Speeches to the
Keynote speeches were
made at the opening session of the Arab Media Summit in Dubai, October 7, 2003,
by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai and minister of
defense of the United Arab Emirates, by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, by
UAE information minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and by Chris Cramer,
managing director of CNN International. TBS reproduces here the remarks of the
by His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be with
you today, and to share with you my evaluation of the role of the Arab media in
covering the recent conflict in Iraq.
First, though, let me
pay tribute to those media personnel who died in that conflict.
Let me say, simply, that
they died doing their duty, and they died honorably. It is easy - indeed sometimes
convenient - for many outside the media to overlook the fact that the job often
involves placing one's life on the line in order to record the news.
Your colleagues who died,
as well as those who were wounded, displayed consummate professionalism, and many
made the ultimate sacrifice. I extend my sincere condolences to their families,
their colleagues and their organizations. I hope that they may enjoy the mercy
of Almighty God. They are a credit to your profession.
In my remarks today, I
shall concentrate NOT on what the Arab media has achieved in positive terms, and
has been clearly felt by Arab audiences all over the world and which has already
been commented on by the Western media. Indeed, they sometimes seemed jealous.
Instead, I shall focus
my remarks on what the Arab media has NOT been able to achieve and on negative
aspects, with the objective of suggesting ways in which mistakes can be corrected
and loopholes closed in the future.
Being fully frank, we
can state, simply, that before the war, the Arab media failed to expose the true
nature of the Iraqi regime. We all know that it was based on terrorism and oppression,
and that it had waged more than one war against its neighbors, and that it had
occupied a neighboring country and had tried to erase that country from the political
Yet the Arab media forgot,
or appeared to forget all that, and failed to explain it to its audiences. Over
and above that, the Arab media dealt with the regime as if it were safe and sound,
and went along with its efforts to portray the impending conflict only as a war
between Western powers and an Arab regime that was ready to confront and to defy
them in the name of Arab dignity and solidarity.
Let me ask this: why did
the Arab media not pay some attention to the way in which the Iraqi Government
dealt over the years from the early 1990s with its crisis in relations with the
United Nations in terms of that body's resolutions? Did our media not ignore and
overlook the sufferings of the Iraqi people, and the difficult conditions under
which they lived?
By so doing, the Arab
media distanced itself from reality, and, thereby, contributed to the misleading
of public opinion by providing unrealistic impressions of the possible results
of the looming conflict, even though the outcome of that conflict was inevitable.
Was there not the option
of giving some objective Arab military analysts the opportunity of explaining
that the existing balance of power made the defeat of the Iraqi armed forces inevitable?
Had our media taken up
this option, then we would not have witnessed the state of depression and despair
that arose in the area after the conflict.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are engaging in self-criticism.
This means that we should talk frankly, even it that is sometimes painful.
Our Arab media, especially
the satellite stations, found themselves once the crisis began to escalate to
be in the grip of the Iraqi regime. This managed, in effect, to make them become
mouthpieces for what the Iraqis said.
We recognize that it was
not possible for the media representatives to work in or to stay in Iraq without
the approval of the Iraqi Government, and we recognize also that this required
those representatives to handle the situation carefully.
But was there no place
for objectivity, or for a realistic approach, in their newsrooms, whereby a distinction
could be made, one way or another, between reality and fiction, or between propaganda
and presenting the other point of view?
Was it impossible for
the Arab media to scrutinize what was being said and to discuss it in depth, so
as to ensure that the audience was immunized against being misled by misinformation
and fiction? Had this happened, then the audience would not have been swayed by
impractical and unrealistic ideas.
We now see, of course,
that matters are becoming even worse for the Arab media, with a similar situation
now emerging as a result of the restrictions recently imposed on news reporting
from Iraq. These have been the subjects of criticism both in the Arab media and
internationally, because they may result in serious consequences for the freedom
of the press, something we consider to be a basic principle that should be upheld
at all times.
At the same time, however,
we should acknowledge that there is a thin line - and one which is sometimes difficult
to discern or to draw - between this freedom of the press to report and the need
to have a media which is responsible, between the right to cover important events
and the instigation of violence. We believe that the press should have the freedom
to report on events, but it is also important that such reporting should not land
the media in a situation where they are trapped into propagation of violence through
an excessive concentration on such events irrespective of our assessment of their
nature and effectiveness.
Iraq today has many, many
issues that are worthy of attention from our Arab media. Our coverage should not
be confined to incidents that occur from time to time.
