A number of Arab news agency directors held a meeting with senior officials of the German news agency DPA at its headquarters in Berlin with a Lebanese participation by the National News Agency Director, Laure Sleiman.

At the beginning of the meeting was a word for the Secretary-General of the Federation of Arab News Agencies, Dr. Farid Ayar, who spoke about the purpose of the meeting.

Then came the word of chairman and chief executive of DPA, Peter Kropsch, who spoke about the history of the agency and its work method. “The number of its employees is 1,300, including 1,000 journalists in 55 offices in Germany and 107 around the world,” he said.

The editorial staff also presented, both in English and Arabic, a briefing on the work of the German Agency and its future projects.

Afterwards, a discussion session was held over the worksheet submitted by the Arab news agencies, which reads as follows:

“Following the rapid developments in communications that resulted in the birth of major platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, in addition to the various configurations of social networking devices, this reality forces the rearrangement of affairs of news agencies and their relations with one another, because what is happening now is undoubtedly a great danger to the mere existence of agencies and the continuity of their work in addition to the credibility of news in general.

Accordingly, the 43rd General Assembly of the Federation, which took place in Kuwait back in November 2015, contemplated the necessity of holding contacts with international and European news agencies and conducting dialogues with them so as to improve relations and develop them to the extent that serves both sides.”

“Arab news agencies present this memorandum, which contains debatable ideas and visions aimed at developing ties between them and the German Press Agency (DPA) as one of the largest European agencies. The ideas presented in this memo form a foundation based on which we can reach a set of positive ideas for developing and improving our work and thus providing the recipients of news with facts and the correct information,” the worksheet read.

“Arab news agencies (…) believe that the following topics shall be discussed:

1. The issue of terrorism which takes, at present, a major part of news reports, especially after the emergence of ISIS and other terrorist organizations spread across Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and other countries.

Certainly, terrorism in all its aspects is categorically rejected by the Arab and Islamic countries. The Islamic Summit held in Turkey in April 2016 confirmed this and condemned any terrorist operation taking place anywhere in the world.

What is really interesting is that many European media outlets have been in a frantic race to get media spotlight on terrorist operations, and terrorists have been keen on providing the media with all the information about their operations. This ‘cooperation’ between the media and the terrorists makes us wonder who benefits from the other? We can certainly say that there is mutual interest between the parties, which is a dangerous fact that we all should be aware of. Thus, we need to find an answer to the following question:

Is it conceivable that we can prevent terrorists from exploiting the media to spread their ideas and the outcomes of their terrorist acts? Is it even possible to deny terrorists access to media outlets altogether, since interviewing terrorists and covering their operations is regarded as a reward to them on their criminal acts.

2. Although Arab and Islamic countries condemned and still slam any terrorist act in all its aspects, (…) the Western media still deliberately links terrorism to the Islamic religion and that is something to be discussed at length.

(…) Terrorism has no religion, and the phenomenon of terrorism is not mentioned or known in any Islamic books and studies. Muslims themselves are working and making every effort to keep away from any behavior that terrorist groups use to intimidate and kill innocents and destroy their property.

International organizations are asked to find ways to eliminate the causes of terrorism. This means creating an atmosphere of justice, equality and transparent and democratic handling of crises and international disputes, and establishing fair rules in international relations and global economy, so that stability, security and prosperity prevail throughout the world.

3. It was noted that many correspondents of European and international news agencies arrive in the Arab countries to work with “preconceptions” or “prejudices” about the region, so much so that this affects their vision in writing news and gathering information.

We wonder how we can refute such a situation, and how the Arab news agencies can contribute to making these reporters write their reports objectively and without any prejudices.

4. It was noted that there is a determination to highlight the doctrine of the person in the news, while the conflicts in many Arab countries are sheer political and economic rather than doctrinal. We recognize that some Arab societies are mixed, but the essence of the current conflict in some countries, such as Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and others, is not. The peoples of these countries have lived together for long periods of time without the emergence of such conflicts.

5. Some correspondents of news agencies located in the Arab countries rely, when writing news, on rumors or what is circulating over social media platforms. (…) Arab news agency officials realize that the customers of European news agencies have different taste, but broadcasting news solely based on rumors is not in line with the criteria for writing objective news.

6. Many media agencies in Europe and the United States do not have correspondents or offices in the Middle East and the Arab countries in particular, and thus depend on European and international news agencies. Therefore, the responsibility for disseminating Arab countries’ news lies with those international and European agencies. Therefore, Arab news agencies are keen to cooperate with international and European news agencies operating in Arab countries so as to provide them with reliable news and information.

7. We have noticed that the number of news published about the Arab countries is small in general, and, if found in bulletins, they are mostly related to problems that occur in the Arab countries and have a negative character. We all know that news of problems and conflicts are interesting for readers, but other news, such as those related to arts, literature, music, and developments in the region can also be a source of thrill for readers.

8. In a statistical analysis prepared by the Saudi Press Agency, sent to the Union on the news published by the AFP in Arabic from March 7 to April 18, 2018 the following was noted:

A – The agency has published 65 stories from 28 Arab and foreign cities and capitals on Arab countries, especially the Gulf.

B – It is noted in the published news that the translation of some news into Arabic is different from the original French text…

C – The most published news, for example, are about Yemen. Those news have an apparent negative character and an attempt to tamper with the image of the legitimate government. Although some of the news may seem ordinary, their backgrounds include a lot of inaccuracy about the Yemeni war and an abuse of Saudi Arabia.

D – Of the 65 news items, about 50 per cent were about Saudi Arabia, 25 of which including a lot of attacks on the Kingdom and its leadership, particularly when talking about Yemen and the conflict there between a legitimate government and one that is affiliated with Iranian…

Added to all of the above, there are further ideas that can be discussed, for example: We hope to hear the evaluation of the German Press Agency on the news published by Arab news agencies. Perhaps we can all put together specific proposals in terms of training for Arab news agencies’ staff in order to boost their efficiency, and ensure equivalent visits between officials of both sides.”

After the worksheet presentation and discussion, it was agreed to follow up and sign cooperation agreements between the Arab agencies and the German Agency for the purpose of exchanging news, pictures and media training.

Source: National News Agency