Cross-cultural cooperation in a Danish-Arab context

Cross-cultural cooperation in a Danish-Arab context
Cross-cultural cooperation in a Danish-Arab context
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Originally published by International Media Support. I still remember vividly the week after the eruption of the so called Mohammad cartoon crisis [cartoon drawings published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005 of the Prophet Mohammad caused major anger amongst some Muslims and led to a political crisis between Denmark and the Arab world]. Without any prodding or suggestion from anyone, one of our journalists Sawsan Zaideh decided to investigate how the Arab press dealt with the crisis. She researched the timing, the content and what happened and why and came to the simple conclusion that the entire case was largely manufactured for political reasons. Naturally our report which did get some publicity changed some minds but we can’t say that it erased the negative effects that stayed in the minds of many people regarding Denmark. Our story would not have been reported had it not been for a programme that had been instituted in our media organisation with a Danish journalist friend I had met a few years earlier. When Jesper Hojberg, Director of International Media Support (IMS) and a Danish delegation visited us in Jordan, I had suggested that among the best ways to lift the standard of journalism in the Arab world was to motivate journalists by means of friendly advice and criticism from fellow journalists. With the aid of the newly established IMS, we gained access to the funding that we needed to train professional journalists and to expose them to media criticism world wide, including in Denmark.

Eye on the Arab Media

The result was a radio programme, Eye on the Arab Media, that aired a weekly critique and debate session of Arab media by Arab journalists. Since then, the programme has changed to focus more closely on Jordanian media and has recently added video making it available on Youtube. “Eye on the media” has now become the longest running radio programme on our station Radio al Balad. It was with these acquired skills and the resources made available to us that Sawsan Zaideh could carry out her research into the cartoon crisis which concluded that the issue was less about the drawings of the prophet and more about internal politics which hijacked the case.  Since then we have also introduced investigative journalism into Arab media, helping to set up Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ). Our investigative journalism project which initially used many non Arab trainers including a number of excellent trainers from the Danish Journalism Union has now become the leading regional institute for investigative journalism, running hundreds of workshops and supporting investigative reports that are being recognised for their high professional journalistic quality.

A true and genuine partnership

The above examples that I have personally been involved in point to two important pillars of the Danish Arab partnership. They point to the fact that this a partnership built on mutual respect and comradeship and that the partnership includes a strong element of helping people to build their own capacities and self reliance. In the years of working with our Danish partners we never felt there was any attempt to impose ideas or thoughts nor to use the relationship to advance any specific political agendas. What I experienced was genuine love for the beauty of cross cultural cooperation and partnership. I am certain that our Danish partners through twinning (professional exchange programme for media works in the Arab world and Denmark) and other projects ‘get as much as they give’, thus making the cooperation a true and genuine partnership.

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