A dozen participants recently attended a three-day training course in Doha on how to cover sensitive topics such as prostitution, migrant workers’ rights and street children in Arab societies.
“Media is expected to cover all social matters” said Ijhlass El Kadi, journalist and media trainer, discussing what kind of impact Arab media could have on shaping public opinion on topics such as people with special needs and women’s condition.
Children in the Arab press
The first day was dedicated to covering children-related issues. El Kadi stressed that “in the Arab world, every country has got their own background to tackle this theme. In some conservative countries, it is impossible to talk about harassment or sexual abuse while other countries have made a huge improvement on these matters.”
El Kadi also spoke of violent messages conveyed in the Arab media that can have a severe psychological impact on children's minds. Sometimes children are unable to make a distinction between what is real and what is virtual.
She stressed the need for implementing a strategy based on the knowledge and analysis of sociologists and media experts to solve such matters.
Should disabled people be kept away from the media?
According to El Kadi, "people with disabilities are not adequately represented in the Arab media. But they represent a significant audience share that our media pays no attention to."
El Kadi says it is imperative to increase media coverage of issues which particularly affect people with disabilities and their families in order to be better integrated into the society. It should also give a positive image of these people and avoid negative stereotypes.
Image, role and women’s rights in the Arab media
The participants all agreed that the Arab media does not reflect the diversity of the lives of Arab women and their contribution to the society.
El Kadi, who supports this view, stressed that Arab women are often referred to as an object of consumption. She called on the Arab media to support women’s fight against marginalisation and against all forms of discrimination.
She recommended creating a network that specialises on covering issues related to Arab women, and stressed the need to enable women journalists to freely express their views in all areas, including those relating to gender equality.
El Kadi also argued that new ethical rules should be introduced to ensure fair and balanced coverage and to protect human dignity. Reaching these goals relies on close collaboration between these groups of people (children, people with special needs, and women), and organisations that represent them in the media.