On the first day of the Blue Peace Days at the Swiss Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 on 26 February 2022, the NGO Media in Cooperation and Transition (MiCT) hosted an expert panel to discuss shifting trends in media coverage of water issues in the Middle East.
Media experts from the Blue Peace Media Lab and academics engaged in a lively debate as part of three presentations on narratives around water security, the media’s role in highlighting water innovations, and the role of media and advocacy in raising awareness of the regional water crisis.
Dr. Hussam Hussein, a lecturer at the Oxford University, discussed how water scarcity in Jordan is framed by different actors, with the government and official media emphasising a water insufficiency narrative and externalising the blame, while donors, NGOs and international organisations tend to focus more on a water mismanagement narrative. He argued that in order to capture the full complexity of the water issue it should be contextualised within the political economy as part of interdisciplinary research.
Maisam Otoum, the Jordan country manager of the Swiss NGO cewas Middle East, said media could be used as a tool to promote water innovation. He pointed out that coverage of water issues is often negative, overly focused on government efforts and too country specific, adding that the media could play a more constructive role in highlighting the work of young entrepreneurs in the region.
Documentary film maker Mariam Shahin’s presentation looked at how the rapid changes in media, particularly the widespread use of social media channels, affect strategies to communicate around water. She argued that in order to reach a wider, more diverse and younger audience, journalists should consider a multi-pronged approach, combining in-depth coverage of water issues with shorter, snappier content for social media like TikTok and Snapchat. The use of vivid images, short videos and the involvement of social media influencers are also effective ways of reaching a wider audience, she added.
The Blue Peace Media Lab is part of the Blue Peace Middle East initiative. It is a project of MiCt and cewas Middle East and is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.