An Olive Tree in One Hand and a Mobile in the Other

May 13, 2012

As I was called to the podium, I had my mobile in my hand, and I received an olive tree with the other. I remembered the late Yasser Arafat when he stood before the U.N. for the first time and concluded his speech by saying, “Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

For me, the moment was different. It was an important moment of recognition for my career. I was receiving an international award for outstanding contribution to new media.

After describing me without mentioning my name, the event organizers showed a short video with some of my TV interviews, comments, pictures and writing.

The presenter of the award called me to the podium. After receiving a certificate, Lord Stone of Blackheath presented me with a small olive tree.

As the time for my award approached, I had my phone out and was tweeting that I was at the ceremony in the Oxford and Cambridge Club in one of the most prestigious areas of central London.

The moment summarized for me the second part of my journey in life. For over a decade, I have been involved in media, either as a journalist, trainer or media advisor.

The award was for my contribution to new media, an area I have been talking about and stressing the importance of to everyone I talk to, everywhere I speak.

Up until the time that I received the award, I didn’t think anyone was reading my thoughts about new media or the situation of the country.

I did not think that anyone understood the technological tsunami sweeping over us and the need to be prepared for it — as people, as media and as governments. One of the key requirements for being part of today’s world is being prepared insofar as media is concerned.

Before the ceremony began, the International Council for Press and Broadcasting presented a montage of journalists who have been killed in the last year. In this somber moment, I was relieved to see that very few of them were killed in Iraq. When I gave my speech, I could not help expressing this relief, but at the same time warned about the bad media laws we have and the even worse draft legislation Baghdad’s parliament is preparing.

The sad truth here is that neither the authorities nor our legislators nor our judiciary are attempting to understand today’s world of media — how new and different is it from what we are used to.

Traditionally, in every society, change takes place at the hands of the politicians or, at times, the military; journalists report it and people live it.

In Iraq, change took place at the hands of the military. The media reported it and people lived it. Today the military has left, the international media has left; the only ones remaining are the people with their laptops and mobiles.

In the Arab Spring, these mobiles and laptops were instrumental in instituting change. It was exactly this fact that was in my mind when I was on stage with the olive tree and the mobile, and that made me say, “I have an olive tree in one hand and a mobile in the other. I hope I do not drop either!”

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