Dr. Mustafa Souag, Acting Director General of AlJazeera Network, began the 8th AlJazeera Forum by welcoming guests from fifty-one countries. This unique forum, bringing together academics, political elites, journalists and activists, offers an opportunity to exchange visions and ideas on both a regional and global level. AlJazeera Media Network has always prided itself as a pioneer in offering a platform for discussing change and reform through programs and news, and the forum is simply another example of such a platform.
Dr. Souag promised in his opening speech that, “AlJazeera will continue to cover human rights issues wherever possible, and will strive, as it always has, to give every human a right to defend their rights and make their voice heard because it is a voice for the voiceless and a platform for those who have no outlet”.
For AlJazeera, the topic of journalists who have been persecuted for their work has hit especially close to home, with four of the network’s journalists currently detained in Egypt, including Abdullah Al-Shami who continues a hunger strike to protest his arbitrary detention. “AlJazeera will exert all efforts to free our journalists so they can return as to their families and colleagues with dignity and honour and continue their media work”, Dr. Souag said.
The director general’s opening speech addressed not only the forum’s importance to its guests as a platform for debate and discussions, but also to the overall atmosphere of change in the Arab world. In the first and second years of what has come to be known as the “Arab Spring”, there was euphoria and quick transition, including the re-entry of Islamist groups into the political scene, prompting celebrations and hope. However, “in the third year, a number of obstacles emerged, and these obstacles left the revolution and its forces facing major challenges ranging from hindering the transitional process to overturning it completely in others”, he said.
Dr. Souag concluded by mentioning that there are many questions surrounding the future of democratisation in the Arab world, something which prompted the forum’s organisers to focus on the topic of change in the Arab world and where it is headed, and resulting in the forum’s theme and title, “Change in the Arab World: Where To?”