We believe that the lack
of objectivity and of a balanced approach, such as would involve the presentation
of facts without coloring them with the personal evaluation of the media personnel
concerned, was not, however, restricted simply to coverage of the Iraqi side of
the recent conflict.
Thus the Arab journalists
embedded with the coalition forces suffered from a lack of objectivity and balance
because they were able to report only the information they were given, and because
their movements were restricted. This deprived them from obtaining a full and
As one of the prominent
Western reporters noted a few weeks ago, she, too, had to practice self-censorship,
while her station had felt intimidated both by the US Administration and by competitors.
Arab journalists who were
embedded were, though in an even worse position, because they were viewed by their
hosts as lacking in the professionalism of western journalists, and this made
their job even more difficult.
Still, though let me raise
the question: Was there nobody in the newsrooms who was capable of obtaining a
better balance of coverage that would enable them to present the news in a more
balanced and objective context?
- full information - that will enable an audience to distinguish between facts
and opinions is one of the well-known basic requisites of media ethics. But let
us look at what happened in the Arab media before the war began.
Arab Governments in general,
and the Arab regional organization, ignored the facts and began, instead, to issue
misleading statements that floated around in a way that bore no relation to reality.
These statements found their way, of course, to the Arab media, and were published
or broadcast without scrutiny, evaluation or criticism.
Where were the voices
that should have reported on the basic ingredients of the situation: the imbalance
of power, the nature of the Iraqi regime, the imminent danger of war and on its
There was a single voice
that WAS raised, to warn against the anticipated and inevitable destruction of
Iraq as a country, society and people, and which called on the Iraqi president
to step down, through an Arab initiative to be coordinated with the Secretary
General of the United Nations. Yet that lonely voice was suppressed by the Arab
regional system, and the Arab media went along with that suppression, even as
destruction was imminent.
We are not here today
to discuss the way the Arab countries dealt with the war and its repercussions
- that is THEIR job. They should learn the appropriate lessons.
It is our duty in the
Arab media, however, to engage in self-criticism of our performance and to draw
the right conclusions. Nothing should prevent us from doing that, so that we can
advance to an Arab media that informs, but does not deceive, that explains, but
does not distort.
We say this here, because
we feel that our media is still, to a large extent, using the same old terminology
to describe things, as if what happened was merely an event. In fact, what happened
was a failure of a regime and of a state and of a series of concepts and ideas.
Following on from these
remarks, and engaging in some further self-criticism, let me refer to what appears
to be a trend that is increasingly noticeable on our Arab satellite channels.
This is the delivery of programs of a type that I would entitle: "What the People
Want to Hear." In such programs, the slogan seems to be: "To hell with objectivity,
balance and quiet explanation of viewpoints."
No, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is not the function
We call upon Arab commentators,
writers and program presenters to appraise their own work, and to correct their
approach. Our Arab audience deserves no less - it deserves to know the facts,
to be addressed with a rational and quiet manner, in a language that does not
inflame the emotions, but enlightens the mind, and sheds light on difficulties
and mistakes, thereby helping the audience to see how these can be addressed and
corrected. And this has to be done without slipping into indoctrination.
Furthermore, I note that
there is a tendency among some Arab analysts and commentators to generalize, rather
than to be specific. At the same time, they try to put the blame for all of the
catastrophes and mistakes of the Arab world on external factors.
We should acknowledge
our mistakes, so that we can correct them. We should tell the truth to those who
commit errors. We should not be lured on to the easy road of generalizing, taking
one incident or point to say that a whole society or country is responsible for
that single incident. We should accept that our Governments and societies have
weak points, and that THEY are responsible for their failures, as well as their
If we do that, then our
media will really contribute to the creation of an enlightened and effective public
Only through such a qualitative
leap can the Arab media satisfy the needs of our people for accurate information.
And this can be achieved only by you.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is time for us to face
up to the current situation, with all its mistakes and errors.
I am confident that there
are among you, in this hall and outside it, women and men who are capable of shouldering
this huge task.
by Chris Cramer, managing director, CNN International
Your highnesses, excellencies,
Peace be upon you.
I can't think of a more
appropriate greeting - given what's on in the world.
You know, I don't think
our industry, the media industry, ever before had such a profound influence over
the minds and emotions of the world as it does now.
When I was asked a few
months ago to address you here today my first thoughts were that my good friends
in the Arab media might consider it arrogant and presumptuous in the extreme.
