'Reforming local media outlets key to instilling culture of accountability'

'Reforming local media outlets key to instilling culture of accountability'
Rand Dalgamouni

DEAD SEA - Reforming local media outlets in the region is key to instilling a culture of accountability to be observed and respected by governments, a media expert said on Saturday.

Jamal Dajani, vice president at Internews Network for the Middle East and North Africa, said local media outlets are more capable of enforcing accountability on local governments than regional outlets.

But Dajani, who is also a blogger, warned that there is a prevalent distrust of local media in the region.

“Why do people refer to regional media outlets rather than receive news from their own media?” he asked.

At a panel discussion on “Trust Through Accountability” at the World Economic Forum’s Special Meeting on Economic Growth and Job Creation in the Arab World yesterday, the panellist said “bringing focus back on local media” will “push interest into accountability locally”.

“If the public does not have faith in the media, how can you enforce accountability?”

During the discussion, panellist Ahmad El Zu’bi, director of research at the Jordan Investment Board, said he refers to official media outlets to know what government officials have to say, and then reads other alternate media outlets online “to get the dirt on what happened”.

Dajani called for “getting the media back into its professional track” and “creating a cadre of niche reporters” in local outlets.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad noted that accountability starts from within institutions.

“Institutions are the only place where you can have meaningful accountability,” he said, adding that governments in the region have “failed miserably” in addressing the demands of all age groups.

Fayyad, who took part in the session, advised new governments being formed in the region as a result of the Arab Spring to “tell it as it is” and maintain constant contact with the public.

He said officials should be open to the possibility of being replaced or removed.

“There is someone out there who has an idea better than yours… either you listen or make way,” Fayyad advised.

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