Diana Untermeyer came to UNC Charlotte last October and spoke about her living experience in Qatar. She began her discussion with a short slide show of pictures from her book, “Qatar: Sand, Sea and Sky.” Untermeyer’s discussion focused on Qatar as a progressive country, particularly as it pertains to media influence. As a journalism student, I enjoyed listening to Untermeyer’s remarks about Qatar’s growing media influence, which is helping to create a steady climb towards a democratic society:
“It’s very difficult to have a democracy without the tradition of civil society”
The freedom to express through various media channels is considered one of the foundations of democratic principles. Media in Qatar is mostly uncensored and based mostly on independent reporting.
The evolution of investigative reporting among the rising youth in Qatar
Al Jazeera revolutionized the media in the Middle East by replacing government- controlled media with uncensored independent reporting. Due to Al Jazeera, Americans have to face reporting about their country through a foreign perspective. “It can be very different to see America through foreign eyes. It’s not biased, just different,” says Untermeyer. However, there is weakness in Al Jazeera’s investigative reporting. “This is bound to change,” says Untermeyer, who gives credit to the rise of social media influence which makes easier to report stories. Also, online blogs and magazines are enabling Qatar’s youth to speak up and make comments about certain topics.
“You don’t teach young people to ask hard questions unless you want them asked.”
Untermeyer also discussed how Tim Sebastian, a hard-hitting journalist from Britain, came to Qatar to train Qatar’s youth on the art of debate. This eventually helped in forming debating societies in Qatari schools. In fact, debate societies in Qatar are internationally renowned.
Untermeyer summed up media and democracy by stating, “The freedom to ask your government questions is the foundation of civil society on which participatory government is built.”
Summary by Brianna Woods, International PR Major (WACC Intern – fall 2013)