Arab Media Forum draws big names from politics, press – and the public

Diverse guest list at annual Dubai conference includes Egypt’s prime minister and woman famous for ‘shut up your mouse Obama’ video

Ben Flanagan
Ben Flanagan - Al Arabiya News, Dubai
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Big names from politics, press and – notably – the public are set to descend on the Arab Media Forum in Dubai, which this year tackles the future of the industry amid rapid shifts in technology.

A diverse mix of attendees will rub shoulders at the two-day forum, reflecting how the very makeup of world’s media is changing given the democratization that came with channels like Facebook and Twitter.

Ibrahim Mahlab, Egypt’s interim prime minster, will give the keynote speech at the official opening of the conference on Tuesday, and is set to address both media issues and politics amid the ongoing presidential election.

Sheikh Waleed al-Ibrahim, chairman of MBC Group – of which the Al Arabiya News Channel and this website are part – is set to speak during the main plenary session on Wednesday.

Aside from such established names, upcoming stars of social media and the blogosphere will also feature at the Arab Media Forum (AMF).

Mona al-Beheiri, an Egyptian woman who rose to fame over a YouTube video in which she told U.S. President Barack Obama to “shut up your mouse”, has been invited to the conference.

Beheiri’s video went viral, and she returned to the virtual stage several times to vent about what she believes to be Obama’s interference in Egypt’s domestic affairs.

She will not speak at the event, but will be the subject of an address by Mohammed al-Hammadi, editor-in-chief of the Abu Dhabi-based Al Ittihad Newspaper, according to conference organizers.

Mona al-Marri, chairperson of the Dubai Press Club, which organizes the AMF, said that the general theme of the AMF will be the future of the Arab media and digital trends.

“Arab media – basically most of the management of Arab newspapers – are really old traditions … So they don’t believe in technology,” said Marri.

“We should stop and look around us at what is happening in the world, what’s happening in the technology industry, and how we can really utilize these technologies.”

The 13th edition of the AMF will include a panel discussion on Tuesday entitled ‘Arab Media and Sectarianism’, which is held in collaboration with the Al Arabiya News Channel. Moderated by the channel’s senior reporter and anchor Rima Maktabi, a panel will address how “sectarian antagonism creeps to media channels” in the region.

Members of the international media will also be present at the AMF, with John Daniszewski, a top news executive at the Associated Press, scheduled to discuss “The Future of News Media in the Region” on Tuesday afternoon. That session will be moderated by Faisal J. Abbas, editor-in-chief of Al Arabiya News.

Other attendees include a host of ‘new media personalities’, including Hatoon Kadi, a host of YouTube’s Noon Al Nisw Comedy Show.

So given the mix of voices at the conference, will the AMF make history with more “shut up your mouse Obama” rants from Mona al-Beheiri?

“Definitely not,” said Marri. “It’s more of a meet and greet for her”.

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