Libyan government and media gather in Doha to envision a new media system

Northwestern University in Qatar Convenes Historic Conference

Doha, Qatar, Saturday December 10, 2011: In an unprecedented cooperation between a university and a country to envision a new national media system, representatives of Libya’s post-revolution government and media have gathered today in Doha for a session convened by Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) being called Media Vision for Libya: A “Good Offices” Conference.

The two-day conference offers a platform for the delegates to discuss the role of media in Libya, and to inform the creation of a new regulatory framework in Libya, a top priority for the NTC. It is being conducted within a “good offices” framework, meaning that NU-Q will act as an impartial third party in organizing the conference and facilitating the discussion by chairing the forum, offering expertise and mediating debates, while refraining from advocating any policy position.

Dr. Everette E. Dennis, Dean and CEO of NU-Q, will serve as Chair of the conference. He had proposed that the university offer impartial support as the Libyans grapple with enormous problems in the face of the virtual meltdown of institutions and infrastructure, following the ouster of Muammar Qadaffi, and offered the conference as a forum for the Libyan representatives.

Vice Chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), Abdulhafeedh Ghoga, accepted the invitation from Dennis. He will serve as co-chair of the conference and head the Libyan delegation.

The Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil Al-Arabi, attended the opening session and gave keynote remarks.

The Libyan delegation includes Salem Gnan, NTC member for Nalut, in addition to leading figures from academia, media, government, journalism, local councils and legal organizations. The delegation members were all active figures in the revolution, and represent a diversity of Libyan regions and society. They will be taking the conference findings back to Libya to present to a wider media audience.

The conference was designed to provide a forum that will discuss the pillars of any media system—governance, media economy, technological change and education/training. In a number of sessions throughout the two-day conference, the delegates will hear impartial assessments presented to them by experts in each of the pillars. After each presentation the delegates are invited to discuss these points in a neutral and open environment that fosters comment, analysis and discussion in the hopes of reaching an initial consensus.

Dr. Dennis worked with organizations involved in supporting press freedom in post-communist Eastern Europe, and hopes that experience will offer insight into the Libyan process. He remarked that there are not many occasions in history when states have been able to build their media infrastructure with a clean slate.

“We are extremely pleased to be supporting and facilitating the self-determination of a Libyan media system at this crucial moment in history”, Dr. Dennis commented at the start of the conference, adding: “While there are nearly a dozen international media support groups on the ground in Libya, most engage in basic training of journalists, broadcasters and other media personnel—a vital step in creating an independent media, but not one that fashions the fundamental kind of changes that create media policy, engage the economy and plan for a technological infrastructure.”

Experts offering their insights into building a new media system for Libya include leading media economist Dr. Robert Picard, Director of Research at the Reuters Institute, Oxford University, technology policy expert Dr. Robert Pepper, Head of Government Affairs at Cisco Systems, and Joyce Barnathan, President of International Center for Journalists.

In his keynote address, Al-Araby said he had observed that “an independent media system and freedom of expression is essential to the legitimacy of a modern nation.”

Northwestern University in Qatar aims to be a player in the Middle East by expressing is commitment to freedom of expression and independent media.  “This conference provides a chance for us to put our values into action by connecting the yield of research evidence and experience to framing practical problems,” Dennis said. “Our role is one of genuine collaboration where knowledge and experience can be shared and applied to the unique cultural and social contexts of the region.  We are agnostic about what solutions the Libyans determine work best for them. We are the hosts, but this the Libyans conference.”

The first day of the Media Vision for Libya: A “Good Offices” Conference discussed governance models, the state of Libyan media and media economy and technologies. The second day of the conference will continue tomorrow, Sunday the 11th, with subjects revolving around education, training and human capital. The conference will close with a presentation of key findings, which will be expanded on in a full report to be published in early 2012. The presentation of the findings will occur at a press conference on Sunday afternoon in Doha.