Attendees during the second session of the opening day of the Arab Media Forum in Dubai on Tuesday. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai The role of a media spokesperson was the topic of debate during the morning session of the opening day of the Arab Media Forum (AMF) 2012. The differences between Arab and foreign spokespeople were discussed.

During the session titled ‘The Official Foreign Spokespersons: An Expanding Role and Ambiguous Influence', Abdul Wahab Badrakhan, writer and political analyst, said that there was a disparity between Arab and foreign spokespeople.

"It is near impossible to get in contact with an Arab spokesperson.

"When you do, he has nothing useful to say, and you can feel the lack of communication between him and the department he represents."

Defining the role of a spokesperson, Jennifer Rasamimanana, the US State Department's Regional Arabic Language spokesperson and director of the Dubai Regional Media Hub, said that the job of a spokesperson is not to theorise, speculate, and/or create news. "It is to explain and clarify.

His role is to give an accurate representation of the policy," she said.

The idea of a spokesperson in the Middle East and the West is quite different, Rasamimanana said, adding, "In the Arab world, spokespeople emerge from governments in times of crisis, otherwise there is no reliable channel between the journalist and the government."

She added that a spokesperson is a mere mediator between the government and people, and needs to be easily understandable by all.

Arab opinion leaders feel official spokespeople from foreign governments to be just as credible as those in Arab media outlets, according to a joint research study released yesterday by APCO Insight, the global opinion research division of APCO Worldwide, and the Dubai Press Club.

In light of the findings of the fourth edition of the ‘Arab Media Outlook Report 2012-2015', Dubai Press Club and APCO Worldwide carried out a survey examining the role and influence of foreign government spokespeople.