Successful First Step Towards New Relationship Between Islamists and Mass Media
Political Islam Editors Association (PIEA) held, Sunday evening, a special meeting under the theme ‘A new relationship between Islamists and the media’ at the Journalists Club in the Egyptian capital Cairo, under the management of Salah Abdel-Maksoud, former head of the journalists union. The meeting kicked off with a short introduction by writer and journalist Ahmed Al-Khatib.
The meeting was attended by a number of leaders of Islamic groups and movements, namely: Mohsen Radi, member of the National Committee of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP); Dr. Yousry Hamad, spokesman for the Nour Party; Dr. Tariq Al-Zumar, spokesman for the Islamic Group; and Sheikh Abdul-Hadi Al-Qasabi, Chief of Sufi Sheikhs; as well as dozens of political Islam editors, from the Middle East News Agency and the newspapers: Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar, Al-Jamhoriya, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Egypt Today, Al-Youm Al-Sabea, Al-Watan, Al-Shorouk, Al-Tahrir and Al-Mogaz, and also form the websites El-Badil, Masrawy, Akhbar Misr and Rasd News Network.
The meeting was also attended by a number of media leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Group, such as journalist and writer Qutb Al-Araby, journalist and writer Hani Salah Al-Din, Sheikh Mohamed Hassan Hamad, director of the Islamic Group’s Media Centre.
After a discussion lasting an hour and a half, attendees agreed on a number of common points as a nucleus for an initiative the PIEA and Islamists seek to launch after consensus among all Islamic movements, journalists and media workers, namely:
First: Islamists Shall:
1. Ensure cooperation with all media outlets and newspapers, allowing them free circulation of all information available, which channels all information through appropriate media sources, so journalists would not have to resort to unknowledgeable or untrustworthy alternatives.
2. Treat reporters in a friendly manner during their coverage of meetings and press conferences, allowing them inside Islamists’ headquarters or premises, especially while they wait on closed meetings.
3. Develop the role of their media spokespersons, develop standards commensurate with recipients’ professional standing, and allocate more than one – patient and practical – media spokesperson to communicate with the media.
4. Put an end to the general approach of ignoring or threatening to boycott the media and newspapers, reserving the right to take whatever appropriate legal action, if any newspaper or media outlet circulates false information about Islamists without proper investigation to ascertain its truthfulness and accuracy.
5. Accept objective criticism and refrain from attacking media outlets or newspapers as long as they are committed to objective criticism and do not seek to tarnish the image of any Islamist group or movement or to repeatedly attack an Islamic faction.
6. Assist reporters to get more familiar with each Islamist current or movement (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists, the Islamic Group and the Sufi orders), so the media would no longer have to rely on ‘common’ information about Islamists which may be incorrect and unfounded.
7. Seek to end the climate of polarization, antagonism and the presumption of bad faith – as a prelude to correcting and reforming the relationship between Islamists and journalists.
Second: Journalists Shall:
1. Commit fully to professional standards and objective reporting, refrain from spreading rumors or false information, ensure full validation of news and information prior to publication of such news, even if it meant a little delay in publishing the news until it is validated.
2. Ensure a professional relationship is not biased for or against the organization or party being covered, so the main goal is to report information to the reader in the context of the right to receive information from appropriate sources.
3. While maintaining the professional standards and impartiality of news… seek a friendly relationship with their Islamist sources and respect their privacy regarding information occasionally revealed to journalists privately or ‘off-the-record’.
4. Whenever a mistake is made by dissemination of wrong or false information harmful to the source… accept legal action by that source to obtain their right under the law, if the error is not satisfactorily corrected e.g. on the pages of the newspaper.
5. Endeavor to better understand their information sources, their political and social leanings and orientations, so they may enjoy a more in-depth understanding and analysis of news and information from those sources.
6. Commit, completely, to the principles of Journalists Charter, or Code of Honor prepared by the journalists union, in the transfer and dissemination of news and dealing with sources.
7. Journalists working for newspapers with a hostile attitude towards Islamist movements shall deal with Islamists objectively and impartially, and not according to the positions adopted by their newspapers.
Third, Points that Apply to Both Media and Islamists:
1. Islamists and Political Islam Editors must act as one single entity, not as opposing parties in permanent dispute.
2. Islamists and the media must seek to convince their leaders to adopt and commit to these points, in preparation for the signing of an initiative – a code of honor – between them.
3. Islamists and the media should consider the possibility of changing the name of the PIEA to Editors of Islamic Affairs Association.
4. Islamists and the media should hold regular meetings to deal with any matters arising and solve any problems between them.