LAU gathers journalists for discussion on recent Arab uprisings
A panel held in Washington, D.C. discussed the ramifications of the wave of popular protests in the region, and the role of traditional and new media in it.
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“Is this going to be a revolution like 1989 or like 1848?”
Jackson Diehl, The Washington Post’s deputy editorial director, posed this rhetorical question to a rapt audience in Washington, D.C., to compare and contrast the recent wave of popular upheavals in the Arab world with the largely successful anti-Soviet protests that swept across Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, and the mostly unsuccessful popular uprisings that started in France and spread through Europe in the mid-19th century.
“It’s too early for us to tell,” Diehl said, answering his own question.
Diehl was one of three journalists, together with Al-Jazeera’s Zeina Awad and Max Fisher from The Atlantic, assembled by LAU on March 24 in the U.S. capital to discuss the unprecedented uprisings that have spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
The LAU panel, held in conjunction with the LAU Board of Trustees’ meeting in Washington, D.C., was moderated by Dr. Graeme Bannerman, LAU’s representative in the U.S. capital and a highly respected commentator on Middle Eastern affairs.
For one hour, the journalists and Bannerman engaged in a spirited and engaging discussion about what has happened and what they expect to happen in the region going forward.
Each panelist also addressed the role that the media has played in the uprisings — both traditional and new media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
After a brief introduction by Dr. Charles Elachi, BOT chairman, Bannerman laid out the important role that each media outlet represented on the panel has played in its coverage of the Middle East in recent years.
He noted that The Washington Post’s editorial page has been a strong supporter of U.S. intervention in the region, while The Atlantic has been a more thoughtful arbiter of events.
Bannerman also pointed out the unparalleled role that Al-Jazeera has played in providing the people of the world with an unvarnished view of events on the ground.
After Bannerman’s introduction, the three panelists presented their own thoughts about the uprisings, their meaning, and potential future developments.
While Diehl expressed his enthusiasm about the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, he recognized the challenges being faced in Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.
But he said he remains cautiously optimistic about the future of the region.
Fisher focused his remarks on the role that traditional and new media have played in the uprisings.
He also pointed out the proclivity of the American news media to paint the Middle East in black and white colors without taking the time to dig deeper.
Awad, who is of Lebanese descent and spoke of the great pride she takes in institutions like LAU, said her network, Al-Jazeera, has largely become ingrained in the growing revolution.
She added: “This is the first time in our history that Arabs are listening to each other instead of being told what to do by their governments.”
The panel then took questions from the audience, which was made up of LAU BOT members, alumni, staff and friends.
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