After the Egyptian Spring: Media Accountability in Transition

The Uprising last year has triggered a rapid change in the Egyptian society: Lively debates about the country's future are stirring up the public discussion. The media's role as a platform for and a mediator between a variety of opinions brings new chances but poses new challenges and requires an unprecedented societal responsibility, too. A conference brought together decision makers from Egyptian newsrooms and experts from Europe and the Arab World to discuss how to defend newly won freedoms and maintain the public trust.

The conference “Media Accountability in Transition” was held on October 14 - 15, 2012 in Cairo. As part of the German-Egyptian transformation partnership it was organized by the German Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism (EBI) at TU Dortmund University in cooperation with the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate (EJS). Its aim was to provide a platform for discussing basic ideas and best practice examples of media accountability from Europe and the Arab World: What are the challenges and prospects for establishing independent media councils? How can newsrooms deal with audience feedback and how can they support critical reflections of their own profession?

On the first day of the conference, MediaAcT researchers introduced the general concept of media accountability and presented MediaAcT-research findings on media accountability in the Arab World. Abeer Saady from the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate complemented this introduction by giving an overview of the present situation of media accountability in Egypt. In a following session, chief editors from Egypt and Germany gave insights into how their newsrooms use social media to become more responsive towards their users. Their presentations stirred a lively discussion among the participating journalists: Are social media really useful tools to win back trust from the public? How can newsrooms deal with attempts from political players to influence the media coverage through social media?

A third panel emphasized the role of media or press councils for media self-regulation. Lutz Tillmanns, director of the German Press Council, mapped out different models of press and media councils in Europe. Afterwards, the EJS vice-president Ragai El-Merghany – for the first time – publicly presented the concept for an Egyptian press council, which evokedgeneral support among the conference participants but also revealed the challenges still ahead.

On the second day, the focus was put on the role that newsrooms may play for holding the media to account. Media criticism and media journalism as a joint attempt by journalists and newsrooms was presented by three well established media journalists from Germany, Jordan and Egypt. In a last panel, two best practice models of newsroom transparency from Germany and interacting with the audience from Turkey were presented. While participants took up a rather hesitant stance towards newsroom transparency in the current situation, the concept of ombudsmen was strongly supported because of its intermediate potentials for the transition in Egypt.

The conference stimulated numerous fruitful discussions, in which the participants brought up ideas on how to build more accountable and transparent media in Egypt. In a final plenary session these ideas were collected and participants elaborated on them to create a “master plan” for further media developments.

Text: Christine Elsaeßer & Judith Pies, Photo: Christine Elsaeßer & Nadia Leihs

MediaAct News – October 24, 2012


About MediaAcT

MediaAcT is a comparative research project on media accountability systems in EU member states as indicators for media pluralism in Europe.


Funded by the EC

Project funded under the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanties


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