Arab News panel at AMF examines solutions to Mideast’s image problem

From left: Faisal J. Abbas, editor in chief of Arab News, Mark Donfried, director of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, Hadley Gamble, reporter and anchor for CNBC, and Nathan Tek, US State Department spokesman in the Middle East, at the Arab Media Forum.
Updated 17 May 2017
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Arab News panel at AMF examines solutions to Mideast’s image problem

DUBAI: An Arab News panel discussion held on Tuesday proposed solutions to the Middle East’s image problem in the West, as new research emerged illustrating the severity of the US “knowledge gap” about the region.
The panel, held at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai, detailed the importance of cultural diplomacy, effective government communication and the importance of student exchange programs in boosting awareness.
It was held on the same day as the publication of an Arab News/YouGov survey, which found that 81 percent of Americans are unable to point out the Arab world on a map.
“The Arab Image in the West” discussion on Tuesday featured three international speakers and was moderated by Faisal J. Abbas, editor in chief of Arab News.
Panelist Hadley Gamble, a reporter and anchor for CNBC covering the Middle East, Africa and US politics, pointed to the lack of emphasis on geography in the US school system.
But she said that Americans’ lack of geographical awareness was not limited to the Arab world.
“Americans are going to have the same problem when you’re talking about Portugal, Asia, China, Thailand... This isn’t a just Middle East-centric issue,” she said.
Gamble said the lack of American awareness highlighted by the Arab News/YouGov poll could actually mark an opportunity, because it could allow the region to set its own narrative. “A lack of knowledge can actually work to your advantage,” she said.
Nathan Tek, US State Department spokesman in the Middle East, also spoke on the panel.
He said that the findings of the poll on American awareness about the US were “a challenge” but no reason to despair.
Solutions to addressing the Arab world’s image problem in the West include appointing government spokespeople who are authorized to speak immediately to journalists.
Tek also mentioned the value of longer-term initiatives like exchange programs so that Americans can “experience the Arab world first-hand.”
Tek said that he sometimes sees Arab media outlets misreporting and attacking US foreign policy.
“My response to that is not to get upset, not to boycott channels… The answer is always to engage. The answer is always to go on air, to go in that space,” he told the Arab News panel.
“If you don’t tell your own story, someone else will do it for you, and they won’t do as good a job.”
Fellow panelist Mark Donfried, director of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, pointed to the fact that most Americans do not have passports as being a factor behind the knowledge gap about the region.
But he said it was not too late for the Arab world to build a better image in the West. He pointed to the example of Germany, which he said had a very bad image after World War II, but now enjoys a good global reputation. 
Cultural diplomacy is an important factor in this, Donfried said. 
“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” he told the panel. “The world is realizing the importance and benefits of cultural diplomacy.”
The findings of the Arab News/YouGov poll on “The Arab Image in the US” were published on Tuesday to coincide with the Arab Media Forum. 
The poll, conducted from March 17-21, found that 65 percent of respondents admitted to knowing little about the Arab world, with 30 percent having no interest in understanding the region further.
The “The Arab Image in the US” poll follows a recent partnership between Arab News and YouGov, which was officially announced at the Arab Media Forum. 
The deal will see YouGov conduct regular polls relating to the Middle East and North Africa, which will help shed light on regional sentiment toward international events, as well as producing credible research on international opinion on Arab affairs. Findings will be published in Arab News and online at www.arabnews.com. 


US media in court showdown over White House access

CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta (L) leaves US District Court after a hearing in Washington, DC, on November 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 15 November 2018
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US media in court showdown over White House access

  • CNN’s suit was backed by a broad coalition of media groups including rival Fox News, which is controlled by Trump ally Rupert Murdoch and often draws praise from the president
  • Trump’s administration initially said Acosta was banned for inappropriately touching a White House female intern as he struggled to hold on to a microphone

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s effort to revoke a CNN reporter’s credentials went to court Wednesday, in what media groups said was a matter of press freedom — while the White House argued it had a broad right to restrict access to the US president.
Lawyers for CNN and the White House argued before US District Judge Timothy Kelly, appointed last year by Trump, on the cable news channel’s request for an order reinstating correspondent Jim Acosta’s White House pass.
In an emergency hearing, CNN’s lawyer Ted Boutrous asked the judge for a temporary order allowing Acosta to get his pass back ahead of a full hearing on the matter.
Boutros argued banning Acosta violated the constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of a free press because it was “based on the viewpoint of Mr. Acosta” and not his behavior.
“They don’t like the reporting” of the CNN White House reporter, the lawyer said.
US Justice Department lawyer James Burnham echoed comments filed in a legal brief earlier in the day for the administration, saying that “there is no First Amendment right to access the White House” and that the rationale behind the decision was that Acosta “disrupted” a news conference last week.
Judge Kelly said he would issue his decision at 3:00 p.m. (2000 GMT) Thursday.
CNN’s suit was backed by a broad coalition of media groups including rival Fox News, which is controlled by Trump ally Rupert Murdoch and often draws praise from the president.
Fox said earlier Wednesday the banning of Acosta raises concerns over press freedom.
“Fox News supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter’s press credential,” the news channel’s president Jay Wallace said in a statement, indicating it would join an amicus brief on supporting CNN.
“Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized,” he said.
“While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the president and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”

Others backing the CNN arguments in court included the Associated Press, Bloomberg, First Look Media Works, Gannett, the National Press Club Journalism Institute, NBC News, The New York Times, Politico, Press Freedom Defense Fund, EW Scripps Company, USA Today and The Washington Post.
“Whether the news of the day concerns national security, the economy, or the environment, reporters covering the White House must remain free to ask questions,” the media groups said in a joint statement ahead of the hearing.
“It is imperative that independent journalists have access to the president and his activities, and that journalists are not barred for arbitrary reasons.”
The White House said in its legal filing it has “broad discretion” to restrict media access to the president, disputing the argument that its actions violate the constitution.
“The President and White House possess the same broad discretion to regulate access to the White House for journalists (and other members of the public) that they possess to select which journalists receive interviews, or which journalists they acknowledge at press conferences,” said the brief.
The filing by US Justice Department lawyers argued that “the president could choose never to hold another press briefing again and cancel all press passes, without implicating due process protections.”

The White House brief argued there is no imminent harm to CNN or Acosta because he “remains able to practice his profession and report on the White House” and that CNN “has roughly 50 other employees who retain hard passes and who are more than capable of covering the White House complex on CNN’s behalf.”
Acosta, CNN’s chief White House reporter, had his press pass lifted November 7 after a testy exchange with Trump at a White House news conference.
CNN — part of the WarnerMedia division of AT&T — filed suit on Tuesday.
Trump’s administration initially said Acosta was banned for inappropriately touching a White House female intern as he struggled to hold on to a microphone. The White House cited a video which analysts said had been sped up, giving the appearance that Acosta struck the intern’s arm.
Trump later said other journalists might be barred as well if they were not “respectful.”
Free speech activists have warned the case has important implications, and that public officials should not be able to bar access to journalists if they dislike news coverage.
The White House has dismissed CNN’s complaint as “grandstanding” and vowed to “vigorously defend” against the lawsuit.