Current Date:

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Paper of Ambassador Omer Dahab, Permanent Representative of Sudan to UN, Presented in 5th Media Conference in New York:

(Media and Democratic Governance): 
1. I would like first of all to express thanks to “Centre for Media and Peace Initiative” and “Rutgers University” for organization of the “5th Annual Conference on Media and Democratic Governance”. I also thank the organizers for the kind invitation they extended to me to participate in this very important conference. We should not overlook the fact that, while the media some five or six decades before was following the events, now they are leading and, in so many instances, especially where the big powers and their interests are involved, engineering the events by imparting to them some “necessary directions” or “colour”.
2. Thanking the organizers again for this opportunity, I would like to stress that my contribution comes out of practical experiences and observations as a professional diplomat who have been in this profession for the last 34 years. I am not in any way match to those who enjoy specialized academic background. I am encouraged to confine myself to what I have learnt out of this experience, by the fact that the participants have satisfactorily and ably touched on virtually all issues of the theme of the conference including these very practical experiences on which I will only make further elaborations, comments and views.
3. The challenges that face media to foster governance are enormous because of two reasons:
a.   The very important role played by media in this connection.
b.   That media is certainly affected and influenced by all other political, social, economic and cultural factors as far as individual national states and international community of nations are concerned.
1. Some general definition of Governance is that it addresses the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of either the world or an individual country’s affairs at all levels.
2. What unifies the world, or let us say, the human race is humanity. We have no choice but to enhance, cherish and promote what unifies us as human beings living in this community of nations.
3. As far as media is concerned, we all, with no exception agree on certain principles including:
a. Governance. Governance for the Media. Governance in the media and Governance through the media.
b. We agree, with no exception on the fight against corruption. Media have to do more in this regard. The media in the developed industrialized country have an added responsibility and obligation to fight transnational economic corruption.
c. Empowering people by education, wide dissemination, raising awareness of both rights and duties, entitlements and responsibilities.
N.B. (African Charter for Humans and Peoples Rights)
d. Ending conflicts. (Experiences in Sudan and DRC)
1. Rather than non-agreed ones, there are some principles that must be accorded priority over others as far as the media and journalists are concerned. The priority of principles have nothing to do with their importance on prominence. They are not necessarily unified priorities that are applicable to both North and South hemisphere alike.
2.  What is a priority for Africa, for example, is not the same for Europe or North America.
3. UNFORTUNATELY, not only the sequencing or prioritization are conversely or reversely set in favour of the media who are more powerful and effective, but non-agreed notions were foist into the regime of rights of the peoples and  being promoted as such in some occasions. For example, marriage of the same sex and acts which were in the past considered “Crimes against nature” in the common law penal code, are now gaining more momentum as proclaimed solid rights in the influential media more than violence and causes of violence, more than promoting friendly relations between states and the peoples, more than peaceful settlement of disputes and non-recourse to coercive measures. These are not inclusive issues concerning media alone. But the effect and impact of media is far-reaching and media are after all is the issue we are addressing now.
1. National unity (Even existential threat)
2. Economic Development
-  Africa is receiving only humanitarian and relief aid. It is not receiving developmental aid. For example USA is not assisting Africa developmentally.
- Technological gap is increasingly widening and the UN decisions on transfer of technology have yet to be implemented. The media are doing nothing. Nothing.
- Ali Mazrui, the late Kenyan thinker, is of opinion that while the “ideological” divide between East and West was, and still is, easy to bridge, the “technological” gap between North and South was, and still is, difficult to bridge. Actually it is widening. More interestingly and more alarmingly Mazrui is of belief that, “Both ideology and technology are rooted in culture”. That is why economic disparity is widening between African (an example from South) and the North. As Mazrui said, “Cultural change needed for technological progress is more complex than cultural change needed for ideological revisionism”.  These are haunting, burning, priority issues for media and inter-sates governance. The same ideas thrown by Mazrui are upheld by Samuel Huntington in his (Clash of Civilizations).
