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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Secretary's Open Forum > Proceedings > 2003

Distorted Images: Role of the Global Media in Public Diplomacy: Misperceptions Between America and the Muslim and Arab Worlds

Former Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian
Harold Pachios, Former Chairman, U.S. Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim World
Washington, DC
November 20, 2003

Opening Remarks and Introduction

 

Panel Moderator
Harold Pachios, Former Chairman, U.S. Advisory Group on Public Diplomcay in the Arab and Muslim World


 

Panel Participants
Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, National Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council
Joyce Davis, Incoming Associate Director, Radio Free Europe, Prague
Hafez al-Mirazi, Washington Bureau Chief, Al Jazeera Satelite Channel
Martin Walker, Editor, United Press Internaitonal
Mouafac Harb, News Director, Radio Sawa

 

MR. DJEREJIAN:  Thank you very much, Bill, for that very generous introduction.  You mentioned the honorary doctorate at Georgetown.  I've got to tell you a story about that.  I was given that honorary doctorate when they asked me to give the commencement address in 1992 at my alma mater, which I did.  At the time I was the highest-ranking official in the American Government, a graduate of the School of Foreign Service.  Well, you all remember something else happened in November 1992, and a man by the name of Bill Clinton got elected, and all of a sudden he became the highest-ranking member of the American Government.  And you know, Georgetown never called me back.  [Laughter.]

 

It's a pleasure to be here with this is a distinguished panel.  The subject is a very important--it's a huge subject of public diplomacy.  We were apprised of this, of the advisory group I was honored to chair--a very excellent, distinguished group of individuals who did, I think, heroic work in 3-months' time to do this report, "Changing Minds and Winning Peace."  But the basic premise upon which we embarked was that we realized that in the aftermath of the Cold War and the terrorist attacks of September 11, the United States was engaged in a major struggle to--what we call--to expand the zone of tolerance and marginalize extremism and extremists, whether secular or religious, especially in the Arab and Muslim world.

 

Now we have to be honest with ourselves.  While the conduct of policy is the primary determinant of success or failure in this struggle--and I believe this is a generational struggle; there are no short-term solutions--the role of public diplomacy has taken on critical importance in the effort to what we stress is first to listen--for Americans to listen and then to understand, and then to inform and engage and influence public opinion.  That is a very important progression that has to be taken as a whole.  And I must say I think often we do not listen and try to understand before we embark.  And that is something I feel has to change.

 

Our mandate was focused on the Arab and Muslim world by Congress, but the analysis and the recommendations that we presented in our report necessarily go to the larger challenges of U.S. public diplomacy at large.  And just today, if you pick up the New York Times, Tom Friedman's article, he talks about "global animosity."  You look at President Bush's speech on democratization recently, and his speech at Buckingham Palace, and you realize that this issue of promoting values, policies, democracy, and freedom is one of the key callings of our period.  Unfortunately, with the end of the Cold War we did let down our guard.  We thought that the ideological struggle was over.  Well one struggle was over, but another struggle for the minds of people had quickly begun.  It had always been there, but it took on much more importance in the aftermath.  And in many ways we were asleep at the switch, and only too late.  We had to be woken up by 9/11 as a country to realize the struggle that we were engaged in affected our national security and our internal interests. It just wasn't the problem out there.

 

Congress, too, has become concerned about how to meet this public diplomacy challenge, and that was manifested when Congressman Frank Wolf of the House Appropriations Committee mandated our group, because his and Congress' very deep concern over the negative attitudes toward America prevailing in the world, not only in the Middle East.

 

Let me just briefly frame where we came out and then make some observations.   I think the more important part will be the discussion we have with our panelists and questions from the audience.  But we concluded that at this critical time in our nation's history the apparatus of public diplomacy has proven to be simply inadequate, especially in the Arab and Muslim world.  A system that has been outmoded, lacking votes, strategic direction, and the necessary financial and human resources.  The solutions that we advocated in our report I think match our times when we are engaged in this major long-term struggle against the forms of extremism, as I said, whether secular or religious.  And we called for a dramatic transformation in public diplomacy; in other words, in the way in which the United States communicates its values and policies to enhance our national security.

 

Let me be candid about this also:  attitudes toward the United States, I would say 80% are formed based on what our policies and our values are.  But there is that critical 20%, what we call, for lack of a better term "public diplomacy," which is the manner in which we communicate with the world--person-to-person, through the media, through the Internet, through satellite TV, through the print media.  That 20% has become a critical factor in promoting our national security interests, and it has been not sufficiently supported either by strategic direction or by the resources, as I mentioned.

 

So public diplomacy requires a new strategic direction, informed by a serious commitment that matches the gravity of our approach to national defense and traditional state-to-state diplomacy.  This commitment must be led by the political will of the President of the United States and Congress--and, again, fueled by the necessary resources.

 

We made some recommendations--I'm not going to go through all of them, obviously.  It's a 70-page report, and I do commend--as Bill said, you can get it on the Internet.  It is worthwhile going through if this interests you.

 

But a new operating process and architecture are required for the transformation of public diplomacy.  And that means reorganization at the White House, at the National Security Council, and here in the State Department with related agencies.  A presidential directive to all relevant governmental agencies emphasizing the importance of public diplomacy in advancing U.S. interests and instituting the changes that we recommend should be promulgated.  And the basic organizational change we made was that the post of a special consulate to the president with Cabinet rank should be established at the White House.  We feel the president, be it a Democrat or a Republican, needs to have at his side someone who is advising him on the manner in which his strategic policy decisions are translated to the world and communicated to the world.  There are some historic examples of this.  John F. Kennedy had Edward R. Murrow.  Other presidents had people like Leonard Marks.  And it was a famous quote by Edward R. Murrow, "Mr. President, I have to be off on the take-offs as well as the crash landings in order to be able to inform you and advise you on how the message is going to play, how the message should be crafted."  This is not a person who is making policy, but it is a person who is guiding the president of the United States, and through that post the rest of the administration on the strategic direction of public diplomacy.  And it has to come form the top.   Perhaps that's one of our most important recommendations, and that's up to the White House to decide whether or not they are going to look at that seriously.

 

We also took a look at the National Security Council, and we were very disappointed to learn that the one coordinating committee on the National Security Council on public diplomacy had laid dormant for many months--and is still dormant.  And that structure is absolutely necessary to coordinate the Voice of America in coordinating with the State Department, with USAID, with the Defense Department, with the CIA, with the various agencies, including homeland defense and others as appropriate.  The manner in which the message goes forth must be a coordinated message.

 

One of the worst things is to have disparate voices.  I'm not talking about unified minds here, but what I'm talking about is once a policy course is decided upon by the President of the United States, the relevant agencies have to be working together in a strategic and coordinated manner.  So we focused on the PCC for public diplomacy, National Security Council, and made recommendations on how that should be restructured and put back into action.

 

When we looked at the State Department, there is a very important office, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.  We found that that office has a huge mandate, and the lead agency should be the State Department on public diplomacy.  But that office is not only under-resourced, but we found it to be more or less a shell of what it should be, and made some very important recommendations on how that office should be restructured, so that the Under Secretary will have the means and the strategic mandate to fulfill his or her role in carrying out the public diplomacy of the United States.

 

There is a very core cultural issue here, and I can't tell you how many letters I've gotten after my nomination from people in the government who feel very strongly about the demise of the USIA, and who felt that that was a terrible mistake that USIA was disbanded. Given the strategic challenge we have, perhaps that was a mistake.  That is history.  But there is no question that the role that USIA played was an essential one, and that role has to be translated into effective action-oriented public diplomacy by the U.S. Government.  And that's probably one of the most important organizational challenges that is being faced.

