Connect to share and comment

US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson addresses the GlobalPost / Open Hands Initiative 'Covering a Revolution' Fellowship

TRANSCRIPT: She lauded Egypt's young journalists and the fellowship's mission, praising the vision of Open Hands Initiative founder Jay Snyder.

CAIRO — Good evening, everyone, and thank you very much, Jay, for your kind introduction. I’m pleased to be with everyone here tonight to celebrate the value of journalism and the contribution of professional exchanges like The Open Hands Initiative.

The young American and Egyptian journalists gathered here tonight are the future of journalism both in Egypt and the United States. And it is great to see that they are developing their reporting skills together as they jointly cover stories.

I understand you are doing far more than sitting in a classroom this week. You have actually been moving around town, investigating leads, building stories, and shedding light on controversial issues.

I hope that the bonds you form in your work develop into lasting friendships and professional links that you can draw upon as you move forward in your careers.

Journalists all over the world are facing new challenges and opportunities, but none are doing so to the extent that journalists here in Egypt are. The January 25 revolution did not just usher in dramatic political change, it also entirely reshaped Egypt’s media landscape.

Egyptians have taken advantage of their new freedoms to launch a variety of new television stations and newspapers and to reinvigorate existing publications. Journalists of all ages and backgrounds are valued voices in a democracy. They encourage dialogues, constructive debate and transparency. Every day as I skim the newspapers or catch a television segment on Egyptian TV, I am reminded of the lively discussions that journalists are facilitating.

These conversations will be an essential part of Egypt’s democratic transition. They will inform Egyptians about their own country’s entirely new political environment. You young Egyptian journalists are in a unique position to shed light on the development of political parties, campaign platforms and the electoral system.

Citizens will rely on you to provide them with the information they need to make informed decisions as they decide whom to vote for or which party to support.

Your role will also be key as you report on the elections, visit polling stations, talk to candidates, and report concerns that voters may have. There will inevitably be problems in the electoral process. Certainly my own country has had its share of these in recent years. And you as members of the newly empowered Egyptian media will be there to report on them and to ensure the integrity of the elections.

While the technology of journalism may change with time, as we’ve seen with the expansion of the internet and social media, the core issues remain the same and I would like to briefly address some of those tonight.

I’ve worked all over the world, in Colombia and El Salvador, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and the United States. And in all these countries, the role of journalists and the interaction of media and the state was a major issue in public debate and in the country’s evolution.

The first principles of journalism are: A commitment to verifiable truth, independence from the subjects of the reporting, provision of a public forum for debate and compromise, and balanced representation of the society.

The press is accountable above all else for supplying factual and credible information to the people to enable them to make independent judgements and informed decisions. When the press and media are driven by rumor, by gossip or by personal interest, they are denying the public of their fundamental rights.

I have great respect for the vast majority of the newspapers, editors and hardworking journalists who strive for truth, impartiality and fairness in the articles they write and publish. However I must admit that I have been on occasion in recent weeks disappointed in some of the reporting that has not been factual and indeed, some if it has even incited violence.

The second issue related to the first is journalist ethics which I know is constantly debated and discussed in media circles.

A friend of mine who was a journalist recounted to me debating with her colleagues the degree to which a journalist should approach a grieving family after an accident. I had a similar conversation with my brother, who was a journalist at the time, about whether he was compelled to report adverse information about a prominent citizen, information which would surely cause the citizen