by Lindsay Boyle
In early December, professor Yusuf Kalyango, director of the Institute for International Journalism, attended an annual forum of media and communications research in Saudi Arabia.
The sixth annual forum, which focused on ‘New Media: Theoretical and Practical Challenges,’ was organized by the Saudi Association for Media and Communication (SAMC) from Dec. 1- Dec. 4 at Riyadh Palace Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. SAMC is based at the King Saud University, one of three major national universities in Saudi Arabia.
The SAMC is a pioneering academic association in media and communication that works within Saudi Arabia and in other countries in the Middle East, Asia and northern Africa. The association, in conjunction with King Saud University, annually holds training sessions, offers media and communication academic consultations, and cooperates with media organizations to develop the professional practice for the Saudi journalism and communication workforce.
Some of the association’s main objectives are to raise media awareness, to develop media and communication academic processes, to cement ties with Arab and international media associations, and to grant accreditations to media associations and professionals.
The IIJ became involved with the SAMC because the latter often invites media experts from the Western world to its events to give speeches and lectures. The goal is to enrich the cultural exchange among Saudi Arabia and some Arab and Western countries: Westerners discuss the latest theoretical and applied developments in media, while members of the SAMC help explain Saudi Arabia’s political stances on national, regional and international issues to the world.
Kalyango’s presentation at the forum discussed the impact of social media on political mobilization in East and West Africa.
While in Saudi Arabia, Kalyango was able to meet with the president of King Saud University, as well as some of the professors and journalists. Two of the professors he met are alumni of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, including Dr. Ali Alkarni, professor at King Saud University and Chairman of SAMC. Kalyango was also given a special tour of the university’s main library, which has more than four million titles in Arabic, English and French.
Some other topics discussed during the forum included the role of Twitter on national identities and cultures, and Facebook use in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and the United States.
According to a tweet he sent during the conference Kalyango said it was impressive to witness many Saudi women professors and young women graduates engaged and participating in academic debates about social media. Also via Twitter, Kalyango said the university provided “excellent hospitality” during his time there.