Sunday, July 13, 2014

South to South and North and back

Thinking South-to-South was the next big topic of the first day at the GEN Summit in Barcelona and I felt sorry that half the audience had left the room by the end of the sessions. “How much dialogue is there between what we call the political South,” wondered Sami Zeidan, from Al Jazeera, having recently been to South America. Representatives with experience in developing countries had a lot to say.

Wadah Khanfar at the GEN Summit 14
“The world was summarized and centralized in the West. It was our cultural narrative,” stated Wadah Khanfar, President of Al Sharq Forum and former Director General of the Al Jazeera Network. Years ago, when newsrooms looked at a model to follow, “for us in the East, it was London; for others it was the United States or France. Now it isn’t the case,” he sentenced. He also advocated for journalism in depth.  “We need our newsrooms to become think tanks, not technology laboratories,” he added.

Joyce Barnathan, President of the International Center for Journalists, mapped a world of fruitful journalistic development emerging from the South. Among them, the Manual of Digital and Mobile Security (in Spanish) by Knight International Journalism Fellow Jorge Luis Sierra, and ChicasPoderosas, to empower women in newsrooms in Latin America.

“The first session was like a science fiction film,” pointed out Venkatesh Kannaiah. “Now we come to something that only humans can do: pay and take a bribe.” As head of content of non-profit, which records over 26,000 reports in India, he knows. “We get a lot of enquiries saying we want to replicate this website in our country.” Ten countries have their own versions already; Hungary, Greece and Ukraine in Europe among them.

The impact of social media in the Arab World was also discussed. In the Arab spring, “social media made people more aware of human rights violations and made them go out and protest,” told us Arwa Ibrahim, senior journalist from MiddleEastEye, based in London. “But," she added, "in Egypt 65% of people do not use social media.” And in Algeria they only got 3G six months ago, said Mourad Hachid from El Watan.

“We need to reverse the slogan,“ was Al Jazeera’s Yaser Bishr’s conclusion: “Think local, act local.”

Published on the GEN website here