 

We also saw that the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Defense Department, both of which engage in activities with significant public diplomacy dimension, must be closely tied to the reinforced strategic and direction and coordination that we propose.

 

Equally important, a new culture of measurement must be established within all public diplomacy structures.  We have to get away from this anecdotal sense of success or failure:  how many people attended a cultural event.  Well, that's important to know how many people attend, but the important thing is:  Are what we doing falling under the mandate of public diplomacy, which again is to listen, understand, inform, engage, and influence people's minds toward U.S. policies and values?  And that is the culture of measurement that has to be inculcated into the government at all levels, so that if a certain course is taken, and it's not succeeding, that course corrections could be made, and that we have a better and more effective public diplomacy operation.

 

We found that the importance of public diplomacy in meeting the strategic challenge that America faces in the Arab and Muslim world requires a dramatic increase in funding.  You can refer to the report on this, but we definitely made a point of departure in our advisory group that this was not going to be just another group that asks for more money to solve a problem.  What we basically went at is that:  Is there a strategic issue?  Is there a strategic problem?  Is there a new strategic course of direction that is needed?  The answer to all the above was yes; therefore, resources should be allocated.

 

But what we found as we burrowed into the budget was that there's a $1 billion  that is being spent--half of that is for the Broadcasting Board of Governors and television and radio.  But the other approximately $500-odd million goes to the traditional public diplomacy, the people-to-people, the exchange programs, the outreach, the cultural programs, etc.  And when we parsed it down to the Arab and Muslim world, where a great deal of our challenge in public diplomacy rests--it's a global challenge, but a great deal of it rests in this part of the world, where we have 1.5 billion people--we determined that there was $150 million for this part of the world.  And when we then parsed that down from overhead, administrative costs, salaries, etc., we found at the discretion of the government for public diplomacy outreach programs that  there was a mere $25 million.  That is totally unacceptable. There has to be a reprioritization of resources.

 

We found that also in the human resource area.  What is public diplomacy?  It is communication.  In order to communicate you have to speak the language of the regions globally.  But in terms of the Middle East this also means very much the key languages of the region--Arabic, Bahasa Indonesian, Urdu, Farsi, Turkish, etc.  And we found that while the numbers looked good, when you really dig into the numbers of language-qualified officers, there is simply not enough officers who are at the level of being able to engage in the discussion, the debate, the outreach that is needed.  We determined that out of the 70-odd Arabic speakers who have a level of fluency, that there are only five--five—who could go on al Jazeera today and debate at the level of professional knowledge and fluency that is needed.  One of them is sitting right here, Ambassador Chris Ross.  He has four colleagues.  That is disgraceful.  And it's true of other languages, too.  Now the Department of State is making a major effort in increasing language competence, and we applaud that in our report.  But looking at this strategically, the United States has to get to the point where we have the language-competent officers to engage not only efficiently but at the level of professionalism that is needed to meet the challenge.

 

Given the strategic importance of information technologies, the greater portion of the budget should be earmarked to tap the resources of the Internet, and we go into that in communications technologies, and programs in support of English-language training, and supporting American educational institutions and educational exchange programs.  The paradigms of the American University of Beirut, the American University of Cairo, Robert College in Istanbul--how these can be replicated in many different ways in the modern world of communications, and through traditional educational exchanges is needed.  And then a major new initiative, the American Knowledge Library, should be launched, involving translating thousands of the best American books in many fields of education into local languages.  This is a critical need that needs to be enacted.

 

We also ask that here in the State Department, in the Office of the Under Secretary, that a special unit be established that is monitoring the media, print, electronic, television in the Arab and Muslim world.  This can be done more broadly in order for the people here in Washington to know what is being said about us on a real-time basis, and translating that knowledge immediately into intelligent American responses and public diplomacy initiatives.  This is something that we saw at the foreign office in London.  They have a small unit that I found to be very effective, and I think that's the type of little thing that can be done that can mean a lot.

 

But let me say a few words about strategic direction.  What we basically found our group--and I think this is probably relevant in most parts of the world.  You know, Woody Allen says 90% of life is just showing up.  All right.  Well, we're not showing up.  We're not showing up in the Arab and Muslim world--certainly not 90% of the time.  We are simply not present in any significant manner in the daily discourse, the debates, the discussions that are going on in that part of the world about us.  They are talking about us.  We are the big guy on the block, and they are talking about us incessantly.  And that comes with the turf of being the remaining superpower.  But it also comes at the expense of not adequately and competently conveying our message and our values in as effective a manner as it should be.

 

We looked at a program in Al Atabiah (ph).  It was a talk show, a 2-hour talk show.  The title of the talk show was "The Americanization of Islam."  Think of that title:  "The Americanization of Islam," word--there was a marma (ph)--there was a conspiracy of America to take over the Islamic religion.  Everyone on that talk show had some very strong views about this conspiracy.  There was not one person on that 2-hour show who really knew about our country, who knew that we are country, that we are a religious country, that we have freedom of religion in this country, that we have millions of Muslims in this country.  There was not anyone who could convey the context and the reality of the American experience on religion and our democracy.

 

Well, I'll take the call that we can't be everywhere, obviously.  But what I am saying is that there's too much of that going on without our voice being heard in an intelligent manner.

 

Another person, in Morocco, told my group:  "If you Americans don't start defining yourselves in this part of the world, the radical political Islamists and extremists will do it for you.  That's true.  And that's true.

 

There's a Casey Stengel principle of management:  you've got one group of guys, six guys in the corner of a room who really hate you, and they're plotting, and they hate you, and they want to get you, and in the other corner of the room you have about 60 people who haven't made up their minds yet.  I'm using this as a paradigm of the Muslim world.  We Americans better get to those 60 people before those six guys do.  If there's any anecdotal way that I can convey to you the strategic challenge we have in public diplomacy, at least in that part of the world, that's it.  It's doable, but we have to do it much more effectively.

 

One of the group that we visited, Casablanca, in the Bidonville, the slums of Casablanca, I said, "What is the most important thing you saw?"  And she said, "Ed, it was your worst nightmare."  "What's that?"  She said, "These slums with no plumbing, desperate situations, but almost every house had a hand-wired satellite TV dish."  Contrast that.  Contrast that.

 

So the challenge cannot be underestimated.  Let me say one word about policy and public diplomacy.  What we found is what every survey has found at least in this part of the world, the Muslim and Arab world.

 

High favorable ratings in terms of American values--one Iranian woman told us, "Who could be against life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?" We were told over and over that our values, our democracy, private initiative, equality of opportunity, equality before the law, our science, our technology, our education system, in which thousands of people seek visas to come to American universities to get an education--all of this is highly valued.  But equally negative ratings on our policies, be it Arab-Israeli, Iraq.  And a third dimension--a third dimension:  political and economic governance.

 

The attitudes of us are being really developed through this tripartite prism:  Arab-Israeli, Iraq, political economic governance--what we do in these three fields is what is viewed by many people as a gap between our values and our conduct of policy.

 

Now when I look at the basic thrust of this building and this Administration's policies toward the Arab and Muslim world, and you look at the list, this--these goals and objectives are objectives than when we discussed this with people in the field. Sometimes they said: well, this is the first time we've heard it in that context.  That basically conflict resolution--yes, we have our positions on the Arab-Israeli issue, but the United States remains the one power in the world that can make the critical difference of bringing the Israelis and Arabs together to comprehensive peace.  And we have played that role historically, and I am convinced we are going to continue to play that role with our friends in the region.