What can a representative
of CNN- and the western media - possibly have to say which would be relevant to
you gathered here?
So some ground rules.
Am I here to lecture you??
Am I here to draw parallels
between what we do at CNN and in the United States? Certainly not.
I'm here-and I'm very
grateful for the opportunity-to speak to you as I hope a trusted peer in this
dynamic and ever changing industry of ours.
It happens that at the
moment I'm managing director of CNN International (so you can blame me for everything
you watch that you think we get wrong !!!!!!)
And recently, I was trying
to explain to my 88-year-old father in Britain what I did for a living. He has
always been curious.
I told him proudly that
I run all the correspondents and bureaus and channels around the world for CNN.
"So do you tell Christiane
Amanpour what to do," he asked.
Have you noticed how
our fathers always ask the question you don't want to be asked??
The answer is of course
- no-one tells Christiane Amanpour what to do .
She is very much her
own person. That's not to say we agree with everything she has to say, but we
do admire her for standing up for her beliefs.
So - at the moment I am
Before that I was with
the BBC for 26 years, man and boy.
And before that in newspapers
for a few years.
So, with your permission,
I would like to talk to you not as a broadcast executive ------ but simply as
a journalist. One who, like many of you, I suspect, has found himself in the eye
of the storm from time to time.
I want to spend a few
minutes talking less about our separate organizations and more about our mutual
Less about the bottom
line and more on editorial integrity (not that profit is unimportant).
I'd like to talk about
our people-our journalists, our staff. Those in the field reporting on the war
in Iraq and it's aftermath, others who ensure that coverage makes it to home base
and everyone else in between.
Let's also talk about
how the events of the last year or two have dramatically changed the way we work.
The way we prepare and the way we survive.
And most importantly, I want to talk not about the things which divide us but
about the things which bring us together.
Understanding that we are all connected, we live in a connected world and therefore
we all bear the same huge responsibility to our viewers and readers.
So let me start with editorial
What does it mean
anyway? Different things to different people I reckon.
I believe that values and beliefs are at the very core of the brand of any news
provider. That's what I was taught during those 26 years at the BBC.
And that's what we subscribe to at CNN. And what many of you practice every day
The CNN brand promise is about journalistic credibility.
The strength of our reporting, the experience of the reporter, the skill of the
cameraman or woman and that of the news editors who handle their output. Every
bit of it adds to our credibility.
What we strive to do is to gain a position of trust with every viewer who comes
to watch us.
And you know that
trust doesn't come easily.
It needs to be earned, grown and then retained. And a reputation as a channel
of record can only be achieved through the standards set by its journalism. Every
day, every week-every month.
Who was it who said that
your reputation arrives on foot - and leaves on horseback? In other words it is
a very fragile thing. Very tenuous. Very precious. And from time to time even
trusted world brands like CNN's need to pause and take stock of what it is. What
it stands for.
I'd like to share with
you what we did at CNN international in those long and frightening weeks and months
before the US-led war against Iraq. As the chances of war seemed inevitable, I
decided to speak to each and every one of our editors, writers, producers and
To the studio directors
and graphic artists. To cameramen and of course correspondents. I reminded them
of their responsibilities as employees of an organization that for 23 years has
aspired to cover the world comprehensively, accurately and fairly.
An organization born of a crazy dream by our founder Ted Turner -I say crazy because
he wanted to cover the world with a single TV news channel available to all.
And his dream is no less sound today as it was more than two decades ago.
So as war approached this past spring I told CNN staff this was going to be the
single greatest crisis they had ever covered. I refused to use the word story.
What has played out in Iraq and in this region is not a story. It's a crisis.
We shouldn't demean it.
I asked CNN staff to drill
very deeply into what was happening in the region To be skeptical at all times-of
politicians, lobby groups and military minds. Skeptical-but never cynical.
I reminded them, though
they hardly needed reminding, that CNN is not a mouthpiece for any government-the
US government, the British government or any other government for that matter.
And I told them that the war was going to be bitterly controversial and unpopular
in many places.
- I asked them to chart
every piece of diplomacy, every piece of anti-war and pro-war debate and protest.
- To talk to people with
unpopular viewpoints. Even unpalatable viewpoints.
That's why you saw as
much coverage of the debate and dissent as was physically and financially possible
for us to provide.
