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Arab Media Forum kicks off with lively debates

DUBAI, May 9 — The two-day Arab Media Forum kicked off Tuesday with debates over the role of media during the Arab turmoil, but the discussion took a surprising U-turn.

Themed "Arab Media: Exposure and Transition," the Arab Media Forum 2012, which runs in its 11th edition, hosts 70 media experts and professionals from various sectors and academic backgrounds in order to cast a light and to develop the role of media after the Arab turmoil in 2011.

The forum kicked off with workshops examining the role of social media and the youth's usage of them during the Arab turmoil. But the role of media was less in the spotlight at the opening discussion mid-day, as the key note speaker, Dr. Farouk El-Baz from the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, said that there are "four failed dreams" which triggered the turmoil.

"After World War II the Arab states became independent and they wanted to create an Arab Union. They wanted to liberate Palestine, and also the Arabs aimed to create social justice and catch up with industrial states. All these visions did not became true and this is why the younger generation rebelled last year," El-Baz said.

The scholar, born in Egypt in 1938, added that "I have to admit that my generation failed and put damage to the Arab world."

The statements of El-Baz, who enjoys a highly-regarded reputation throughout the Arab world, triggered applause among the over 2,000 delegates, of whom 400 were from outside the UAE, but also critics.

Algeria's former minister of culture Dr. Mohieddine Amimour disagreed with El-Baz when he raised his voice in the debate after the key note.

Amimour said Algeria is a proof that the older generation has achieved a lot. "Fifty years ago, the Algerian people ended a revolution and with great sacrifice the French occupation in 1962. We achieved independence. That everything was a failure in the Arab world is simply not true," Amimour said.

Dr. Abdulbari Atwan, editor-in-chief of Palestinian Al-Quds Al Arabi Newspaper, partially agreed with El-Baz. "It is true, we did not liberate Palestine. But we achieved independence, and also the Gulf Arab world created the face of a modern Arabia, as they built up new industry segments to prevent for the time after the oil," he told Xinhua.

"I think you can't generalize that an entire generation failed, " Dr. Atwan said.

Despite the controversy his key note triggered, El-Baz reiterated his standpoint that the Arab world has a long way to go. "The turmoil has not erased illiteracy among 120 million Arabs. This is a shame for the Middle East and North Africa, which was centuries ago the most developed region in the world in relation to culture, science and literature."

The 11th Arab Media Forum will continue Wednesday with discussions on E-media and the role of TV channels in the post- turmoil Arab world. (PNA/Xinhua)

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