Activist countries

“In Arab countries, being a journalist is a sedentary and urban profession”, says Slimane Zeghidour, editor-in-chief of TV5

RIYADH: Earlier this month, the French Embassy in Saudi Arabia organized a conference entitled “France and the Arab World – From Charlemagne to the Fifth Republic” moderated by Slimane Zeghidour.

Zeghidour, a specialist in regional affairs, is editor-in-chief of the French television channel TV Monde and a researcher at the French Institute for International and Strategic Research specializing in the Maghreb region and the Middle East.

He spoke to Arab News in French during his visit to the Saudi capital, expressing his frustration with the Kingdom’s lack of communication and the state of journalism in the Arab world.

Zeghidour’s first visit to Saudi Arabia was in 1987, 35 years ago, when he went there to write a geopolitical book and essay.

A lot has changed since then. “Some transformations were unimaginable just five years ago,” he said. There are new events happening in the Kingdom, some rather “daring”, but “we (journalists) are not aware of them”, he added.

For example, Zeghidour heard about a symposium on tolerance when it was already over.

Although TV5 Monde does not have a broadcasting station in the Middle East, its Maghreb-Orient channel is dedicated to shows, films and documentaries from the region with Arabic subtitles.

“It is through this pillar that we exist and try to exist in the Arab world,” Zeghidour said, drawing attention to countries like Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, where French is the first unofficial language.

A veteran reporter for 25 years, Zeghidour has covered the first and second Intifada, as well as the wars in Sudan, Iraq and Algeria, among others. He never saw an Arab journalist working for an Arab newspaper there. “The only Arab or Arab-origin journalists I met worked for The Guardian and The New York Times.”

Investigative journalism in the Arab world is a near miss, according to Zeghidour, who said, “We don’t recognize a journalist’s right to ask questions, even if that’s what their job is about. It (their job) is not to give answers. They must first ask themselves the right questions.

He added: “The press, the power and the authority of each country must evolve. This mutual development should generate mutual trust and respect.

Moreover, he believes that “in Arab countries, being a journalist is a sedentary and urban profession”. Journalists generally get their information from their contacts and there is “no in-depth work or in-depth investigation on the ground in the country or abroad”, he added.

It is imperative to train investigative journalists in the Arab world who can tell stories – and not just rehash stories from the wires.

“Even in the most important and oldest Arab newspapers, the articles are simply a summary of international stories, or reflections and digressions on current affairs,” Zeghidour said. “As long as this persists, the Arab public will seek information about themselves, their situation, their daily life and their country in the international press.”

That’s part of why it’s no surprise that more than half (61%) of young Arabs get their news from social media, according to the Arab Youth Survey 2021. It also attributes social media’s popularity as source of confirmation bias information. have.

“The result of this poll is not surprising since most people are only looking for information that supports their own beliefs,” he said. “It (social media) doesn’t teach them anything new; it only reinforces what they already know.