 

But our goal is conflict resolution.  Every time there has been a major step forward, be it Camp David under Jimmy Carter, be it the Madrid peace conference, the other things, the United States has stood tall.  That is one of our key objectives.  That is a highly defensible objective to bring democracy, privatization, economic reforms is something that the region is thirsting for, has to be done in a very intelligent manner.  But that also is another American goal--human rights, the rights of women, trade, commerce.  I mean, when you look at the policies, the advocacy of American policies is nothing to shy away from.  And when you post that with our values, there is a lot to work with.  So, basically, we are living in a time that public diplomacy has as much critical importance today as it did during the Cold War.  We let down our guard; we thought the ideological battles were over.  But we detected back in '92, certainly when I was government with the Bush and Baker time, we did identify that early that our next challenge would be extremism.  We talked the talk about what needed to be done in terms of democratization, political, economic reforms, conflict resolution, but we didn't walk the walk in many of these areas.  But now the time has come to walk the walk.  And I think- and I don't use any hyperbole--the destiny not only of our world, but the world, will be in the balance on this.  Thank you very much.  [Applause.]

 

MR. KEPPLER:  Certainly a lot of food for thought and also a great way to kick off our program today.  Each of our panel members has been willing to forgo giving a 5- or 10-minute formal presentation so that we can allow as much time as possible for questions and answers and for discussion.  Mr. Pachios will be the panel moderator.  He will be directing questions to our panelists. Our panelists in turn can express themselves and direct questions back to other panel members.  But, most importantly, we'd like all of you to participate.  There are microphones right over here, and we ask anybody who wants to ask a question to come to a microphone.  And those of you who are standing up--there's seating here--the reserve seats are not filled.  Please feel free to come forward.  These seats also have microphones.

 

So now I'd like to turn the program over to Mr. Harold Pachios, who will be our panel moderator.  [Applause.]

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Thank you.  And what I'm going to do is just to keep it moving here.  Ed, that was a terrific presentation.  I was on Ed's committee task force, and he did an outstanding job, and he is truly a great American diplomatic resource.

 

I want to get us to the focus of this session, which is the media-- both U.S. and the media in the Arab and Muslim world--and start it off this way:  How are people in the Arab and Muslim world informed?  They are informed through television and to a lesser extent radio and print media.  That's how people get information everywhere in the world- in the United States, in the Arab world, and in the greater Muslim world.  So let's focus on that.  Assuming that's true, Hafez Al-Mirazi, how--Ed says our voice is not being heard, we are not present, we are not--there you are—[laughter]- I'm looking down at this end--we're not present; we're not showing up.  So if television, for instance--and Ed spoke about all of these wired-up receiving devices- how should we do this?  Should it be a Middle East television network that we own and operate?

 

MR. AL-MIRAZI:  Mouafac could answer this part of the Middle East television.  First of all, thank you for the invitation.  It's a great pleasure really to reverse roles and as an international journalist in town for 20 years, feeling, after associating the State Department as a place where I would go and ask the questions--here I am today speaking and answering questions, and that's nice.  I hope just as the freedom of speech here is a little bit different than the one in the Middle East, in which you have freedom of speech, but we cannot guarantee your freedom after the speech.  [Laughter.]  So please—and, of course, we cannot generalize.  It is different from one country to the other, because I see many distinguished ambassadors from the Middle East here.  [Laughter.]  So please guarantee for me my freedom after the speech.  [Laughter.]

 

To the contrary, you cannot say that we are not showing up in the region.  You are.  You are in the streets of Baghdad with tanks. You are in the West Bank and Israel with Israeli weapons.  You are in speeches telling Arab governments what to do.  You are telling the education ministers what should you teach your kids.  You are there.  You are in the life.  And this is mainly because of that; it is not because it is a superpower, and people are picking on it.  No, it is because you decided that the Middle East, for many historical reasons, and particularly since 1948 and then 1967, that you decided the Middle East, whether for the security of Israel or for the free flow of oil at reasonable prices--and, of course, reasonable prices is decided by the consumer, not by the producers--that you have to be there, and this is a strategic area for you.  This is a reaction, what you are getting in the Middle East is a reaction.  People do not wake up and say, Let's hate the U.S. today or let's lash against them.

 

So, yes, Ambassador Djerejian was right saying that 80% of the problems in most of these polls about what is going wrong is about policies.  It is not about values, although some of the remedies that we are trying to do, as you are mentioning Middle East television initiative or something like that--unfortunately, some of the initiatives that we are trying to do here in public diplomacy is trying even to distort and to undermine what is left positive, what are the values, the shared values.  And instead of telling them that the U.S. is for conservative views, for family values, for religious, for all of that stuff, we are telling them that the U.S. is for J-Lo and Britney Spears and so many other things for the pop culture, that even some Americans would like to protect their kids from its influence.

 

The good news is there is a realization in the U.S., as it is in this panel and in many other panels before, that there is something wrong, and that is a good step, that we are not blaming the fingers, as Ambassador Djerejian did in a wonderful way, and instead of inciting against Arab media, as we hear sometimes from the other building across the river, inciting against specific TV stations--al Jazeera it is all Arab's fault--it is not ours.  Even now I think the problem is not only with the Arab media; now they have a problem with the American media, and they are thinking of sending a message from Baghdad directly bypassing the American media to the American audience.  So it is not the Arab media.  It is the whole image and the whole mirror that they are so disturbed by showing them something that they don't like about what they are doing.

 

What I am saying is that the Arab and Muslim world did go through that before, especially after the Islamic revolution in Iran and the hostage crisis.  Many people had conferences and spent resources in Muslim countries and the Arab world on how to improve the image of Muslims in the West.  And it's a deja vu that we are now talking after 9/11 about how to improve America's image in the Arab and Muslim world.  And the same way that people were saying in the Arab world—[inaudible]--saying please spend some of these resources on how to improve the reality of Muslims and Arabs in order for the image to be improved.  I think all what we're doing here should not be an alternative for the real issue, which is the 80%, at least, of policies that are going wrong, and whatever you can do for it--short fixations of security measures, Patriot Act, Desert Storm, or whatever--but public diplomacy.  These are short fixes, but you could do it, and you should do it, and you should engage those people and work on it.  But as long as there are other people working on the policy issues. 

 

The other wrong approach that I feel was been taken after 9/11, especially here in this building, is that to abandon what this building is distinguished for, which is the Arabists--those people who are very familiar with the Arab world and with the Arab street, and with their knowledge--we abandoned those people.  We discredited them since the Gulf War of 1991, when the world against the results and the aftermath of the Gulf War of '91, and people were laughing about them, and saying, Where did that Arab world or that Arab street that is going to explode in our face; where 10 years later we found 9-11-2001, and we found it that what the world against is unfortunately coming to be true.  But those people have gone already and been discredited.  And instead of that what we head after 9/11--we heard Secretary Powell and the Congress saying that if this person could market and sell Uncle Ben's rice, that person could do that for the foreign policy of the U.S.  And this is wrong to apply the experience of Madison Avenue to the Arab street.  There is a big difference, as I always say and repeat myself--and I hope not to be taken as offending to anyone on a personal issue that there is a big difference between marketing Uncle Ben's rice and marketing Uncle Sam's Condi Rice or Rice University or anything.  [Laughter.]  There is a big difference.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Hafez, but nobody--we're not talking about Uncle Ben's rice here.  That's in the past.  The issue is how does the voice get heard.  You made a point, which is a good point, that we are present.  We are omnipresent in the region at many different levels.  But the voices--talking to one another is important.  And how do the voices get heard?  What's the medium?

