Given the turmoil in the Middle East, liberals in Arabic-speaking countries have been routinely dismissed as too small in number to make a difference. Yet today, Arab liberals lead some of the largest regional media outlets, using their broadcasts to promote religious toleration and pluralism, civil society, gender equality, and rule of law.
In his recent book, Broadcasting Change: Arabic Media as a Catalyst for Liberalism, Middle East specialist Joseph Braude–a participant in Arabic media–vividly portrays how the ongoing struggle between reformers and hardliners in Saudi Arabian comedy, drama, and news broadcasts have helped tipped the scale towards reform. The book illustrates that some of the most effective Arab liberal activists do not define their struggle in terms of a zero-sum conflict between an authoritarian regime and its people, but instead seek to strengthen reformist trends while isolating hardline and corrupt elements within government and among the population.
Arab liberals in the media now seek international partners. With the new National Security Strategy’s emphasis on “Competitive Engagement,” how can the United States work to bolster the efforts of these reformers in Arab media? What forms of assistance would best serve these media messages without undermining their legitimacy?
On January 30th, Hudson Institute hosted a discussion to assess the challenges to strengthening reformist media in the Arab World. The panel consisted of Joseph Braude, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and advisor at the Al-Mesbar Center for Research and Studies in Dubai; Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, President, Middle East Broadcasting Networks; Adam Garfinkle, Editor, The American Interest; and Eric Brown, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute.