organistations are in the business of news and what is being alluded to is the balance between Quality and Quantity.  Jounalists have a responsibility to deliver this quality. and must ensure to maintain a balance.

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Al Jazeera Forum: Parachute Journalism vs. Journalism of Depth April 5, 2007

Posted by Muhammad in ajforum07, Al Jazeera, Media Forum.
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Rageh Omaar, presenter of the Alj-Jazeera English program “Witness”, moderated this particular paneland the panelsists included Martine Bell (A BBC reporter), Dahr Jamail(independent reporter from within Iraq), Samir Aita (editor of Arabic verison of Le Monde Diplomatique) and Abdul Wahab Al-Badrahan (Editor-elect of the Al-Jazeera Newspaper.

Rageh had begun to put the discussion into context by mentioning that the people in this region don’t only read nad watch the news, they live here.  Hence, we must not only provide the news of the region but also respect the context and give an understanding of the region and the societies we report from.

Martin Bell considers himself an “unrepentant parachutist” and said that most journlists find themselves reporting in countries different from their own. And with this experience, learn quickly to sympathise with the people in that region and distrusting the government and politicians.  He also called for an end to the inauthenticity of journalism where we see certain journalists reporting “from the rooftops and not from among the people”. 

Being a reporter for the BBC for decades, he did mention that today’s times are far more dangerous for reporters and journalists than they were in the 1940’s.  Security is not guaranteed, Rules of engagement in war are not respected and do not provide any real protection for journalists; Al-Jazeera knows this better than other news organisations (referring to the amount of journalists for Al-Jazeera Killed, captured and jailed since it’s inception).  Journalists have two allegiances only, one to their audience and the other to the Truth.

Lack of journalistic independence was tagged as a big problem in the Middle East and the panel did flag this as an obstacle to delivering the Truth and mentioned that for journalists reporting from this region, it would be a very big step, if they make a sustained effort to maintain neutrality.

Samir Aita highlighted two issues facing journalists: (1) Capturing the reality by making sure the geopolitical, sociological, socio-economic ,etc. aspects of the story they are reporting are covered adequately and fairly. (2) Reporting the reality, making sure to maintain objectivity and express it clearly and truthfully.  He also said that apart from investigative journalists you also need researchers who “understand the realities and the goings-on on the ground.”

Abdul Wahab Al Badrahan said that parachute journalism is a product of regimes and governments and we see this with the US’s increased involvement in the Middle East.  The United States is following the lead of Arab Governments and producing misleading information on the war and leaving out certain truths and facts, an exmaple is that of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay where we report on these places but do not realy know what is going on there.  He highlighted the importance of Bloggers here, as they portray the reality of the situations from the ground.

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Western Media Coverage on the Middle East: Seymour Hersh April 5, 2007

Posted by Muhammad in ajforum07, Al Jazeera, Media Forum.
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Disclaimer: Please note the below are not the exact words, but are paraphrased and the main points the speaker wanted to make are made clear.

Q: In terms of how the Western Media covers the Middle-East, is it honest?

A: No! Ofcourse it isn’t.

Q: How do we get rid of this huge discrepancy between Western and Eastern Media?

A: It won’t happen any time soon, you are always going to have the racism, misguided information, sexism and xenophobia present in the media and the government isn’t going to budge.  It’s the way the world is, this is our reality.  We can’t expect a miracle to happen and the West and East will suddenly understand each other, you’re talking about a Havana which won’t come in our lifetime.

Although we are seeing some progress, for the first time Americans are coming to terms with waht’s happening in the Middle East and Iraq and we can see the results in the polls.  Another move toward progress will be to see al Jazeera inthe United States, this will come eventually, it will take time, but it will break through.

Q: From reading your reports, most of the sources you cite are American sources, does this not taint the stories you report on the Middle East?

A: I do deal with people in the countries on which I report, but most of the time it is hard to get their names or find out who they are.  Abu Ghraib, for example, is only the tip of a very big problem in Iraq.  What I report on the situation is from sources in the Middle East and even though I get published in the States, my work gets read more in the Middle East than it does in the United States.  People in the Middle East trust me with information because they know I can take it and make it better.  But, you’re right, un-named officials are a harder sell then sources that are willing to come on record and another aspect is the fact htat I am inclined to use American sources because that is where I am based.

Q (by Ethan Zuckerman from Global Voices): In light of the current situation of bloggers in Egypt and the arrest of Karim Suleman, will we see Journalists becoming advocates of the rights of citizen journalists and independant media on the net?

A: Once again, it’s the point of journalists being bitchy to each other.  If you assume a journalist will recognise another journalist who does exactly what he does, but better.  Egyptian bloggers are doing a good job of questioning their government.  Blogging is messy, but it will take tiem to get recognition.  It’s new and it’s good at heart.

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