"We do not want a media that are instruments of the regime," said Mehdi Mabrouk, Culture Minister of Tunisia, the country that ignited the wave of dramatic changes in the region with its so-called "Jasmine revolution". "Journalistic coverage does not mean the simple handover of information from the government to the people," he added.
Given the delicate context in which the Middle East's information system is experiencing the post-Arab Spring transition, there are growing calls for the media to play a more incisive and decisive role. "We are at a critical stage: we emerge either stronger or divided," said the academic Farouk al-Baz, pointing out the limits of media potential in the process of social change, at a time when 120 million Arabs are still illiterate.
"The media's days are numbered," warned the Bahraini journalist, Sawsan Sha'er, who remarked that "in Bahrain we listen to the voice of the country from other sources, not from the government". Government sources, Sha'er argued, do not explain what is really happening in the country's streets.
Other speakers at the event made clear that Arab television networks have "divorced from reality", and not only in the strictly journalistic sense. Fingers were pointed a large number of products purchased from outside the region, which penalise local creativity and industry and do not reflect the experiences, needs and sensibilities of the Arab public.
The religious aspect was also the focus for attention during the two-day debate. Religious programmes that pack Arab television schedules must be more cautious in their tone and in the messages and fatwas that they send out, said speakers at a session dedicated to the issue. A number of programmes incite religious fanaticism and advocate sectarianism rather than tolerance and dialogue, some said.
As well as tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites, those between Muslims and Christians were also under the spotlight.
Religious division is "a dangerous weapon in the hands of the occupying forces," said the Palestinian Archbishop, Theodosius Hanna, referring to Israel, which could undermine relations between the two religious communities in order to weaken the Palestinian front. (ANSAmed).