Naila Hamdy, TBS Senior Contributing Editor
Annual AUSACE Conference, 18-21 November 2004, Cairo
and fortifying existing ones through co-operation and understanding
between the US and the Arab World's communication experts is
the best way to bridge any gaps created by the tragic events
of 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This
was the consensus among the eighty-eight academics, students
and media professionals who attended the ninth annual Arab-U.S.
Association for Communication Educators (AUSACE) conference
held in Cairo from November 18 to 21, 2004.
The theme of the
conference, an annual event consisting of speeches, discussions,
workshops, and research presentations, was "Media and Civic
Discourse: Citizenship and Democracy." Presentations at
the conference covered several areas in both English and Arabic,
including topics such as media democracy, bureaucracy and citizenship,
women, media and peace, and media ethics.
The keynote address
on "Media Reform in the Middle East" was delivered
by Hussein Y. Amin, Chair of the Department of Journalism and
Mass Communication at the American University in Cairo. Amin
said that despite evidence that media in the Middle East is
still trying to deal with handicaps resulting from strong ties
to the political system, worn economic models, centralized media
structures, and inferior performance, they do have a chance
of competing in this era of transnational and global media.
He pointed out, however, that this would require steady progress
in decentralization, privatization, liberalization, modernization,
and democratization. Amin also said that unless governments
in the Middle East are prepared to take the necessary measures,
their media will soon be sidelined and their historical dominance
of the region will come to an end.
Calling upon countries
of the Middle East, Amin asked that governments act now to implement
comprehensive media reforms that will change their media from
the old, static, authoritarian model to a new, dynamic, libertarian
media system that will help the region's media compete on an
Finally, Amin concluded
that by setting strategies and goals for better media, strong
and responsible media systems can be built, able to meet the
future challenge and capitalize on opportunities for future
Addressing the participants
during the opening ceremony were Amr Mortagy, dean of Business,
Economics and Communication at the American University in Cairo,
Leonard Teel, director of the Center for International Media
Education at Georgia State University, Ibrahim Saleh, conference
coordinator at the American University in Cairo, and Mohamed
Selim from the Graduate Students Association at The American
University in Cairo. All offered words of inspiration and encouragement.
Panel sessions covered
a wide rang of topics. They also were lively, animated, and
typically followed by intense debate during the question and
answer sessions that followed.
Coverage of the war
in Iraq and other conflicts in the region was discussed extensively
during the conference. One of the panels, moderated by Richard
Welch from Mercyhurst College, was devoted to debating different
interpretations of the various types of coverage. Panelists
included Wayne Hunt from Mount Allison University, Canada, who
focused on the vocabulary of terrorism in his paper "Canadian
media and creation of a Canada corps" while Jack Barwind
and Philip Cass from the College of Communication and Media
Sciences, Zayed University, offered a comparative analysis of
Arab and American media framing of Middle East issues. Ibrahim
Saleh from the American University in Cairo spoke of "Islamophobia"
in coverage of war and terrorism in the post 9/11 world. Safaa
Kanj of Agence France Presse and Ralph Berenger of the American
University in Cairo presented the results of an ethnographic
study of how AFP editors and reporters covered the second Intifada
for different audiences. Haneen Zogby, of the Media Center for
Arab Palestinians in Israel, presented her study of how and
why media coverage of a nation's conflict was successful in
ignoring international obligations.
Other panelists chose
to look at the media's performance after conflicts. Ennam Abdelghanie
from Hokkaido University, Japan, focused on Al Jazeera's representation
of the issue of democracy in post-war Iraq, while Mary Lou Beall
of Mercer University picked the provisional Iraqi constitution
as the focal point of her study.
Several papers presented
throughout the conference dealt with new media technologies
and their impact on societies. Shafiqur Rahman and Jyotika Ramaprasad
from Southern Illinois University compared the coverage of the
Iraq crisis in The New York Times with the paper's online version
and that of Yahoo news. Ralph Berenger of the American University
in Cairo offered a study of how political will can close digital
divides, focusing on how the information and communications
revolution has caught governments in the gap between what they
can readily provide by way of information policies while securing
their sovereignty and security, and their citizen's hunger for
more information, more access, and more freedom to benefit from
the global communications explosion. Meanwhile, Lamees el Baghdady
from the American University in Cairo presented a study of the
impact of mobile phone cameras on Arab society, and Yousef Alfailakawi
of Kuwait University looked at the impact of mobile phone Short
Message Services (SMS) on Kuwaiti society. Samar Shunnar from
Al Najah University, Palestine, studied the role of the Palestinian
website in promoting the democratic process, while Lamya Tawfik
of Modern Sciences and Arts University presented a study on
the personal home pages of Arab youth in conflict zones, focusing
on how young people in Algeria, Iraq, Palestine, Sudan, and
Lebanon use this new medium to communicate more freely. Safran
Almagati and Mohamed Algarni from Umm al-Qura University, Saudi
Arabia, spoke about the role of new media in increasing political
awareness amongst Saudis.
