Since the terror attacks of Sept.11, 2001, efforts have been made to improve the public dialogue between the West and the Arab world. Deutsche Welle is doing its part, introducing an online service in Arabic.
DW-WORLD's new bridge to the Arabic world
More content, more multimedia, more service – including online interactivity and free audio courses in the German language – it is all available on the new Arabic internet site offered by Deutsche Welle (www.dw-world.de/arabic).
Next up: TV, radio
For DW, Germany's state-backed international broadcaster, the next planned stop on the road to intercultural understanding is Arabic television and radio programming, said Holger Hank, DW-WORLD's executive editor.
"After the attacks on New York, at the very latest, it became clear to everyone that there are gaps in the dialogue between the Arab nations and the West," Hank said. "That's why Deutsche Welle is concentrating on the Arabic language. The online service is taking the lead, and we believe that the Internet provides a good opportunity for to promote a dialog."
Interactivity is key
The online media's interactivity makes it a good place to start, Hank said. "It offers people a natural forum to exchange ideas, and can flow in both directions. That's why Arabic is an important language for us to publish in."
Interactive elements online, such as polls or forums, are an important part of DW-WORLD's Arabic site. Internet users will have the possiblitity to exchange ideas, with one another and with DW-WORLD editors. For instance, in addition to reporting on the Iraqi elections on Jan. 30 – one of the team's first big challenges – readers can discuss the general situation in Iraq.
The site will deal with topics outside of politics, as well. Subjects from new technology to football to humor will have their place on the page, as well.
Serious, but not dull
Naser Shrouf at work
Where does humor come in, given the serious nature of the endeavor? Deutsche Welle editor Naser Shrouf explained: "The idea is that humor is always welcomed in the Arabic world. We don't want our site to be dry and dull. We want to make people laugh, get them to react and take part. That's why the humor rubric is important. People can send in jokes, we'll put them on the site, and readers can vote on them. And we'll send a gift to the person with the best joke."
Whether through humor or hard facts, the Internet has a huge potential in the Arab world; some 15 million people there have access to the World Wide Web. Most of them are young, and many are students. Thus Deutsche Welle will also concentrate on providing services, such as giving information on how and where to study in Germany.
The goal of all this, according to Palestine-born editor Shrouf, is the rapprochement of Arabic and Western culture.
"I hope this Website will reach a lot of people in the Arabic and Islamic world. And I hope we'll have a lot of opportunity for interactive dialog to improve the dialog between our world – the Arabic world – and the German."