Roy Greenslade writes: The revolutionary fervour of the Arab Spring came alive last night at City University London in a lecture by Wadah Khanfar, the former director general of Al-Jazeera.
In describing his reaction to the various uprisings, particularly in Egypt and Libya, he illustrated just what is meant by a journalism of attachment or commitment.
Exhibiting an unashamed passion throughout his talk, he told a packed audience:
“In our search for a fixed pivotal point around which our editorial mission is centred we find nothing better than the people with their collective mind and their instinctive opposition to oppression, arbitrariness and corruption…
I learned from my experience as a reporter, and then as director of a media institution, an important basic fact: that we should always posit people at the centre of our editorial policy.
I don’t say this simply to reiterate a beautiful slogan with which we decorate our literature or market our institutions. I truly believe this to be a moral commitment, a scientific approach and an essential interest.”
Khanfar, the first non-Western journalist to deliver the James Cameron memorial lecture, cast Al-Jazeera’s journalism as a sort of democratic mission.
He told how the Egyptian regime’s early response to the gatherings in Tahrir Square was to close down the network’s offices and to ban its reporters and crews from working.
So the broadcaster sent a message to its Egyptian viewers telling them: “If the authorities have banned our reporters from working, then every single one of you is an Al-Jazeera reporter.”
That led, he said, to hundreds of activists supplying the network with a stream of news and video clips via social network sites.