x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Poll highlights change in West's attitude since Arab Spring

Arab media coverage has been positively received in the West, a new poll revealed at the Arab Media Forum found.

DUBAI // Western opinion leaders believe the Arab Spring will transform politics and society in the Middle East, a poll released at the Arab Media Forum last night revealed.

The study, carried out by Apco Worldwide, the opinion research group of the Apco Global PR Consultancy, and completed early this month, polled 343 former and current diplomats, and other opinion leaders in the United States and Europe.

More than three quarters of those polled for An Arab Spring? Perceptions of Western Opinion Leaders believe the revolutions and uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Syria since the start of the year have helped to bring Arabs into the world community.

Of those polled, 47 per cent had received news about the uprisings through Arab media - and tended to have a positive view of the outcome as a result.

"This is the first study of its kind that has looked at how events in the Middle East are shaping the views of opinion leaders in the West," Mamoon Sbeih, Apco's Arab region managing director, said.

"It is clear that while there may be concern about who emerges in power, characterising events as an indictment of Arab society is not persuasive. The argument that Arabs are taking their place in the world community prevails by a large margin."

With the Arab Spring, Arab media succeeded in breaking through the Western misconception that Arabs were the "barbarians" sometimes portrayed in modern media, Joe Lauria, UN correspondent for TheWall Street Journal said during a panel discussion after the release of the report.

He said that images of woman and children protesting in Tahrir Square showed the West that Arabs "were not that different". He also said the presence of international media in Cairo meant that many more lives were saved.

However, an editor at Agence France-Presse, Jacques Charmelot, questioned the preoccupation with outside perceptions.

In the aftermath of the revolution that began in January, Egyptians were more concerned with their new government, finding jobs and gaining stability, he said.

The theme of this year's Arab Media Forum, sponsored by the Dubai Press Club, is Arab Media: Riding out the Storms of Change. Among those who attended the opening of the two-day event at the Grand Hyatt were the prime minister of Egypt, Dr Essam Sharaf. The forum concludes today.