Another session dealt
with media, news, and entertainment. Amongst the panelists was
Wayne Wanta from the University of Missouri who presented a
study of Fox News viewers. Wanta brought to the attention of
listeners how "Foxification" is taking place in television
news and how Fox News audience members differ from other news
consumers. On the same panel, Rasha Abdullah of the American
University in Cairo shed light on barriers to news and entertainment
production in Egypt. She proposed new approaches for Egyptian
media leadership. Zulkiple bid Abd Ghani from the National University
of Malaysia also participated in this panel with a study of
entertainment in Muslim media.
Amongst the distinguished
panelists were Hanzada Fikry from the American University in
Cairo, who presented a study of a popular talk show Al-Qahira
Al-Youm or "Cairo Today," and Iman Mahrafa of the
International Academy for Media Science, who gave a presentation
on the Egyptian cinema's portrayal of terrorism. Assya Yassin
from Modern Science and Arts University also spoke, proposing
a human rights-based model for developing public information
and communication policies in Egypt and Mahitab Ezz el Din,
Modern Science and Arts University with a study of the impact
of transnational television networks on local news conception.
Salma Youssef from
6th of October University analyzed the development of photojournalism
as a communication tool in the electronic press, while Jyotika
Ramapradad of Southern Illinois University and Naila Hamdy from
the American University in Cairo presented their findings from
a study of the functions of Egyptian journalists, looking at
their perceived importance as compared to their actual performance.
Farid Abu Daheer of Al Najah University in Palestine looked
at the development of mass media and its impact on press freedom
and Azza Abdel Azeem from United Arab Emirates University studied
the impact of Arab music satellite stations on the ethics of
The theme of Arab
women in the media was a subject that dominated several panel
discussions and the ensuing audience questions, indicating an
increased interest in the status of women in the media field.
participants focused solely on women-related studies, including
Ali Al Hail, currently a consultant to the Qatar Radio and Television
Corporation, whose study dealt with the role of women in the
Gulf region today. His presentation emphasized women's entrance
into the traditionally male-dominated area of business and the
way in which the Arab mass media neglect business women. Henrietta
Aswad from Georgia State University and Marwa Al-Mut'afy from
the International Academy for Media Science both presented papers
dealing with women in Arab mediascapes. Aswad's study focused
specifically on the issues of gender equality and women's empowerment,
examining the role of women in Arab media during the current
reform era, while looking at the cultural and political obstacles
that may be contributing to women's inertia in the media world.
Her study offered a textual analysis that also highlighted the
responsibilities that women bear for their own disempowerment
and searched for how the Western concept of "equality and
empowerment" is affecting women's efforts in Arab patriarchal
societies. In addition, American University in Cairo graduate
students Dalia el Nimr and Rasha Allam chose to look at the
image of women in Arab media, with El Nimr's study narrowing
in on female singers on Arabic music video clips and the mode
in which they are depicted, while Allam gave a general overview
of women's representation in media across the region and discussed
the introduction and development of a pan-Arab media watch project.
Berlant Kabeel, a
doctoral student at Cairo University, also presented a study
conducted in Egypt highlighting the challenges and barriers
faced by young female professionals who work in the field of
television production and who are trying to pursue a successful
media career. Meanwhile professional panel members Sonia Dabbous
of Akhbar Al Yom, Hisham Kassem of Al-Masry Al-Youm, and Mirette
Mabrouk of Business Today engaged the audience in a heated debate
about women and their advancement in the media industry.
The conference also
drew on the work of media experts from the professional community,
resulting in the participation of many panelists, including
Dahem El Khatani and Sahar Talat of ARD television, David Applefield,
William Wallis, and Mona Zaki from the Financial Times, Bayan
Tall of Jordan TV and Radio, and Hosny Abdel Wahab from the
Middle East News Agency, Egypt.
