Answers of Mr Lyes Belaribi

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Lyes Belaribi

Executive producer of Euromed News project

Biography of Mr Lyes Belaribi

    • Lyes Belaribi is a 53 year-old Algerian who studied International law at the University of Alger.
    • Since 1982, he has been holding several jobs at the Algerian TV: External relations and Director of programs. In 1994, he was in charge of the launch campaign of satellite channel Canal Algérie, in which he is currently working as the Assistant Director of programs.
    • From 2001 till 2008, Lyes Belaribi has worked as the Director of the Arab News and Program Exchange Center, which is related to the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU). He is currently expert at the ASBU in intellectual property issues.
    • Lyes Belaribi is currently the Executive producer of the Euromed News project, which aims at producing and broadcasting reports about Euromed relations on Arab public channels in EU partner countries.

Answers of Mr Lyes Belaribi

1. Do you think that European media are ensuring a fair play towards what they call “terrorist actions”?

European media do not constitute a monolithic block that view things from the same perspective and that operates according to one editorial line on the issues to be treated, namely the issue of terrorism. Yet, by assessing the work of well-known audiovisual media stations in this field, one could come to a general conclusion that this very important matter is mostly treated shallowly and with great sensationalism. In other words, in this issue, they focus on one type of terrorism, the terrorism of Islamic radical and marginal groups, in a way that leads to a state of confusion between this kind of terrorism, which is originally rebuked in Islamic countries, and the religion of Islam itself. This position, widely undertaken by a great number of European media channels and endorsed by initiatives and declarations of some political leaders, resulted in the stigmatization of Islam and all what belongs to Islam, even when it comes to European citizens from Islamic origins. A form of deep intolerance and hatred called Islamophobia was born and resulted in several incidents that took place recently, such as the Swiss ban on building minarets on mosques from one side, and the latest slogan that the French far-right nationalist political party (Front National) used in the recent regional electoral campaign that took place in march 2010, from another side.

From the southern side of the Mediterranean, we cannot but deplore the way some European media stations are dealing with the issue of terrorism, a way far from encouraging a peaceful intercultural dialogue in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Moreover, we come to a point where we find ourselves compelled to put a question mark on the objectivity, fairness and independence that these media should treat hot matters, such as the Israeli military aggressions on Lebanon in the summer of the year 2006, and on Gaza in winter 2008-2009. These were, no doubt, real bloody collective punishments that typically correspond to what is called State terrorism, a type of terrorism with much more devastating effects (within few weeks, 400 children were massacred in Gaza).

However, one should have some hope, and initiatives developed by the European Union in the communication field, namely the project Euromed News and Europa Jaratouna, yet insufficient in comparison with the size of the job that needs to be done, are very much welcomed and contribute in maintaining a fruitful dialogue and a successful partnership in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

2. Do you think that in the Maghreb, we should continue to favor the French language, as a culture and a mean of communication with Europe, or should we give priority to the English language?

The place that the French language has gained in the Maghreb is related to historic factors, precisely the long colonization of France to the three countries of the Maghreb, in the 19th and 20th centuries. The influence of the French culture and the French language in these countries remains strong, even after half of a century of independence. The Arabic language has also progressively regained its place in the society, and other modern languages gradually found a place in it.

It is worth noting that the place that the universally appreciated French culture and language have in the Maghreb, is not negative by itself. The famous Algerian novelist, dramatist and poet, Kateb Yacine, described the French language as “war loot”. It is indeed a gain to any culture, as long as it does not come to the detriment of the mother tongue, namely Arabic and Amazigh, and as long as it does not lead to the exclusion of other foreign languages, known for their vivacity and dynamism. The English language is one of those languages that succeeded in finding a prominent place on the international level, starting from Europe. So it is in the interest of the people of the Maghreb, normally open to the world, to master this language that can cross the frontiers and cultures better than any other language. Moreover, it is important to be aware that the emergence of any foreign language -no matter how universal it is- would not reach a point where this language leads to the constitution of a unique and hegemonic cultural pole, leading thus to the disappearance of cultural diversity. It is equally important not to discard the emerging languages, such as the mandarin, the Hindi and the Russian languages… which are the fruit of rich and refined cultures that emerge more and more nowadays thanks to the success of their countries of origin in the economic, commercial, scientific, technological and cultural fields…

The image of Europe in our countries is clear as day, due to the intensity of European media, economic and technical flow. May we hope to have a similar flow in the opposite direction in order to give an image of the Arab world different from the old clichés?

