Social transformations and times of radical political change, such as those that have been underway in parts of the Arab world for more than two years, often prompt questions about the role of the media. A group of journalists from Algeria, Morocco and Germany are thus currently debating the social, political and economic significance of the media. Eleven participants converged in Berlin this week at the invitation of the Federal Foreign Office to take part in the dialogue.
The media have to follow a different set of ground rules in each country. Journalists are more or less free to practice their profession in different places, depending on the laws and material possibilities in each. These two statements are both simple and unsurprising. But what insights can be obtained from an international comparison of the role of the media? This is the question being addressed in Berlin this week by seasoned journalists from two Maghreb countries – Algeria and Morocco – and their German counterparts.
On the first day the participants discussed the varying ground rules under which the media operate. A study conducted by the University of Mannheim was the springboard for the discussion. The participants then gave extremely illuminating talks about reporting on the dramatic changes in North Africa. The discussion looked above all at the situation of media professionals in Morocco and Algeria. The dialogue focused on the one hand on the self-perception of the participants from the region, and on the other hand on the German correspondents’ view of the area.
On the second day of the workshop, the participants looked at things from another perspective and considered why the Maghreb is given so little attention in the German media. German foreign correspondents from the region and the participants from the North African countries offered their own answers up for discussion. Germany’s image in the Moroccan and Algerian media was also the subject of a lively discussion.
The fact that journalists from both Morocco and Algeria participated in this dialogue on the media was unusual. Relations between these two neighbours in the northern Maghreb are close but often difficult, as seen in their politics and in the press. The week in Berlin thus provided an opportunity to discuss options for further regional integration in the Maghreb.
Whilst in Berlin, the participants were also shown some of the city’s rich culture and history. Visits to the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie, the German Historical Museum and the Museum Island were part of the programme organised for the Moroccan and Algerian journalists.