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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Media Accountability in the Arab World: A special Issue of the Journal of Middle East Media (JMEM) is online

Monday , 04 July 2022

A pioneering compilation of media accountability in the Arab World


A pioneering compilation of media accountability studies in the Arab World has now been published in a Special Issue of the Journal of Middle East Media (JMEM). Guest editors Prof. Susanne Fengler and Monika Lengauer from the Institute of Journalism, Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism (EBI), TU Dortmund University in Germany, brought together researchers from Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and Syria in the peer reviewed JMEM. The journal’s Special Issue intends to “initiate and promote a critical academic debate about media accountability” in countries of the Middle East and North Africa, said Susanne Fengler. JMEM’s senior editor Prof. Hesham Mesbah, Rollins College, USA, appreciates the “invaluable contribution to de-Westernizing scholarship on mass communication and media studies”. JMEM is published simultaneously in both Arabic and English. Its Arabic editor, Prof. Abdulrahman Al-Shami atQatar University, Doha, Qatar, suggests that “with media accountability, an innovative proposition adds value to research in the Arabic language”. The broader concept of media accountability discusses non-state means that hold the media accountable towards the public, and that includes not only journalists but media users and other stakeholders of the media in the process of journalistic quality management.

JMEM’s Special Issue sets the stage with two essays contributing to basic research: Fengler deconstructs the theoretic proposition of media accountability and interrelates her global and European research to empirical works conducted in Arab countries. With a focus on journalism education at Arab universities, Lengauer views media accountability through the theory of professions.

Five empirical case studies reveal different systems and approaches to media accountability in the Maghreb and the Levant. Abdelmalek El Kadoussi, Bouziane Zaid, and Mohammed Ibahrine found that social media is among the most appreciated media accountable instruments (MAIs) in Morocco. Khaled Gulam's analysis of media accountability in Libya shows that ongoing political and armed conflicts hinder reform and new legislation regulating the media sector. Nadia Leihs explores what instruments of media accountability exist in the Egyptian media and how journalists perceive them. Philip Madanat and Judith Pies stress that media freedom is a priority for Jordanian respondents, and that they view media accountability as an accompanying process. Ayman Georges Mhanna and Karim Safieddine reveal Lebanon’s generally poor quality of official bodies for media accountability on the one hand and the vibrant non-official MAIs on the other hand. Judith Pies and Philip Madanat underpin from the Syrian perspective that times of violent conflicts heighten the need for responsible media.  

The Special Issue’s concluding assessment is, as per Fengler’s suggestion, to “broaden the perspective and to take into account the many forms of media accountability beyond the typically Western media accountability systems”. Media accountability in MENA mainly follows models coined “foreign donor”- incentivized or “mimicry” models of media accountability.

At the upcoming AUSACE Conference 2022, Fengler and Lengauer are also organizing a panel on the issue of media accountability in the Arab World with distinguished scholars.

The special issue of the JMEM is the latest advancement in a series of activities related to MAI in the Arab World that the EBI has undertaken, including a pilot study followed by three interventions: (i) The launch of the Media Accountability Online Resource Platform for the MENA region in Arabic and English; (ii) The furthering of the Arab Journalism Observatory (AJO)  that contains all resources in the Arabic language. (iii) The formation of a network on Arab media accountability that comprises universities, media NGOs, media publishers and other media accountability related institutions and individuals  Many of those encounters were funded by the Federal German Foreign Office.

The guest editors, senior editor and Arabic editor thanked the reviewers of this special issue for their support, particularly Agnes Lam, Dominik Speck, Fernando Oliveira Paulino, Hesham Mesbah, Khaled Tahat, May Abdallah, Michael Serwornoo, Michał Głowacki, Michal Kuś, Ruth Rodríguez Martínez, Ryan Thomas, Suruchi Mazumdar, Torbjörn van Krogh, Verica Rupar, and William Tayeebwa.

JMEM is issued by the Arab-US Association for Communication Educators (AUSACE), and it is housed by Qatar University in Doha, Qatar. It is an online resource, available open source in Arabic and in English.

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