 

MR. AL-MIRAZI:  The medium we had--and I'm saying we as an Arab American, as well.  We had some medium, and we dismantled some of the media.  And we wanted to start from scratch.  And instead of adding, like Radio Sawa, for example, should have been an addition that is nice to reach to a group that we were not reaching to.  But that doesn't mean dismantling the Arabic service of the Voice of America, that they did work for more than 12 years- more than any other Arab media outlet that I did work for Voice of America Arabic service.  Forty-five years of that service working and the mainly beaming to the opinionmakers, the opinion leaders in the Arab world, the journalists, the columnists.  And all of a sudden the same way that some people blundered and dismantled the Iraqi Army and now regretting it, I believe people have to go back; for example, and say, let's see, why would BBC and instead of abandoning it they are giving it FM medium wave, strongly the message how to fix that one and instead of dismantling it.  This is one.

 

The second thing is that this podium is very important here in the State Department--not the one I'm talking about, but the one in the press conference, in the briefing room, to be used for damage control of the religious preachers or the head preachers in America who are no less damaging than the preachers in the Muslim world, or some of them, to immediately come out and condemn some of the stuff they said, bashing the Muslim faith. And instead of consuming our time talking about a television program in—[inaudible--television or something like that.  This is very important to be there.  Thank you.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  I want to ask Mouafac Harb to respond to you.  I want to know in response to my question you talked about Voice of America, a U.S. Government-owned and -operated medium.  So you're not opposed to that.  You are not opposed to being there.  I thought you were going to say use al Jazeera.  But you said, no, no, no, you want to talk about VOA, which is owned by the government.  So, Mouafac, would you like to respond to this?

 

MR. AL-MIRAZI:  No, I just want to say just one thing.  I mean, al Jazeera it is up to you, because some people feel that they are giving us a service or a carrot by offering American officials to be on al Jazeera.  And if you don't behave we will not give it to you.  It is up to you.  If you feel you would like to reach our audience, you are welcome.  If you decide to go with yours, go ahead and do it.  That's what I meant.

 

MR. HARB:  Thanks very much.  Thanks for inviting me to be on this panel.  Whenever I'm asked to give a presentation, I usually bring a demo tape or some demonstration.  But I want to thank Hafez Al-Mirazi for providing me today with an illustration, because this is the attitude and the tone- and he's an active member of the media, and he's a colleague of min - this is what Arabs are getting from Washington on a daily basis on al Jazeera.  This is exactly the problem today.

 

Let me talk a little bit about Voice of America, the Arabic service.  It was not dismantled.  It has evolved.  Radio Sawa is an advanced stage of Arabic language services from the U.S. international broadcasting.  We felt that we had to appeal more and more to younger audiences, and people at the Broadcasting Board of Governors--they had the good rating of the BBC Arabic Service, the VOA Arabic would have still operating today.  So it's not that they gave up a great jewel; just simply that they decided to evaluate the service for 45 years, and we discovered we're left behind.  It served a purpose at one point, and now we are placing with Radio Sawa and hopefully—[short audio break for tape flip]--

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Why didn't you instead do what the BBC Arabic Service did--why don't you make it as good as that?

 

MR. HARB:  That's what Sawa is today.  It evolved.  I mean, we just gave it a different name, we did some market research,l and we used American broadcasting techniques to deliver a message.  We are using the use of production to deliver substance.  It's not the victory of production over substance.  We are using production techniques to deliver a message on substance.

 

I would like to talk a little bit about the Arab media, and I think this is the purpose of the panel today.  And let me—

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Why don't you talk about the American media, too.

 

MR. HARB:  But I mean this is my area of expertise--the Arab media.  I worked before in several Arab media outlets, and today I'm serving, and at the same time I remain a journalist.  And as much as journalists hate to be associated with public diplomacy, we hate that word, because it embodies some kind of advocacy, and journalists don't do that.  We have a journalistic mission.  Having said that, it doesn't mean but that we do and what the media is doing in the Middle East or in the United States does not affect public diplomacy.

 

There are certain things--and I call them misconceptions about media in the Arab world.  One of them is the Arab media today is market driven.  These are terms we use in the Western world to describe media.  The Arab media is not market driven.  I understand why a television channel in the United States would go a little bit sensational, because you want to cater to people's emotions, so you can boost your ratings, which you can subsequently generate, translate into more commercial revenues. It's not the case in the Arab world today. If you go and add up all the commercial space in all the Arab media, from outdoors to television stations to satellite to local print radio, it doesn't add up to $1 billion in states.  The actual spending is less than $600 million.  So who is subsidizing these channels?  It's not market driven.  And this is probably a question I would like to ask Ambassador Djerejian to answer.  You know, why Arab governments are subsidizing media outlets that are so anti-American, when most of them I would say, at least, on the surface are in alliance with the United States?

 

Another one which is--and I think this is--it appeared on the report, which I think was a great report.  It had some creative ideas and some traditional solutions, as well.  The independent Arab media outside the Arab world--and also this is another myth, because they are not independent, just simply they decided they are still owned by the sheikhs and the emirs, the princes.  They used to own soccer teams and private jets.  Now they decided to own satellite channels, and we call that independent media.

 

I would like also to conclude, so we can--hopefully, at least, these remarks would enhance the debate; that is, the fast and free flow of information is one of the greatest symbols of democracy, and if you want to rate a country, if it's going in that direction.  And I think the Arab world today--yes, you do have fast and free flow of information, but the problem is it's inaccurate free information.  It's not two ways.  I don't know if you talked to any Western journalists recently who tried to cover the recent bombings in Riyadh.  It was so difficult to get information.  So people have access to information in the Arab world.  You go, and if you land in an Arab international airport today in any Arab capital, you see a massive field of satellite dishes.  So people are getting information.  But getting information out of the Arab world it's still also a challenge.  And I would conclude with that.

 

Q:   I want to ask Mouafac how do you see Radio Sawa operating in an environment where the audience is pretty much used to government-owned and controlled media, who perceive Radio Sawa as government-owned and controlled?  How would the message get across?  We're going to take it as propaganda.  I mean, they may listen to your music; they may watch your shows on TV when it comes on.  But once you start giving them the news, this will be your taking of the lying of the government debt--it's not going to really be taken seriously.

 

The second point that I think--referring to some of the satellite channels in the Middle East that affect the United States.  We--part of our democracy that we allow, freedom of information and freedom of dissent. So we should be taking the opportunity to go back not to combat this by more rhetoric, but to be involved to be engaged.  So let them criticize us, accuse us, even if falsely if they want to, but let us get engaged to provide a platform where our point of view will be addressed.

 

MR. HARB:  Do you want to me answer that?

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Yes, quickly answer it.

 

MR. HARB:  I don't know if you've been listening to the news on Radio Sawa.  One of the main challenges from day 1 is what you just mentioned--is to convince people that we are government-funded, but we are not government-operated, in the Arabic sense.  You have a lot of skeptics.  It's a track record.  You cannot say from day 1 that I want to be objective, I want to be objective.  Let people--Arab media consumers are more sophisticated than the media organizations that exist in the Arab world.  People can tell.  From the headline they can tell you in the Middle East if this is funded by which kingdom.  So you cannot fool people anymore.  We at Radio Sawa--we operate under the VOA charter.  And when it comes to U.S. foreign policy, it's our charter that says we do not advocate; we present the policy clearly--and not only the policy and the debate that goes around it.  I mean, this is the charter of VOA. And the fact that we present the policy clearly and the debate that goes around it, I think you hear different points of view.  The U.S. system is not like we have one voice and this is--we don't have an information minister.  We don't take guidance every day from the State Department.  This is your editorial line.  We don't do that at Radio Sawa or Voice of America.  We have the BBG, which is like a firewall between other government agencies to maintain and protect the journalistic mission of what we do.