3. Environmental degradation and climate change.
- Desertification has severely impacted on the lives of the people of the Sub-Saharan Africa resulted in deaths, epidemics, conflicts and migrations.
- Conflicts, bloody and savage, raged in Sub-Sahara Africa. The response was mixed from the other parts of the world especially the “donor” countries, but it did not at all exceed humanitarian aid. Even humanitarian aid was laden with “security” and “value system” challenges.
- In the case of Sudan, it was not until 2007, four years into the armed conflict in Darfur, that the UN, through   UNEP acknowledged the climate change factor in the eruption of conflict in Darfur. This was never allowed to be reflected in the Western media. Those who tried to talk about this climatic dimension of the conflict, including the SG of the UN, were vehemently opposed and even muzzled. Leading US printed media, backed by powerful civil society organizations like Save Darfur insisted that the conflict is one of genocide of an ethnic group against another. In the middle of this dust “freedom of expression” in its true manifestation was totally absent.
4. Dumping of hazardous and toxic materials
- In Somalia, Lebanon, Nigeria, to mention but few, toxic materials were suspected of being dumped. The story of an Italian journalist on Somali coast is a case in point.
5. Flight of African Capitals
1. Freedom of expression in the West (i.e. within the individual countries) is guaranteed more than it is guaranteed across borders with countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
2. As we examined the general definition of governance, the same definition has to do also with inter-state governance. In the present era of globalization, freedom of expression in as much as it is carried on by the media entails specific duties and responsibilities within the meaning of Article (19) (3) of the ICCPR.
* Reporting from Africa for example is always loaded with misinformation exaggeration, distortion, double standard, incomplete and erroneous analysis and, worse, agenda.
* Western media and Western governments, as far as the “others” are concerned, see always eye to eye.
3. But what is the case within the states boundaries of developed countries?
To try to give some glimpses, I would like to make some quotations
-“Every day of the week, something is being censored in the  American media” Mazrui.
-In UK, while during former PM Thatcher’s time and sometime before, the activities of political wing of Irish Republic Army and the activities of their MPs were censored based on the excuse of “terrorism”. On the other hand, the offensive Satanic Verses of Salman Rushi was published and distributed in UK, though it caused killing of hundreds of people in the Indian Sub-continent.
Time Magazine in April 1989 quoted The Times of India newspaper replying to what Salman Rushdi said that India’s ban of his book was a case of building repressive society:-
“No, dear Rushdi, we do not wish to build a repressive India. On the contrary, we are trying our best to build a liberal India where we can all breathe freely. But in order to build such an India, we have to preserve the India that exists. That may not be a pretty India. But this is the only India we possess.”
By the way that is how and why the ICCPR of 1966 was drafted. Article 19(3) of that Covenant states that freedom of expression entails duties and responsibilities.
4. In his (Clash of Civilizations), Samuel Huntington, talked about the “but nots” saying that the “but nots” are the unavoidable price of universal standards of principles. To give two examples:
* “Democracy is promoted but not if it brings Islamic fundamentalists to power.”
* “Free trade is the elixir of economic growth but not for agriculture.”
1. One big problem that we face is the tendency of humans to dominate, to dictate. You cannot mostly dictate on yourself, but you can dominate others and dictate on them. But we have to strive to be humble, not to standardize, not to dictate. The internal non-dictatorship and non-dominance is called “democracy”. The external dictatorship, standardization or dominance is called “hegemony”, but what is external non-dictatorship?, what is the external non-dominance?, what is the external diversity? We do not exactly know or, we have yet to apply and implement it.
It is said that Greek philosophers major problem was lack of humility. Is it now the case with Western Civilization?
Huntington said, 
“Interestingly if perplexingly, Americans endorse competition in American society between opinions, groups, parties, branches of government, businesses. Why Americans believe that conflict is good within their own society and yet bad between societies, is a fascinating question which, to the best of my knowledge, no one has seriously studied.”
- Media and information monopoly is a problem that has to be addressed.  It is not one (problem). It is multi-faceted. Developing countries have to face their obligations in this regard as well. For the West, there is another problem, but it is of relevance. The West supported by media must stop “Creating” enemies.