Dubai: The role of citizen journalism and the impact of emerging social media on conventional media were discussed at the first morning session of the Arab Media Forum 2013 (AMF) yesterday.
During a forum session titled “Conventional Media vs New Media”, Thair Soukar, head of Digital Strategy at Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia, told delegates that social media was not a replacement for conventional media but it was a vital tool.
“It can never be a replacement for conventional media because it is simply not a news generator unless it is an announcement issued from the official account of the source. The announcements that His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issues on Twitter are an example. Social media forced itself on the media platform. No media can be faster than Twitter and so it has become a vital tool for media outlets to gather information.”
Samia Nakhoul, the Middle East news editor of Reuters, believes that social media outlets should not solely rely on social media without making sure that it is true.
“Everyone has an agenda so it is important that news agencies check whether the tweet is in fact correct from more than one source in order to not fall in the trap and publish or broadcast false information.”
Though most speakers agreed that social media is vital in places that can’t be reached by them, such as Egypt and Libya during the revolution, the role of citizen journalism and social media was a topic of spirited discussion by speakers.
Al Arabia news anchor, senior reporter and producer Rima Maktabi believes that citizen journalism played a role in the creation of the Arab revolution.
“Had it not been for citizen journalists the world would not have known the Arab revolution,” said Maktabi
“Some people on social media take advantage of the media to spread their own agendas and if people who used Twitter were journalists there wouldn’t have been a revolution.”
Input News Manager at Masr Al Arabiya news channel (under construction) Nadia Abu Al Majid disagreed with Maktabi saying: “The revolution did not happen because of social media or media in general, but other political factors sparked the revolution. A journalist is a journalist and should be unbiased even when faced with pressure or a revolution.”