 

Q:   Will you be able to invite Yasser Arafat if the government does not want to recognize Yasser Arafat as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people?

 

MR. HARB:  Absolutely.  Absolutely, I would like to invite Yasser Arafat.  But what's so important in any news operation is not who you invite, it's the context.  You want to be fair and balanced.  I want to invite Yasser Arafat, and I want to make sure there is someone else that would call Yasser Arafat and say that this is what you did wrong--to be balanced and provide a variety of point of views.

 

Q:   I'll look for that.

 

MR. HARB:  If you can arrange it for me, I mean, that would be great.  [Laughter.]

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Martin?

 

MR. WALKER:  I guess I was invited onto this panel not just because of UPI but because of a regular show I do for National Public Radio is "On The Media," when I try and explain how the world's press is reacting to particular news events.  And some of the stuff that I have been citing from the Arab press over the past year, I know, has made listeners' hair curl, because of the kind of e-mails and letters I get as a result of the show, because there is an extraordinarily distinctive kind of rhetoric about the Arab media that unless you've got the flavor of it I think is pretty startling for an awful lot of Westerners.  And it's something that when I was covering the Iraq war and trying to describe the way in which a lot of the Arab media was talking about it, I coined the phrase, "a cult of blood" to try and describe the way in which much of the Arab media was on the one hand reporting the intifada, and on the other hand using that kind of rhetoric, those kinds of extraordinarily sanguinary metaphors to report their concept or their version of the war in Iraq.

 

As a result of that, now that I've taken over UPI, something I'm going to do is to try and really integrate our Arabic language service into our international language service.  We've got an Arabic news agency--it's called the ANS, Arab News Service.  We've already started running regularly columns by Dr. Hindawi, a very distinguished Arab commentator who is one of the editors of that service.  We are setting up the translation teams that will mean that increasingly the actual Arabic accounts from our Arabic correspondents will be broadcast on the English wire, and vice versa, because it seems to me this gap between the way in which the Arab language of reporting the Arab metaphor of looking at the world is so far away from our own Western version we have got to try to find some way to bridge that kind of gap of perception, because otherwise we'll be talking very much past one another.

 

This is equally something that I see when I look at al Jazeera or al Alabia.  There are wonderful breakthroughs in the nature of Arab broadcasting, but they are still very disconcerting to people brought up on Western media, upon Western TV channels, Western radio.  I think what's interesting about Radio Sawa is that for the first time, I'm starting to realize or I'm starting to recognize a kind of an Arabic language service that works in both cultural contexts, both in the Western one as well as in the Arabic one.

 

I think the real bottom line of all this is it's not simply that my colleague from al Jazeera is absolutely right when he says that for the vast majority of the Arab world the real presentation of the face of America is in the news channels, American policies, Americans actions rather than in the commentaries of what America is, how America is trying to present itself.  I think it's even deeper than that.  I think that there is a real gap between the very roots of our cultures which we are going to have to work very, very hard to attack, because it seems to me that the really bad guys out there, the al Qaeda people, it's quite clear what they want to do.  They want to try to bring about a clash of civilizations.  They want to try and bring about some kind of cultural war in which they use hatred of the West as a rallying point for their own manic cause inside the Islamic world.  And I think it's going to be absolutely in the deep strategic interest of the West to stop them from succeeding in that.  We don't want a clash of civilizations.  We want a dialogue of civilizations, a cooperation of them.  And one absolutely essential role for that is going to be our job in the media.

 

The bottom line, again, I think we don't have to reinvent the wheel.  We know what works.  We know what worked in the course of the Cold War.  We know the way in which the West's mix of trying to tell the truth, of trying to embrace more than just one opinion, of using things like Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty or BBC World Service, using exiles, and also realizing we were really in pretty much of an open competition with forces like Radio Moscow.  I think we came out of that Cold War confrontation very well.  We won, because we were telling the truth, and they weren't.  If we stick to that, if we try and tell the truth and keep an open mind, then I think there's going to be an awful lot more that unites people like me and my colleagues at Radio Sawa and al Jazeera than is ever going to divide us.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Joyce, I want you to engage, but one quick follow-up.  You draw the analogy between Radio Free Europe and Voice of America during the Cold War and now this current problem.  But they say there's a disconnect.  They say we hear you.  You can tell us--you can give us straight news, but we're angry because we don't like what you are doing.  We are angry because we don't think you apply these values that you just discussed, and we used to talk about Voice of America.  I don't think you apply these values in your policies to our region of the world, whereas during the Cold War in eastern Europe we were--our foreign policy tracked those values.

 

MR. WALKER:  No, I don't think they did--not particularly.  I mean, in the Cold War we had to climb into bed with some very, very unsavory people, and I think on occasions during the Cold War we compromised our own moral position and moral authority by some of the allies we chose to support and some of the stances we took.  But I don't think we have to be defensive about this.  If Middle Eastern friends tell me that Britain and America are doing entirely the wrong thing inside Iraq, well, I've got lots of comebacks for them.  I can start off by talking about the way in which women are treated in the Arab world.

 

I mean, as Ambassador Djerejian said, there's an awful lot to work with.  If you look at the commitment the West has got on the one hand to democracy, on the other hand to human rights, female rights in particular, and finally on our commitment to a free media and free exchanges.  On all of those levels we have got nothing to apologize for.  And,in fact, on that rhetorical level we have got a right to be on the offensive.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Joyce?

 

MS. DAVIS: Well, I mean, basically, what I wanted to at least throw out here, too, is the way that the American media covers the Islamic world, because I think that certainly ought to be on the table, and that's something that I've been involved in for the better part of the past 10, 12 years.  But as difficult as the issues are that involve America's view in the Islamic world, it is the Islamic world's view in America.  And I think that the press here--there are some positive and there are some negative developments.  The positive clearly is that since I first stepped into this room in 1990 as Middle East editor for NPR, there's just been a sea change in the way that Islam has been covered, in the way that Muslims have been depicted on the air as well as in print.  I think thanks to organizations like Impact, for example, that are much more sophisticated now in dealing with the press, they get information very quickly, especially on breaking news through e-mail and other things.

 

But despite all of that; despite the fact that there are now Arab and Muslim voices on the air, and these are the experts frequently you go to--and it's not filtered anymore from Western perspectives--there's still a lot of problems.  There's still a lot of ignorance about Islam, about the Middle East.  There's still a lot of stereotypes that get--including stereotypes, excuse me, about how they treat women in the Arab world.  I mean, it's not a uniform thing.  It depends on the place you are.  There's still a lot of--I mean, I went to the Pointe (ph) Institute, which I think is one of the organizations- it's a think tank for journalists, and it's one of the places that really understands how serious the problem is, and they started trying to address that, address how Islam is covered, and they are doing it by trying to get journalists in the room to help them understand just what the religion is about, meet Muslims on a real level, and try to get past some of the absolute stereotypes that are still being promulgated.  So I think as we look at how we are being perceived in the Muslim world, we really need to look at whether Americans are getting the truth and are getting a fair and accurate and balanced picture about just what is going on over there, because it's an interplay.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Do you think they are?

