Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

World Press Freedom Day and the Arab Spring

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 3rd May, 2011

The Thomson Reuters headquarters in Canary Wharf hosted this year’s World Press Freedom Day event this evening (co-sponsored by UNESCO UK) to mark the dangers and threats to media worldwide, but this time with a difference, as the focus was on events around the Arab Spring, notably in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria. It was particularly good to hear from Shahira Amin, the former Nile TV presenter who resigned from her job at the Egyptian channel in order to join the protestors in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in January. Alanoud Al Sharekh, a Kuwaiti resarcher at the IISS, spoke movingly about the sitution in Bahrain and the former BBC Middle East commentator Magdi Abdelhadi gave some insightful observations about the problems of reporting from Syria (where foreign journalists are currently barred). A common thread was how social networking, new media and citizen journalism have revolutionised the situation across the Middle East and North Africa, but no less important was the recognition that there is a new generation of young people in the region who won’t take the bullshit from their tyrranical leaders any more and who are prepared to stand up and be counted, even if as yet they are unclear about what future they want to see. We live in stirring times, exciting times for a journalist and broadcaster such as myself with a special interest in the region. But also an increasingly dangerous time for journalists, scores of whom have been killed while trying to do their job over the past 12 months, not just in war situations such as Libya but also in criminal environments and areas of social breakdown such as Pakistan, Mexico and the Philippines. Jeremy Browne, the LibDem Foreign Office Minister with special responsibility for human rights, sent an excellent video message to the event underlining the current British government’s commitment to media freedom as a key element in foreign policy — something many of us would like to see more evidence of on the ground!

Link: www.unesco.org.uk

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