And why-when the war started, as we all feared it would-our anchors and presenters
challenged and tested the assertions of politicians, military pundits, so called
experts. And saw them challenge our own reporters and correspondents covering
Including those 'embedded' with coalition forces-those 600 or so reporters, photographers
and cameramen & women deployed with the US and British forces. And then in Baghdad.
The crisis in Iraq is,
as we all know, very much still with us. It didn't end, as many predicted, after
five or six weeks with the removal from power of Saddam Hussein and his immediate
It will dominate our reporting
for some considerable time to come. And will set new challenges for us all in
the way of resources and financial commitment and dangers for our staff.
It's a particular challenge
for the new emerging Arab broadcast media - many of you represented here today.
And let me salute you
for your courage and commitment in covering this conflict, the one in Afghanistan
and the continuing nightmare in Israel and the Palestinian territories. I believe
the new Arab media have brought a collective voice which is crucial for the people
of this region and for those of us outside the area as well.
One more torch to shine
on the area. Another form of illumination for the millions of Arabic-speaking
viewers around the world.
To be welcomed by all
those among us who believe in a free flow of information. The important news events
in this region demand better coverage-and in a small way we too at CNN have reacted
to this need.
It's why we launched
our Arabic website back in 2002 right here in Dubai-a modest operation, staffed
by dedicated people, but already very successful; 40 percent of the people accessing
CNNarabic.com live in North America.
Also why we launched
a new program on CNN just last week devoted just to the region-Inside the Middle
East"; this program, hosted by Rula Amin, will focus on the economic, social
and cultural affairs of the middle east - go beyond the usual headlines and showcase
the regions' rich cultural heritage and of course the technological developments
taking place daily throughout this often misunderstood region. Uplifting stories,
stories full of hope.
And I'm delighted to be
able to confirm that in a couple of weeks time (October 23-26) you will be able
to watch on CNN Tom Friedman 's quite remarkable new documentary Searching
for the roots of 9/11, which is a remarkable journey into the lives, beliefs
and concerns of Muslim 's and how they perceive America.
It's the type of landmark
documentary that I'm proud to have on CNN.
Part of our job is to
offer a much broader and more comprehensive coverage of the events here.
All of this should remind
us how precious the flow of accurate information is these days. The responsibilities
that all journalists-news broadcasters in particular-have to people around the
world is truly awesome. It's been said that these days the stakes have never been
higher. There are those who believe that the information world changed dramatically
after the tragic events of September 11th in the United States two years ago last
month. Either way, there certainly is a new hunger for international news. A need
to understand the wider world. A realization that the world is connected-we are
all connected-and that the events in one country can have an immediate and dramatic
effect on all of us. Add to September 11th the war in Afghanistan, new upheavals
in the Middle East, dark days in West Africa and, of course, the war in Iraq.
These never ending crises mean that those of us in the news media are constantly
being put to the test. Never has there been a greater need for trusted impartial
news sources. The independence, integrity and diversity of news channels are at
a premium. All of us have a duty, as journalists and to our respective news organizations,
to retain and build upon the trust that we have earned from audiences and readers.
Many of them rely solely
on us for news and timely information and we have a responsibility to deliver
this as accurately and as speedily as possible. (In that order-speed follows accuracy.
Never the other way around. First with the news and wrong with the news does nothing
for our brand integrity.)
I mentioned just a moment
ago that we live today in a very connected society. Information for much -not
all, but much of the world is freely available. We live in the true global village.
Every action can have a reaction. Something here in Dubai can reverberate in New
York, Paris, Hong Kong, Tehran. In a matter of seconds and minutes. Like the spread
of SARS earlier this year, spreading fast and loose as it landed in places around
the world. However, unlike SARS journalism can't be quarantined.
We're all connected in
some way. We may broadcast or write to a different audience or in a different
language in 'different ways'. But in the end we bear the same responsibilities.
Allow me end on this very
Like many of you here today I am a parent keen to raise my own family in a safe
and peaceful world.
Which is why I take this
job as a leader of the world's first 24-hours news channel very seriously.
I think it's absolutely
imperative that we make every effort to place objectivity, truth and integrity
before ratings, circulation, advertising dollars and sensational story telling.
Contrary to what the public
may think, we in the news business can't control the turn of world events, but
we can report the truth behind the stories as they unfold. If by doing that those
in positions of power try and make our world a more tolerant and peaceful place
for all of our children to live in, then we will have done our job. And we can
be proud-very proud indeed.
Thank you for listening.