 

MS. DAVIS: No, I don't.

 

MR. IBRAHIM:  [Off mike]--Martin talked about we need to maintain the line of speaking the truth, and eventually we will, and that's the same word that Joyce also used, the truth.  There is a major difference between the facts and the truth, and the media at best is reporting the facts.  That's the objective.  The difference between the two you can see in a report by one of the global news networks that happened to have an international program that airs overseas and the U.S. program World Views that airs in the U.S.--and certain cable channels in the U.S. will carry both.  Two years ago they had a piece of news on the Middle East.  It was reported in the same day this way:  On the U.S. channel it was reported as, "Today in the Middle East violence continues.  Three Palestinians were killed." It happens all the time, right?  And your image will go to probably throwing stones, doing some kind of mischief somehow; they got shot, killed.  What was reported on the international branch of the program of that same channel, "That three Bedouin women were killed when an Israeli shell fell by mistake on their tent." Your level of sympathy on one side is totally different from your sympathy on the other.  The Arab and Muslim world is seeing this story, and see this is coming from an American media, from where communication is invented.  We cannot possibly be looking at this and not sympathize with those guys.  So they cannot understand where are we coming from?  How come they are looking at the same picture--assuming you are looking at the same thing.  The facts are there:  Three Palestinians were killed; three Palestinians were killed.  But the truth is not really what makes the difference, the context of that.

 

Another example that Hafez and Joyce are familiar with--and there are stories probably everybody in this room are familiar with it, the reward of 72 virgins in paradise for the suicide bomber.  I am sure if I asked you to raise your hands, everybody probably believes that.  Okay?  When Bob Simon had that show in July 2001, we can see the voice-over--we can hear the Arabic suicide bombers-to-be or trainers or whatever speaking--answering the question in Arabic, and somebody is doing the translation for him.  The question was:  What makes you do that?  What will make you stop doing that?  And the guy's answer was:  As long as my land is occupied, I will do that and others will do that--commit suicide bombing.  They are committing it anyway.

 

But the translation was, "Because I'm getting 72 virgins in paradise."  That was actually an answer to a later question in the conversation.  The only way that we found they had that impact took it on itself was we were able to tell from the Arabic text the guy was not answering this way.  So we demanded that CBS replay for us the whole conversation, and they did.  And that's what we found that actually; yeah, he said that.  The facts are there.  He said there were 72 virgins in paradise.  But that was not the answer to that question.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  So why do you think they did it?

 

MR. IBRAHIM:  Simply, we believe that in the West we have free press, and we do.  We have press in general that is free from government control, but it's not free from personal bias, from editorial bias.  It would be naive for us to assume that you don't have that.  It would be wrong for us to deny them that right, but it would be extremely dangerous to totally overlook it.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  But you can go on any talk show in America, you call them up and you can get on, and you can go on radio shows.

 

MR. IBRAHIM:  If I ever get invited, I most likely will be interrupted 15 times within a sentence to really finish what I wanted to say, like today.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  People have the opposite view of yours also get interrupted 15 times.

 

We're going to take some questions from the audience as well.  And because we have a limited amount of time, we can't have speeches, and if we do get a speech, it's got to be one minute--that's it.  And so I'm going to take the liberty of cutting you off, and you'll think I'm very rude and that I've embarrassed you, but that's the way we're going to do it.  You can ask a question, or you can make a one-minute speech, and I'm going to time it.  Yes, sir.  Go to the microphone and identify yourself.

 

Q:   I'm Howard F. Didsbury, a professor of history.  The crucial thing--I want to just bring two things to the audience's mind, and that is a little historical reflection.  The safest place for a Jew to be until very, very recently in human history was in the Muslim world.  That's the first thing.  Secondly, in history it's interesting to know if we met 40 years ago we'd point out one thing:  the enlightenment in the Western world was initially begun by the Muslim travelers from China and from India.  There was a whole other great civilization which we talk about in Western civilization, the industrial revolution and so forth.  The beginning of the Enlightenment after the Middle Ages was saturated with religion, was a fresh air coming from India, coming from China.  This is what we call the Enlightenment.  And what we should look forward today to is in the middle of the 21st century the second enlightenment for the Muslim world.  That's it, thank you.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Thank you very much.  And try to keep your comments to this subject, if you can, because we need to be enlightened about media in the Arab world and in the United States.

 

Q:   [Off mike.]

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Yes, it does.  Yes, sir, state who you are please.

 

Q:   Thank you.  I'm Michael Kraft (sp) up in the Office of Counter-Terrorism.  But before that I worked as a correspondent for Reuters and UPI and have been following the Middle East since the '67 war when I was at the Middle East desk in London.  And I've been struck very much by the difference in attitudes in the Arab media, and also in Pakistan, South Asia.  In fact, in our office we used to joke a bit about the conspiracy theory of the week.  And I'd like to suggest that we have to deal with the aspect- that we are dealing with a much different cultural outlook.  Conspiracy theories are rampant on all sorts of things, as anybody who reads the Middle East and South Asia press realizes.  There's an educational issue, perhaps, dealing with madrassas.  This goes beyond dealing with the immediate press, but I think we have to look beyond just the VOA or public diplomacy, but try to deal with the local and regional press, because I think that's where most of the attitudes are formed in the Muslim world.  And it's a mistake to overlook the psychological attitudes.  I remember just before the Americans went into Afghanistan an interview with a Pakistani who said everything that's wrong in the world is the fault of the Americans and the British.  I think we have to realize we're dealing to some extent with a culture that has difficulty in accepting responsibility for its own.  There's not the introspection in the West.  And that's why some of the old tools of Radio Free Europe, that type of thing, will not work.  We have to go much deeper than that.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  And I want to encourage the panelists, if you want to respond to anything you hear here, just jump in.  Let's go to this side of the room for a minute.

 

Q:    Hello, my name is Alan Fromhertz.  I was a Fulbright scholar to Morocco last year, and that was a fascinating experience.  But the one thing that—

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Don't tell us about that.

 

Q:   Oh, no, I'm not going to do that.  Don't worry.  But the one thing that I did notice is that in American media there doesn't seem to be very much about the really good news that's coming from the Middle East and from places like Morocco.  For example, I was there in Morocco during the Casablanca blasts, and I felt with my Moroccan friends, all my Moroccan friends, all those problems.  But there were 2 million people--2 million--the largest demonstration in Moroccan history came onto the streets in support of human rights and democracy.  This was not widely reported in the West.  Now, what's going on here?

 

Also, in Morocco the head of the Islamic religious organization has called the radical Islamic movement tantamount to the Nazis.  I mean, there are so many movements, and there's so much good news coming from the Middle East.  Why aren't we hearing about it?

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Good question.  Joyce?

 

MS. DAVIS: Let me just give you some basic information.  An organization like Knight-Ridder, with 32 newspapers, has one correspondent in the Middle East, based in Jerusalem.  I don't think she's even visited Morocco yet in her 2 years.  So it's resources.  And the fact is even if we sent her there for an explosion in Casablanca, she would be probably busy covering that one thing and couldn't be everywhere.  Believe me, I would probably demand she'd be everywhere at all times, but she couldn't do it.  So something would get lost.  And, generally, what gets lost unfortunately are the good news stories.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  UPI is in more places.  [Laughter.]

