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Sanssouci Colloquium
Media Prize
Youth Media Workshop
Offshoot Workshop
Background Notes
Working Sessions

This session used a series of video clips designed to illustrate how the same events are often reported in radically different ways in Europe and in the Middle East. But the clips also showed the extent to which reporting was frequently adjusted for different audiences within the same cultural and geographic sphere. Thus in many ways journalism faced similar challenges, irrespective of geography and culture.

The video was a collaborative effort, presented by Bridget Kendall, BBC’s Diplomatic Correspondent, and Jasim Al-Azzawi, Host of ‘Inside Iraq’ at Al Jazeera English, who had both been involved in the choice of subject and pictures.
It opened with clips of the controversial publication of Danish cartoons satirising Mohammed. It showed radical different interpretations of Muslim reactions. European TV used images of violent street protests as evidence of Arab extremism, while Arab coverage focussed on peaceful protest in justified defence of Islamic faith. Moreover Europe saw the cartoon issue as a test of free speech. In sharp contrast, the Arab world saw it as an insult to Islam.
The second clip showed Arab media portraying the US intervention in Iraq. In handling the subsequent climate of violence in Iraq, Arab media differed in their interpretation. Some portrayed the insurgency as resistance; others as terrorism.
The third clip used last year’s Lebanon war to ask how far limitations on reporting affected coverage and the interpretation of events. They showed how British TV screens had displayed radically different versions of the war. One channel had on-site reports from Lebanon villages under attack and linked this to analysis of the war’s impact on Lebanon. Another channel was content to have a reporter who was embedded with Israeli forces and constrained in his coverage by the limited material available to him.
The next clip illustrated how even in the age of multinational TV channels, politically sensitive documentaries were tailored for different audiences. A UK-made series on Arab-Israel relations, Fifty Years of War had to be subtly adjusted to suit its three markets – audiences in UK, US and Arab countries. The opening sequences were reordered for each version. Additionally, the title of the series was altered for its showing in the Arab world. There it became Fifty Years of Conflict.

Finally the working session turned to internet blogging and its impact on news and current affairs coverage of established TV channels. Websites such as YouTube often succeeded in capturing incidents well ahead of scheduled TV programs. These websites had also emerged as a challenge to censorship, including self-censorship exercised by media organisations.


Scene Setting: Portraying 'the other'
within and without

Europe's and Arab World Media:
Reporting the 'other' at home and abroad