Nadine Nimri is one of seven Arab media professionals who visited Denmark as part of a road trip aiming at establishing meetings between media professionals engaged in gender issues in the Middle East and Denmark. The road trip Challenging male dominance in the media was organised by International Media Support (IMS), with support from the Danish-Arab Partnership Programme.
Ala Latif, Nadine Nimri and Hala Bejjani in the bus on the highway to Odense, Denmark
The opinions were many when IMS and the Danish Women’s Museum in Aarhus invited for a public debate on how to challenge male dominance in the media. Part of the panel was Nafisa Al-Sabagh from Egypt, editor-in-chief of the women-oriented website, Masreiat. She also has experience from several Egyptian media outlets and as media expert and trainer for international NGOs. She believes change in the Arab world has just gotten started.
The group of media professionals included Sara Alzawqari from Yemen, radio host with one of the country’s most popular programmes called ‘Tea with Milk’. Her sarcasm-filled take on Yemen’s crisis builds bridges between people and communities from all walks of life.
Sara Alzawqari being portrayed for Danish newspaper Politiken
“There was a barrier between different communities and I realised that slang and sarcasm is a good method to establish common ground. Sarcasm is already integrated into Yemeni society. It brings people together.”
She is impressed by the media environment in Denmark.
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“What shocks me the most in Denmark was the level of objectivity in the media. There is so much responsibility in the media on what is provided to the public,” she said.
Hala Bejjani, the Lebanese founder of a children’s newspaper in Beirut and the Planet News Business in Qatar, criticised the general opinion of the Arab spring.
“People say the Arab spring has not lived up to their expectations, but I believe it is too early to judge. Even if there are no political results yet, the changes have grown strong into our DNAs.”
Hala is also the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar. She emphasises the strength of Arab women.
“We currently see a lot of new companies being founded by women, with 300 new companies on a yearly basis just in Lebanon.”
She further criticises the Western way of portraying the Arab world.
“I do not like the way we are often portrayed in the media, with religion being decisive. We have just as many ‘crazy Muhammad’s’ as Christians have ‘crazy Pauls’.”
In these crucial times of conflict and upheaval in the Arab world, it is important to create some sense and understanding of what remains of the Arab uprisings that started in spring 2011. It is clear from the perspectives of the visiting female media workers that change has taken place in the minds of both men and women and that this change despite violence and the return of authoritarian regimes is irreversable. And that it is the responsibility of western media to also seek out and portray this change whenever possible in their coverage of the Arab world.