 

MR. WALKER:  Yes, we've got quite a few stringers around the Arab world.  One thing that we have been focusing on quite hard is these really promising shoots of democracy, the elections that took place in Oman and the election, the new constitution in Qatar, the elections that we have been seeing in Kuwait, the developments of majilese and so on.  I think it's one of the really big stories around in the world at the moment, and I agree most of my colleagues in the Western press are underreporting it.  But it's not for wont of UPI's trying.

 

MR. AL-MIRAZI:  [inaudible] I have one thought on this.  It's not only about the Middle East.  I think journalists somehow they have the instincts to go and report negative stories.  I mean, if you look at the president's trip to London, I mean the main story was the security in London for the president.  And so it's not only restricted to the Middle East.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Yes.

 

Q:    My name is June Parsons—

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Oh, wait, hold on one second, June.  I was going to take a question from the table.  You're next.  And then we'll go back over here.  Go ahead.

 

Q:    Thank you, I have two questions.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Would you please identify yourself for the people here.

 

Q:    Yes, my name is Khalid Terani, and I am with American Muslims for Jerusalem, a Washington-based organization.  I have two questions--one for Mr. Walker and one for Mr. Harb.  For Mr. Walker, you were talking about that we need--and I tend to agree with you--that we need to deal with those Islamic extremists who are calling for a clash of civilizations.  We do need a dialogue of civilizations.  How do you propose that we deal with the proponents of a clash of civilizations in this building and across the river?

 

And, to Mr. Harb, you started your talk by disagreeing rather strongly with Mr. Al-Mirazi about the Arab media coverage of the U.S. and that it is anti-American.  And my question to you is that 3 weeks ago, when Israel went into Gaza over the weekend and destroyed 150 Palestinian homes, killed 10 Palestinians and wounded 110, and continued to build the wall, there was a resolution in the Security Council- and the U.S. vetoed that resolution--how would you like to cover that news, which made headline news in the Middle East?  How would you like to cover that in a positive way and also in a pro-American way?

 

MR. HARB:  Thanks for the question.  I did not disagree with Hafez 100% in the content of what he said.  What I was talking about was the attitude and the tonality of the message going from the U.S. by Arab media organizations.  Going back to what you said--it's not our job.  We are journalists.  It is not our job to give a positive spin to a story.  Our job is to provide accurate and objective information.  If it's a veto, it's a veto.  But if you want to--this is going back to what Dr. Hassan was talking about:  You've got the facts and then let's go and search for the truth.  Then you bring all the elements of a story and then let the people decide.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Martin?

 

REP. WILSON:  I disagree with your premises, sir.  I don't think that there are people in this building, nor in the Pentagon, whose policy it is to think about a clash of civilizations. We all heard what President Bush said in the wake of 9/11 and the role of Islam and the honor that he ascribed to Islam.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Ed, do you have a comment?

 

MR. DJEREJIAN:  Since I'm one of the few here who is not paid by a newspaper organization, I think I can say this.  [Laughter.]  We had a very interesting session at the Baker Institute a few weeks ago with former Secretary Baker, Jim Lehrer, Peter Jennings, and Andrea Mitchell.  And something that Jim Lehrer said I think is very germane to the discussion you're hearing here, and this is universal.  First, when man bites dog it makes news; it sells newspapers.  So there is a proclivity to report the bad news because it sells better. But Jim Lehrer said something very interesting.  He said he regretted the phenomenon today of journalism where in the past if you're a newspaper reporter you reported the news; if you're an analyst you had a column that was analysis.  And then if you're an opinionmaker in an op-ed or an editorial writer, you express your opinion.  Unfortunately, today what we have is all three often melded into the same.  So when the journalist is reporting the news, he or she is also expressing an analytic point of view and an opinion.  And that is a problem.  That is a problem.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  I think that's a terrific point.

 

MS. DAVIS: Can I just comment?  I mean, I take what you're saying, but I would say that if an opinion is actually being expressed--that's going beyond.  And I would say that we are very careful.  Yes, it is getting merged analysis with news stories, and that sometimes can be a problem, and knowing what is analysis from opinion sometimes can be.  But, generally, you try to keep the opinion stuff on the opinion pages.

 

MR. DJEREJIAN:  Right.  But you see what I'm saying is in the perceptions, the point you made that an event is reported and then an analysis meshes with an opinionated view gets in, and it's seen to be biased.  And I have no solution to this.  I just think it's the way the profession has evolved.

 

MR. IBRAHIM:  Can I add a quick comment to what Ambassador Djerejian is talking about?  Let me take it to an Arab media context.  What you just mentioned is so true in the Middle East as well.  The editor-in-chief and the op-ed pages are in the front page in the Arab press.  The publisher of the newspaper and the opinion of the editor-in-chief is on the front page.  And 15 people killed because of malnutrition is page 17, page 18.  So it is so true what you just said on the media context.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Yes, would you identify yourself and limit it to a minute please?

 

Q:   My name is June Parsons. I spent 7 years in Saudi Arabia. I wanted to commend Ambassador Djerejian for the efforts that he and his team have put forward and hopefully will communicate to our government and reach down to our people and make the kind of changes that you are talking about today in terms of objective and comprehensive reporting of all sides of issues I believe the American people and the people of each of the countries in the Arab world are fully competent to assess the information and all the perspectives.  I think this will be the biggest bridging that you referred to that can happen.  I would also appeal to Ms. Davis to pursue something that she discussed, which was the massive misunderstanding in this country of the role of women and the position of women in Arab countries, each one being different, and many times in the area of those countries being different.  I spent 7 years in Saudi Arabia.  I did not feel oppressed in any way.  Thank you.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Thank you.  Yes, sir?

 

Q:    Ibrahim Oasea, professor emeritus from Georgetown University.  I wish to welcome our good friend Ambassador Djerejian back to Washington.  There are two very complicated issues among many others that we find in the mass media in the United States.  Number one, the tyranny of words.  Jim Hoagland 3 or 4 days ago published his column in the Washington Post in which he said "jihad back home"--"jihad" is an Arabic word.  It is misused.  He meant by that a holy war.  "Holy war" is a concept that is not acceptable among human beings.  God is far above to have his name be used to have people wage war against others.  [Speaks Arabic.]  We created you as nations and peoples to get to know one another.  And, therefore, the word "jihad" has been misused in this country--misused by the mass media to show, to reflect a negative impact.  The word "jihad" in Arabic means to improve oneself in every respect.

 

The second point that I want to make is the double standards.  The double standard is unsightly when we come to the mass media and the coverage here in this country, whereas Israel was even not pushed to sign the nonproliferation agreement, the United States waged war against Iraq on the pretext that there is a weapon of mass destruction.  And, therefore, the double standards in every respect had even moved generals from Israel itself to speak in the name of justice.  We don't find that in the mass media as yet.  Thank you.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Thank you very much.  The person standing behind me--we have a longer line over here, and then I'll get back.

 

Q:   James Vehill, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.   My question is to the gentleman, Mr. Al-Mirazi, but it really is for all the panelists as well.  During the Cold War there was no Internet.  Nowadays there is one, and in many parts of the world, including the Middle East, it's a growing presence.  How has that affected the whole issue of information by both sides that they possess about each other and the issue of what is truth and what is fact?

