Thursday, December 14, 2006

Inside the Flames: Covering the World’s Hottest Spots

Event Title: Inside the Flames: Covering the World’s Hottest Spots
Sponsors: Women in International Security
Location: Georgetown University, Meranda Room, 3600 N St., NW
Date: October 27, 2006
Time: 11:00 AM – 3:30 PM
Approximate number of Attendees: 250
Intern Attending: Ashley Smith

Featured Speaker: Joyce M. Davis, Associate Director of Broadcasting, Radio Free Europe

Joyce Davis’ work focuses primarily on Islamic movements and the Middle East. She is currently working with Radio Farda, the Persian radio broadcast of Radio Free Europe based in Prague. Although funded by the U.S. government, many Persians now view Radio Farda as their national radio station. While Radio Farda does rely in part on Iranian news sources, they work predominantly with U.S. reporters and speak from a U.S. perspective. The traditional role of radio has been to retain impartiality in all coverage of events. Radio Farda tries to balance this traditional role while also following a congressional mandate that dictates its actions to a certain extent. Because of this, Radio Farda has been using their broadcasts to actively promote democratic governance and tolerance.

However, when espousing beliefs contrary to those of local governments or authorities, reporting can sometimes become dangerous. Allegations of corruption in reporting can be particularly risky. In Turkmenistan, some media workers have begun reporting anonymously for this reason. At the same time, other journalists feel empowered by democratic promotion and the belief that the United States government will intervene should they become incarcerated as a result of their reporting. Unfortunately, this is not the case and the U.S. does not intercede on foreign reporters’ behalves. In order to ensure the safety of its own reporters, Radio Farda works to forge close relationships with the embassies. On one occasion this proved useful, and a group of reporters about to be apprehended were secreted out to safety. Davis pointed out that there is sometimes a difficult moral compromise that must be reached by reporters. Sometimes it is necessary to maintain good relations with countries whose policies you may not be in favor of in order to remain in the country to cover events.

Davis believes that in Iran, U.S. diplomacy has a large effect on relations between the two countries. Because many moderates in Iran are being radicalized, the media’s position in this country is of particular importance. There are many illiterate Persians that live in remote areas of Iran and may rely entirely on the local mullah for the bulk of their information. However, most of these followers also have access to radio. Therefore, Davis stresses the need to achieve better cultural sensitivity through radio broadcast by promoting the role of Islam as well as the role of democracy. The radio is an important vehicle for the dissemination of ideas and by offering differing perspectives, we can better hope to cultivate tolerance.

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