There is no doubt that the image of Europe in the Arab world is much clearer than the image of the latter in Europe. I can imagine that a good number of young Arabs are able to instantly name at least 10 European cities beside the capital, but is this the case of young Europeans if we ask them to do the same? I hardly doubt. This is due necessarily to the immense disequilibrium in the flow of information between both sides of the Mediterranean in all fields, particularly the lack of images. Moreover, European audiovisual media channels seem to be interested in the Arab world only when it comes to its relations with the State of Israel, or in case of a tragic or bloody event. The images produced by Arab media stations and broadcasted on regional circuits of exchange -such as Eurovision- or on Mediterranean circuits, are not reproduced by European stations unless they contain the necessary elements of a scoop. In addition, the majority of images on the Arab world broadcasted on European stations are produced by international news agencies that reproduce routine stereotypes.

However, it is worth acknowledging that the lack of images and of positive reputation is primarily the responsibility of Arab media stations that limit themselves to the Arab world, and when they dare to venture, they target the expatriated Arab community in the five continents, and in the Arabic language of course. In fact, amidst the 600 Arab satellite channels, those who diffuse programs in foreign languages, namely English and French, on European cable networks do not exceed 10 channels.

Consequently, if we should ask our European partners, without much hope, to show a positive interest in the Arab region, it would be worth it as well that Arab media stations show more willingness to address the European public opinion by using the appropriate tools (content, language, format…) in an effort to correct the distorted image of the Arab world, an image that is not as bad as some European media stations are trying to show with their repetitive negative images.

4. Opinions diverge concerning the adhesion of Algeria to Euro-Med; in your opinion, how does Algeria benefit from this adhesion? Who would this partnership benefit more?

I think that the answer to such complex question, related to the evaluation of the association agreement between Algeria and the European Union, should come from the Algerian government itself, as it is the appropriate source that can evaluate the consequences of the application of such instrument.

Is the idea of creating a Mediterranean media station, gathering the countries member of the Euro-Med partnership, with a rich and diversified grid, possible? What do you think of such an initiative?

The idea of creating a Mediterranean TV station is not new; it goes back to the year 1997, when the Permanent Conference of the Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators (COPEAM) launched a feasibility study for a multicultural and multilingual European station called EUROMED TV. Two years later, the project was officially submitted; it consisted of a station aiming at promoting dialogue, mutual understanding and shared knowledge. It also aimed at being a privileged media station that encourages the diffusion of Mediterranean production, contributing in the development of the audiovisual industry in the region. Unfortunately, the project then slowed to a halt due to the difficulties in the Barcelona process resulting from the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As of 2006, a new project called TERRAMED came to replace Euromed TV. An internet portal on the Mediterranean audiovisual heritage was also foreseen. In May 2009, the pilot phase of TERRAMED project was officially launched. The project consisted in the promotion -via satellite- of programs related to the Mediterranean and produced by public TV stations in the region. The partners in this project are public TV stations in Algeria, Tunisia, Spain, France and Italy. Other public TV stations intend to take part in the project soon. In a few days, COPEAM will organize its annual conference in Paris (8-11 April 2010). A special workshop will be consecrated to examine the necessary conditions required for the achievement of this project.

However, one could fear that TERRAMED project would face the same obstacles that EUROMED TV project faced with the problems that erupted in the Barcelona process due to the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, TERRAMED, which counts on the support of the Union for the Mediterranean for its concretization, might as well be jeopardized due to the problems that the initiative of the French president could encounter. The main fact triggering the slowing down of any of these processes is the stubbornness of the State of Israel to illegitimately occupy Palestinian territories. On the other hand, the very recent decision of the Israeli government to establish new settlements in the occupied part of Jerusalem, challenging by that the international community, will not be in favor of any progress in this project.

It would be sad to put this Mediterranean project in jeopardy, especially that its realization would largely contribute in building a Mediterranean cultural identity, based on the principles of peaceful coexistence, sharing, respect, peace and tolerance. It is equally sad because this project, if completed, would contribute to the promotion of cultural diversity, with the production and diffusion of Mediterranean audiovisual programs.


Do you think that Arab media stations are giving up their “moralistic” tone, in an effort to work on a real development of human beings?

Since the beginning of the 90s, many changes and mutations affected the Arab audiovisual sector, namely the generalization of satellite diffusion, the proliferation of State and commercial TV stations, general and specialized ones, free and paying channels… the total number of channels reaching 600, all available in the Arab region via Arabsat, Nilesat, Noorsat as well as other European satellites. Facing the abundance in TV programs, and the fierce competition that results from it, and facing the difficulties in finding regular advertisement, the people in charge of those stations cannot act the same way they used to do 20 years ago, when they were monopolizing the market. Hence, they should double their efforts and creativity in respect to the audience, should they care for preserving it, or even enlarging it. In reality, people responsible for managing TV stations know for a fact that if one day they fail to capture the audience’s attention, they will be automatically condemned to lose this audience. Knowing this reality, it is essential that Arab TV stations concentrate more on issues related to Arab men and women, their aspirations and preoccupations to interest their audience.

