DUBAI // Attempts to improve standards of Arab journalism and new media received a boost yesterday with a Dh30 million (US$8m) grant to the American University in Dubai. The grant, from the Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation, will pay for 200 Arab students to take four-year scholarships at the university's Mohammed bin Rashid School for Communication. They will admitted over the next two years.
The school currently has 140 students, 50 of whom are on scholarship. The need to "Arabise" the media industry was key to improving the output of information not only about the region, but within the region, said Ali Jaber, the dean of the school. "You can't really start a robust media industry without the proper qualifications, regulations, and professional integrity. What we have right now is out of date," he said.
Elias Bou Saab, the university's executive vice president, said there was a "definite" lack of qualified journalists in the region. He referred to recent coverage of Dubai World, in which, Mr Bou Saab said, "most of the press in the Arab world has basically copied the western press without checking their own facts first". According to Mr Bou Saab, drastic, across-the-board improvements in the quality of the region's journalism and media were needed.
"Part of the training offered at the school is dedicated to ethics and moral responsibility, where students learn about how to handle press freedom responsibly," he said. Another issue was that standards of press freedom varied from country to country, he said. In Lebanon, journalists were often factually incorrect because they could say what they wanted, whereas in Saudi Arabia they had very little press freedom, said Mr Bou Saab.
"Here, we are trying to find a balance between press freedom and responsibility to the facts," he said. "There is definitely room for growth in the Arab world. We lack a proper media in the region and we are paying the price for it internationally." firstname.lastname@example.org