Arab media call for unified counter-terror strategy

By Mohammad Ghazal in Amman

Arab media figures meeting in Amman called for a unified and comprehensive Arab strategy to counter extremist ideology. [Photo courtesy of the Jordan Media Commission]

Arab media figures meeting in Amman called for a unified and comprehensive Arab strategy to counter extremist ideology. [Photo courtesy of the Jordan Media Commission]

Media figures from around the region have called for a unified and comprehensive Arab strategy to counter the extremist ideology and propaganda spread by groups such as the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL).

More than 700 media figures and artists from the public and private sectors in several Arab countries attended the 3rd Jordan Festival for Arab Media, a four-day event in Amman that concluded August 25th.

The event was organised by the Jordan Media Commission (JMC) in collaboration with the Union of Jordanian Media Producers, the Arab League, and regional and local partners.

Antidote for 'terrorist poison'

During a session on the media’s handling of terrorism, festival participants said journalists must undergo more extensive training to avoid unintentionally strengthening extremist groups.

"Some media outlets have indirectly worked to promote terrorist groups and their ideology, which helped project the strength of these groups and portray them as all-powerful," said Bahrain's Special Envoy in the Royal Court and former Minister of Information Affairs Samira Ebrahim bin Rajab.

The media's efforts to counter extremist ideology are insufficient, she said.

"The media play an active and primary role in shaping public opinion," she told Al-Mashareq.

In order to "avoid the trap of promoting the propaganda of terrorist groups", she said, co-operation among Arab experts and distinguished media personnel is essential.

"Terrorist groups are actively using all social media and modern tools to disseminate their poison, making it imperative for Arabs to develop initiatives to empower and raise the level of professionalism of the traditional media in the face of obscurantist ideology and hate speech," she said.

The media play an important role in debunking what terrorist groups advocate and revealing how far removed their ideology is from Islam, she said.

"Unfortunately, the media sometimes disseminate images and news published by terrorist groups without verifying their veracity, and that is a major mistake," Rajab said.

Enhancing role of women

There is a need for well-thought-out media programmes to deal with terrorism, said retired Lt. Gen. Abdulaziz Hassan al-Rayes, media advisor to Kuwaiti deputy prime minister and minister of defense Khaled al-Jarrah al-Sabah.

These programmes should not neglect the role of women as mothers and educators, as they are usually the closest to their children, he told Al-Mashareq.

There also ought to be training programmes and workshops to maximise the role of women in the fight against terrorism, he said.

"Terrorist groups are using women to recruit and promote their ideology," he said. "Hence, Arab states must focus on the role of women in combating extremist ideas."

TV serials and programmes in the Arab world should also bring to light the deviance of terrorist groups from the proper practice of religion, al-Rayes added.

Rehabilitation programmes

Focus must also be placed on the rehabilitation of misled victims of terrorist groups, said Col. Khader al-Khattab, representative of Jordan’s Public Security Directorate.

"It is very important that there be a media strategy," he told Al-Mashareq. "However, there are many [youth] who were brainwashed and arrested before carrying out any operation."

These youths need to be rehabilitated, he said, and at the same time, the media and all its tools must be utilised in a professional manner to curb the terrorist groups’ attempts to brainwash more youth.

"There is an urgent need to use all available means to listen to the youth and get closer to them through continuous education," he said, adding that clerics, universities and schools play an important role in this regard.

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