7. Do you think that Algerian media stations benefit today from a high level of professionalism, objectivity and quality?

In Algeria, the field of media witnessed considerable changes since the amendment of the constitution in 1989, which introduced several political reforms in line with democratic pluralism. The written press registered an impressing boom with the launching of a good number of daily newspapers and periodicals, in French and Arabic, benefiting from a good margin of freedom of expression. As for the audiovisual sector, its reforms were upset due to the political instability that prevailed in the 90s. Furthermore, awaiting the decision of allowing audiovisual media to be open to the private sector, public stations, radios and TVs, doubled their efforts and established local, regional, national, international, general and specialized TV stations, in order to respond to the growing needs of the competitive TV market, open to thousands of Arab and European channels.

This situation certainly contributes in enhancing the level of professionalism of national media stations, experiencing a harsh competition and working for a demanding audience that can afford to satisfy its information, cultural and entertainment needs elsewhere. This does not mean that the level of professionalism of Algerian media is satisfying and perfect. Yet, one should acknowledge that efforts are made to enhance the quality of production. In fact, such efforts are being deployed by all media stations around the world, especially when it comes to public media stations that are bound to the State policy as well as to the rules and code of ethics.


8. Can a journalist in Euromed News work with total objectivity, without having to bear any pressure?

Euromed News project aims at increasing the visibility of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership actions, knowing that this visibility is judged as insufficient in comparison to the volume and importance of the partnership in the region. In fact, for the broadcasting agents engaged in this project, it is important to highlight the efforts for development deployed by the countries of the south Mediterranean, as well as their positive contribution to the projects supported by the European Union. On the other hand, from the point of view of the European Union who initiated the project, it was not appropriate to ask the journalists to play the role of propagandists. This would have been anachronistic and not in conformity with the values defended and promoted by European institutions, namely the freedom of the press. As for the partners in Euromed News; the 6 Arab public broadcasting stations (Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt), the regional unions and associations (Arab States Broadcasting Union–ASBU, the European Broadcasting Union–EBU, and the Permanent Conference of the Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators-COPEAM), as well as the chief of project France Televisions, it was clear that their participation in the project was in line with the principle of freedom of the press. In fact, this rule was explicitly mentioned in the contract between the European Union and Euromed News Consortium. The journalists working on the project accomplish their mission in conformity with the ethical rules of their profession. The editorial line of their respective organism is the only guideline imposed on them.

9. Do you agree that the speech used by media stations and that calls for dialogue between both sides of the Mediterranean targets only the south of the Mediterranean and is never meant to address the public opinion in the North?


The Barcelona Process designed in 1995 aimed at fostering dialogue between both sides of the Mediterranean. Yet, in the audiovisual media field, after 10 years of application of this instrument, results were not impressive. The disequilibrium in the flow of images became more visible, and was aggravated by the “numerical fracture”. For example, the daily Mediterranean flow of news, conceived as a tool of exchange and dialogue, is essentially the work of televisions in the South. but, the images they produce are rarely used by their European partners. In other words, one can say that European media stations, in general, did not react well to the principle of dialogue. In some instances, they even did quite the opposite, namely in the issue of the appalling mockery of Prophet Mohamed. The invitation for dialogue remained a mere aim that partners wish for during their institutional meetings.

With the launching of the Union for the Mediterranean in 2008, should we hope for a better understanding of the importance of dialogue between both sides of the Mediterranean, and for a sincere and determined accomplishment of this initiative? Beside the fact that this initiative is undermined by the same difficulties that hindered the Barcelona process, one cannot be much optimistic about the Union for the Mediterranean initiative, especially in the matter of re-launching intercultural dialogue between both sides of the Mediterranean. This programme works more on mega partnership projects (in the economic and commercial fields, environment and new sources of energy) than on issues related to culture and communication.

In this context, should one surrender and give up any initiative? I think that partisans of dialogue in both sides of the Mediterranean are numerous in the cultural and media fields. They know each other really well; they meet regularly in the framework of the ASBU, the EBU and the COPEAM. These advocates of dialogue should put more effort to re-launch this dialogue, based on the principles of respect and tolerance, to the mutual interest of the people in the Euro-Mediterranean region.