Mideast spokespeople from U.S., UK to address Al Arabiya panel

The government representatives will discuss “what it takes to be a regional spokesperson” at the Al Arabiya News Global Discussion

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Being a government spokesperson in the Middle East requires a firm grasp of the Arabic language, two Middle East-based spokespeople are due to tell an Al Arabiya panel in Dubai on Saturday.

Government representatives from the U.S. and UK are due to discuss ‘what does it take to be a regional spokesperson’ at the Al Arabiya News Global Discussion this Saturday.

Joshua Baker, regional spokesperson for the U.S. government, and Rosemary Davis, the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesperson for the Middle East, will highlight how to communicate governmental messages clearly and effectively to an Arab audience, along with all the challenges that can take place on the sidelines of diplomatic ventures.

“The biggest challenge is of course language,” Baker told Al Arabiya News ahead of Saturday’s panel.

Davis said that a practical, expressive knowledge of Arabic is “very important” in her position.

Both spokespeople said that there were other major challenges in addition to a firm knowledge of Arabic.

One must-have attribute for a spokesperson is the wide range of “functional knowledge” needed to grasp the complex geopolitical situation that has emerged out of the Arab Spring.

Baker’s role sees him communicate U.S. foreign policy at a time of intense global interest in the region. The U.S. State Secretary of John Kerry visited the region seven times in during Kerry’s first six months on the job, according to the spokesman.

“Whether it’s Egypt, Iran, Syria, there’s really no end in sight as far as the focus or the role of the United States in this region,” he said.

However, as a spokesperson, isn’t there a risk of personal opinions sometimes conflicting with the message and policy espoused by the government you represent?

Baker said that taking an objective, non-personal role is key to performing the job.

“We go out of our way to explain that we are spokespeople, not analysts, and not commentators,” he said.

Expressing the government’s stance is strictly professional, not personal, according to Davis.

“When people say to me, what do you really think - what’s your personal opinion? I say, well, I’m here as a government spokesperson, and the government’s view is this,” she said.

The Al Arabiya News Global Discussion, an invitation-only event taking place on Saturday, will address the theme ‘Bridging the Communication Gap Between East and West’.

The event marks the relaunch of this website and the ten-year anniversary of the Al Arabiya News Channel, the leading Arabic-language news station.

HRH Princess Rym Ali, founder of the Jordan Media Institute in Amman, will speak at the celebration.

All debates will be recorded and made available online at Al Arabiya News.

The first panel will analyze the reasons behind the Arab world’s apparent failure in efficiently lobbying the West, and how Middle Eastern representatives can be more effective in voicing their interests. The second panel is entitled ‘Lost in Translation: Does the West really understand the Middle East?’

The Al Arabiya News Global Discussion marks the recent redesign of Al Arabiya News and the upcoming launch of a key service of the platform.

Al Arabiya News Global Discussion will take place in Dubai on November 30.2013. Follow coverage at www.alarabiya.net/English and find out more about the event here.

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