The Big Bang of menac: Why was the Middle East and North Africa Committee of the European Youth Press founded? Our team member and founder of menac, Katazyna Morton, explains it all.
When I look back on the very first meeting of menac, I clearly remember that it was held in very enthusiastic atmosphere. The committee was established in 2009 but the work really took off during the General Assembly of the European Youth Press in Bulgaria in 2010. The intercultural composition of the founding fathers team was already reflecting a set of values that also laid the foundation of menac’s objectives. The group consisted of three people: researcher and a media maker Gülsen Devre, a Turk, raised in Holland, Turkish journalists Emre Caliskan living in England and finally myself, Katazyna Morton born in Poland, living in Belgium, already shortly working in Islamic Republic of Iran and actively working on projects related to media.
“menac for us is making a bridge between journalists from the Arab region and the Western region. Normally, they would not cooperate, but only write about the other’s region. In the case of menac, we are trying to show understanding, knowledge and attitudes of both journalists, to understand why they do what they do and why they write what they write. This way, we will not make the already existing stereotypes larger, but show the human side of journalism.”
– Gülsen Devre
All of us brought some positive experiences related to Euro-MENA cooperation, on a professional level as well as on a personal level. We felt that these experiences had enriched us as humans and empowered us as young professionals, and so we decided to dedicate our time to build a channel that could help us sharing it with others, and we became the first three coordinators of menac. At this time, the European Youth Press has already sent its representatives to a few events related to Euro-MENA cooperation. Funding opportunities related to Mediterranean area and Euro-MENA collaboration was becoming more accessible. Additionally, whispers of upcoming change in Arab region were following the environment of activists.
Zooming out on the global context helps to see all pieces of the puzzle. The world of youth has slowly been narrowing in on the online space of Facebook and Twitter, where active people from both regions can easily meet and discuss. Also the media world has carefully been accepting social media as a form of journalism (still, for many a controversial statement though). Therefore it has become clearer that such skill as international communication, will soon be a must have for every journalists. Additionally, both regions meet also in “real life”. News headlines were and still are all about a vision of multicultural society and its social, economical and cultural aspects. In different countries and within variety of media we can find it all: starting from slogans as “peaceful integration”, passing many others and ending with the aggressive “clash of civilizations”.
This multi-dimensional and multi-contextual, sensitive atmosphere of change has given the media a unique possibility to influence public opinion on all those topics. These circumstances have created a need to raise awareness among young media makers in both regions on how to avoid stereotypes and biases while reporting and promote a broader understanding of culture and diversity. Ironically just after the committee was established, the historical motion gave birth to Arab Spring, which only strengthened the arguments for such initiatives as menac.
It is hard to specify which one of the aforementioned factors became the strongest trigger for the Bing Bang of menac. Was it the personal experiences of us, the founders or was a need within the European Youth Press to deliver new skills to young media makers or was it the global politics and need of social change? Perhaps a little bit of everything.