 

MR. AL-MIRAZI:  I can't claim any expertise in regard to the Internet, but I would just say it is just another tool of globalization that made us realize here in the U.S., despite the geographical isolation, the philosophical and the attitude of isolation, that there is something wrong, that people do not like us on the other side of the aisle, that we get instant feedback of what the U.S. is doing.  And I think this is through the Internet, satellite stations as al Jazeera and others.  And that's why we are sitting here now, because before that we took a while--it took decades maybe- until we realized that there is a problem.  Now we realize it, and innocently, that there is something going on wrong.  Just an example of that last Sunday, or November 9, across the whole world the anniversary of the fall down of the Berlin Wall, the activists in Europe, in the Middle East, here in the U.S.--all of them communicated and had demonstration against the Israeli apartheid wall or security wall over the Palestinian land in the West Bank in order to make the comparison between both.  So here you have the Internet empowering people and bypassing those people who we consider biased, whether in the Arab media or the American media for people to express their own views.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Yes?

 

Q:    My name is Carmen Mina (ph).  I just came back from the Middle East.  I have visited several Arab countries, and had few encounters with some Arab individuals.  First I am going to make it as brief as possible.  The one in Egypt you are talking about generally speaking about how the press is biased.  Well, from one individual he says that he read in the Arab newspaper, because once he found out that I'm American, the reason that the Americans are in Iraq is to have a connecting oil pipe from Iraq to Israel.  In fact, Egypt supplies Israel with oil.

 

The second one was in Dubai, and the articles that I have read in the Arab press describing America as the "ugly face"--that a woman with an ugly face went to a plastic surgeon and had several plastic surgeries.  Despite all that is still ugly.

 

The third one, in Kuwait, said a Kuwaiti who accused the American of fighting their war in '91 and were paid by the Kuwait Government, which is untrue.  And my answer to him  was :  assuming that you are right, which you are not, how much money would pay for your son's life to come back from death if your son had died in the war?  We lost our young people.

 

The first one was in Jerusalem.  It happened that I was standing by a mosque during the Friday prayer, and all the cleric was saying was to call on all the Arab nations to fight the infidel of the Western world.  For you on the panel who come from Arab countries, how do you suggest we address this issue and change the perception of the Arab people?  Thank you.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Who wants to speak?

 

MR. IBRAHIM:  [inaudible] I would agree with you that there is fault on the Arab media as much as on the U.S. media in creating wrong images, distorted images, as the title for this Open Forum is.  Sometimes even something that could be as good that is done with good intentions could even be interpreted as that.  I'll give you a good example.  When the Madrid conference in 1991 was held, obviously, in Madrid, that was presented or projected in the U.S. as the location was selected as a reinforcement of how Arabs and Jews lived in peace for centuries and created a great civilization in the Iberian Peninsula.  That's great.  That's a wonderful thing.  Even if that was not the intention, it's great to propagate this kind of image.  But the way that was portrayed in the Arab media--some of them--I wouldn't say all, but some of them that Madrid was selected as a reminder to the Arabs and Muslims.  The same way you lost Andalusia to the conquistadors, you are going to be losing Palestine to the Zionists.  So, as I mentioned earlier, the facts could be there and played differently.  We need to have open dialogue on both sides, and no issue should be above discussion, and nobody should be disinvited before he or she are invited.  It should be open.  And this is democracy at its best -- really cannot do what we used to do in the past.  Okay, just do more of it.  We really need to do things differently.  And we are a superpower.  We can afford to be criticized.  And as long as we have the opportunity to rebuttal, we come out of this discussion stronger, not weaker.

 

Bin Laden like loses potential recruits when we are open to criticism.  Accept it from time to time when it's due.  We--last thing, because I know we're short on time.  When we offend Canada, we have done really something outrageous, because they never really object to us. But when the Mayor of Toronto comes out of the blackout in August of this year, and furiously says, When was the last time you heard Americans apologize for anything, when we point the blame at them that it's their fault for the blackout?  When Canada starts to speak out against us, obviously, we have gone wrong somewhere.  [Laughter.]

 

MR. KEPPLER:  Unfortunately, we only have about 5 minutes left.  We are already a little bit over time.  So we are going to have to limit the questions to the last three people at the microphone.  I'm sorry.

 

Q:    My name is Matthew Asada (ph).  I'm a Foreign Service officer going out to Pakistan.  And my question is directed to Mr. Walker and also to Ambassador Djerejian.  Two of the lessons from the Cold War were that it was a worldwide conflict and that we had to engage with our allies on this issue.  Public diplomacy in the Middle East is not a challenge just facing the United States.  How can the United States better draw upon and work with its allies to confront this challenge?  For instance, why isn't Radio Sawa an international effort or one that is done in cooperation with the Brits?

 

MR. WALKER:  It's a very good question.  I think that the short answer to that is that both the Brits and the American operation would rather be in charge of their own particular response.  And it seems to me that one of the strategic moments of the way the Cold War was one was that the Americans and the European allies developed over the years a kind of hard-cop/soft-cop approach.  And as somebody who's spent a lot of time based in Moscow as a correspondent in the Cold War, I can tell you that I certainly felt that listening to the BBC World Service, VOA and Svoboda, the Radio Liberty, you certainly got the sense of a hard-cop/soft-cop approach.  Maybe that's what one needs--somebody to put forward the harsh point of view, somebody to put forward a more balanced one.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  And you directed the question to who else?

 

MR. DJEREJIAN:  I think Martin gave a very good response.  I believe that when you look at this effort, this struggle of ideas that we are engaged in today and for the foreseeable future.  I'm not bothered by the fact that there are different, and even dissident voices coming from the West, be it the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Latin American countries.  That again is an example of the diversity of freedom and freedom of opinion, and I think that is understood in the Arab and Muslim world.  So I don't think there should be a uniform voice.  I do believe in multilateral efforts.  I do believe in multinational coordination on high policy issues.  But the fact that when you look at the Western messages coming from our European allies, ourselves and Japanese, other friends of ours, the basic principles are there, and they are being expressed, but in different ways, and I find nothing wrong with that.

 

Q:    My name is Darren Cambridge (ph).  I'm a recent graduate from Middlebury, and I am going to start working for the Close-Up Foundation.  My question I ask basically to clear up some smoke that has been covering a story that I have been interested in ever since it was released.  Hours after the September 11 attacks, I was watching CNN, and they reported pretty much the reactions of people from across the world. They showed footage of Palestinian men, women, and children celebrating in the streets and throwing candy in the air.  Then later on CNN they then reported that that footage was actually taken 4 years earlier or something like that.  In my research just in investigating that, getting to the bottom of it, I've gotten sort of a mixed story behind what actually happened--what was the deal behind that coverage.  I was hoping that any of you here might know the truth behind that coverage.

 

MR. PACHIOS:  Anybody have any insight in that?  This is the wrong place.  They don't have any information.  But that's an interesting question.

 

MR. IBRAHIM:  We continued the consensus in the Arab and world streets, more sympathy with us.  Almost every reputable scholar from Sunni or Shiite groups came and condemned the attacks.  Our organization condemned it at 12 Noon on September 11--on al Jazeera, because we happened to be neighbors office-wise at that time.  So even that did not get reported widely, but the general consensus was that we were sympathetic to what happened, that this was just a crime that cannot be explained or justified.

 

MS. DAVIS: I think what happened at CNN was just bad judgment.  I mean, somebody did something that they thought they just quickly got some tape and used it, thinking that this is--you know, it was bad judgment.  Bottom line is I did also report- I did a story after September 11 talking to leaders, Islamic scholars around the globe, and to a person got condemnation of that attack, certainly in the name of Islam.  So it was reported in 32 newspapers.

 

MR. AL-MIRAZI:  That doesn't--also, if I may add--also that doesn't prevent an effect in order for us to be objective that you would have some segments of the society misguided, whatever it is.  It is not represented


Released on December 5, 2003

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