Since media education
is still the main concern of the majority of participants, a
panel was dedicated to media education in various Arab countries.
Amin discussed the case of media education in Egypt, while Safran
Almagati from Umm Al-Qura University focused on media education
in Saudi Arabia and Abdelghani Jbara from the Arab Institute
for Studies and Research analyzed media education in Morocco,
while Mahmound Taraby of Lebanese University examined the status
of media education in Lebanon. Once again, other participants
and audience members had the opportunity to share some of the
experiences, challenges, and frustrations media education is
encountering in the region.
at the conference included Ramez Malouf from the Lebanese American
University, Hamdy Hassan from Misr International University,
Carolyn Codamo from Georgia State University, Ali Agwa from
Modern Arts and Science Univeristy, Kenneth Starck from Zayed
University, Hassan Mekawy from the International Academy for
Media Science, Ed Freedman from Zayed University, and Maggie
Halawani of Cairo University.
This year AUSACE
has introduced several excellence awards for the first time.
Funded by a grant from the US State Department, these awards
were given to selected winners. Three awards were given to the
best faculty papers. First place was won by Ahmed el Godi from
Modern Arts and Science University for his work on mass media
and system control. The second place prize went to Nagwa el
Naggar from Misr International University for her study of the
role of communication in youth's participation in civil society
activities. Third place went to Doaa Darwish from the American
University in Cairo for her study of Egypt's radio development
and current trends.
In another category
of prizes, student awards, Amna Abdel Mohsen, Abdel Mohsen Al
Ajeel, and Dalal A Waheeb from Kuwait University won first place
for their work on the impact of airplane audio-visual media
on passengers. Megan Beall from Georgia State University received
second place for her outstanding work on the Arab-Israeli War
of 1948 as covered by US and Arab media, while Mohamed Selim
from the American University in Cairo received third place for
his analysis of the Internet in Egypt, focusing on prospects,
challenges, and the public's choices.
Two awards were also
given to the best journalistic endeavors in the region. Najia
Houssari of Al Hayat newspaper, Lebanon, whose investigative
reports led to the release of a wrongly accused woman and a
change in Lebanese law, received the award for 2003. Hisham
Kasem, publisher of A- Masry Al-Youm in Egypt and former publisher
of the Cairo Times won an award for his remarkable efforts in
the field of journalism, which recently culminated in the launching
of a new and independent daily newspaper.
As part of the same
grant, AUSACE will continue to award more scholarships to send
talented young students to media internships in the US. Through
the program, students from Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine,
Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan will be able to
work in media outlets and study in US universities.
Several interns from
last years selection joined the conference with a panel entitled
"Bridging Cultures: The AUSACE Internship Project,"
moderated by Leonard Teel from Georgia State University. Addressing
a large audience, Richard Welch of Mercyhurst College, Mahmoud
Taraby of Lebanese University, Ahmed Hidass from the Institut
Superieur d'Information et de la Communication in Morocco were
joined by students Heba Agamay and Roba Khorshid from the American
University in Cairo, who shared their experiences as media interns.
were made at the closing session of the conference, including
the encouragement of media professionals to participate in an
electronic chat through the AUSACE site in order to discuss
media education and its problems, photojournalism, women's media
images, images of Islam and Arabs in the US media, and images
of the US in Arab media. Recommendations also included the promotion
of environmental journalism and media studies in the region.
In addition, participants encouraged studies of women in the
media and barriers to their success, as well as to highlight
research in media reform in all areas.
included the addition of an online monograph to deal with the
problems and challenges faced by Middle East media. Participants
also recommended the introduction of teaching new media and
the training involved in this.
Finally, due to its
great success, the continuation of student and faculty exchanges
AUSACE also has successfully
launched The Journal of Middle East Media (JMEM), a journal
dedicated to research on media in the Middle East. The AUSACE
board of directors announced the confirmation of Mohamed el
Nawawy of Georgia State University as the journal's senior editor
with sub-editors in both the US and the Arab world.
The Board also announced
the appointment of Douglas Boyd of the University of Kentucky
as the vice president of AUSACE beginning June 1, 2005, when
Mahmoud Tarabay of the Lebanese University will become president.
The Tenth annual
AUSACE conference will be hosted in Kuwait on November 17- 21,
2005, with the sponsorship of Kuwait University and the Center
for International Media Education (CIME) at Georgia State University.
The following conference will be held in Morocco in 2006 and
the US in 2007.