Edan: Keeping Arab Representation on the Public Agenda

Sikkuy
Social & Economic Justice

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Edan Ring - 2018 Trailblazer

Reflecting on success

“Everyone knew Arabs were excluded in the Israeli media, and that what representation there was was unfair and unprofessional. But it wasn’t talked about,” says Edan Ring, director of Sikkuy’s Arab Media Representation Project.

“In the past three years, we’ve turned this into an issue that is very much discussed in the media, in civil society and in the academy.”

Edan is proud that the Arab Media Representation project inspired a similar type of discourse – plus new projects – among other Israeli minority groups, including Haredim, Russian-speakers and Ethiopians.

“More and more people are aware of and interested in the importance of fair representation. The challenge is to keep it as an issue on the public agenda”

During the project’s first year, Edan’s team named the issue of Arab exclusion in media and attempted to quantitatively measure it. In the second year, they worked to increase the number of Arabs interviewed on television and radio news shows. In the third year, they worked to change the status quo with important media figures.

Now, the focus is on empowering Arab citizens to take the lead in monitoring and responding to media exclusion, and to address exclusion in key coverage areas. For example, the lack of coverage of Arab towns during municipal elections.

Edan is proud to report, “We’ve heard many Arab voices in the recent coverage about violence against women, and we’ve become the megaphone of the Arabs on Israeli Twitter, which plays a big role among Israeli journalists.”

On October 9, Sikkuy held a pioneering workshop to give Arab academics, students and activists tools to increase the Arab voice on Israeli Twitter. “The Tweets of today are tomorrow’s headlines,” says Edan.  

He sees things moving in a positive direction. “When we began working, the percentage of Arabs appearing on major news shows was three per cent,” he says. “Now, the average is five per cent.” This is still a long way away from the 20 per cent of the population that Arabs in Israel constitute, but it is an upward trend.

Kan, the Israeli public broadcasting company, greatly improved its numbers, and today it gets the prize for the highest representation of Arabs. Before the project, only one of its major news programs could boast 10 per cent Arab interviewees; today, there are five programs that do so.

What lies ahead

Edan is proud that the issue of minority representation, especially Arab representation and coverage in the media, can no longer be ignored. People in the industry generally understand it’s an issue that must be addressed.

“More and more people are aware of and interested in the importance of fair representation,” he says. The challenge, he notes, is “to keep it as an issue on the public agenda.”

Another challenge is the lack of Arab reporters, writers, editors and news directors in Hebrew media. “We see many more Arabs now in high tech, finance, design, art and culture. But journalism is still 99 per cent Jewish. The media industry is the last place that is changing – and it’s not even beginning to change. There are big barriers to entering this closed gentlemen’s club,” Edan says.

Looking to the future, he would like to see the establishment of an academic course that gives Arab candidates a foot up in the world of journalism. He would like representation to extend into areas like public conferences, where much of the public agenda is established, as well as to advertising and social media.

“And, of course, we’d like to affect the education system and other places that influence the way people think,” Edan adds.

With more resources…

Edan hopes to measure representation at a greater number of media outlets and programs beyond the five channels and 20 major news programs his project currently monitors. He would like to expand the project’s database of Arab experts that media can interview, and add to it names of Arab artists, scientists, academics and social activists.

The support of partners abroad has been instrumental, Edan says.

“They understand the importance of supporting something intangible. This is not buses and schools, but it’s working to change the way people feel and think about each other, through the way they’re portrayed in the media. This is key to resolving the Arab-Jewish conflict within Israel.”

Written and reported by Ruth Mason.

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