A conference held at SOAS (University of London) today discussed the phenomenon of the misrepresentation of the Arab world in Western media. A wide array of speakers gave their respective views mainly on how the image of the Middle East is distorted in the West by newspapers, television programmes and the film industry.
Journalist and filmmaker Abdullah Homouda claimed that an example of this distortion is the failure of Western media to "condemn Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians", adding that the image of the Arab world is reduced to either Islamic fundamentalists or corrupt and despotic tyrants.
Hosny Imam, president of the Foreign Press Association, referred to the BBC’s labeling of the Egyptian revolution as merely the “Egyptian crisis’’, while Al-Jazeera alternatively used the terms “upheaval” and “revolution” to describe the events that began in January of this year. He further stated that prior to the “Arab spring”, 90% of British media coverage of the Middle East was dedicated to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
According to Worod Al-Musawi, Arabs have long been portrayed by the West as “barbaric and uncivilised”; Al-Musawi cited the 1926 movie “The Son of the Sheikh”. Producer and author Lewis Al-Samari referred to the negative depiction of Arabs in a host of Western-made films, for instance “The Sheikh” (1921), “Network” (1977), “Protocol” (1984) and “True Lies” (1994) among others.
Hany Beshr, a reporter for Al-Jazeera, asserted that the BBC Panorama programme “Death on the Med”, which aired in August 2010 and used Israeli footage, showed a deep bias in favour of Israel.