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Internews Middle East director testifies before U.S. Congress

Date: 7/18/03

Karim Alrawi, Internews’ Middle East regional director, testified before the U.S. Congress on July 10, warning that the war on terrorism cannot be won without an open media in the region.

Alrawi’s written testimony, available online at internews.org, detailed the history of civil society in the Middle East, and offered advice on how to win the “hearts and minds” of the people in the region.

“To affect change in the Middle East it is necessary to strengthen the institutions of civil society by increasing the participation of larger segments of the population,” said Alrawi. “Such a transformation cannot take place without the media playing a vital role.”

He added that winning over the “hearts and minds” of the people is not the same as a public relations or propaganda campaign. The people in the region have lived with deceitful media in the past, and they know how to recognize a free media.

“The fact is nothing convinces like the truth and nothing has the ring of truth about it more than information transmitted by a credible source,” he said.

Alrawi emphasized the need for increased training among media professionals in the Middle East, and documented Internews’ own experience over the past year. The organization recently completed a series of journalism workshops in Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; and Muscat, Oman. Over 100 journalists from 11 countries were trained in fact-based journalism, and reporting on civil society and human rights issues.

Internews also helped organize a conference last June in Athens, Greece to help create a regulatory framework for media in post-war Iraq. The conference participants drafted a new media law and framework that was adopted by 75 leading Iraqi, Arab, and Western media and human rights NGOs, journalists, and media law experts.

Alrawi said that Internews is also working on developing programs on women’s and children’s issues, business and Internet skills, and media law.

For more information, contact Lorraine Dillon. Telephone (707)826-2030, extension 101. E-mail ldillon@internews.org