Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Media Freedom or Chaos? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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There is no limit to the developments in the field of communication… Arab societies do not differ from other parts of the world as regards to the important role the media plays in their lives, whether it is audiovisual or written. In fact, this sector is developing and growing quicker that our ability to keep pace with it or remain up-to-date with its huge potential to communicate with, persuade and affect individuals.

While we follow with admiration the forward leaps taken by the Arab media, we almost forget to seriously discuss the issue of legislation and rules that govern this sector, without challenging freedom of speech or breaching the right for self expression. We are living in an age of rapid development that is paralleled with a major organizational lethargy. This backwardness hurts the credibility of the profession.

Let us consider the reproduction of news, information or even pictures as an example.

In the Arab world, there are no set traditions or regulations that oversee the issue of reproducing news and editing so as to hide its true source. Copying news, information and even an investigation without crediting the original source is a common practice in the Arab media. Of course, general rules govern disclaimers and hand out punishments that can easily be avoided, but there are no organizational rules to guarantee the original source is respected and mentioned when news is reproduced. The lack of regulations makes copyright theft and violations easy and renders material liable to being copied and used without acknowledging the rights of the publisher or the writer or the journalist. Interestingly, Arab publishing traditions forbid a newspaper from quoting another paper but allow it to quote un-sourced material. The opposite should be true. It is not wrong to reprint information published elsewhere but the papers should always be credited.

This is part of a wider issue related to copyright infringements across the Arab world, in spite of laws that seek to protect it and deter violations. Translations without respecting intellectual rights are common in the Arab world. The theft of intellectual property rights is considered ordinary and a minor concern. Unfortunately, infringements on individual intellectual creations remain secondary and fall outside the moral and legal regulations in our societies.

In the west, the media is immediately held accountable for any professional misconduct or violations. Penalties are in place to deal very seriously with the infringements of intellectual property rights. They are periodically amended and developed in tandem with technological developments in the field of communication.

Until organizations and laws become a reality that cannot be sidestepped, we will remain prisoners of our professional ethos and traditions. We need to develop it and transform it into an unalienable fact.