TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks use the technology of the Internet to harness the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. They offer free knowledge and insight from some of the world’s most inspired thinkers, distributing “ideas worth spreading”. Their first round of talks for 2011 was held this past week in California, and sites around the world.
In TED’s first talk of 2011, Al Jazeera’s director-general Wadah Khanfar shares his view on the historic uprisings happening in the Middle East. As democratic revolutions led by tech-empowered young people sweep the Arab world, Wadah Khanfar shares a profoundly optimistic view of what’s happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and beyond — at this powerful moment when people realized they could step out of their houses and ask for change. He spoke on March 1, 2011 in Long Beach, California, where he discussed how we can “imagine a future that is magnificent and peaceful and tolerant.”
Wadah Khanfar: “The future has arrived… and the future is now.”
Wadah Khanfar wrote in the Washington Post that “neither threats of punishment nor promises of rewards from information ministers, intelligence agencies or royal courts persuaded us to ignore or betray the oppressed and persecuted who demand nothing but freedom, dignity and democracy.”
“The governments of Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, and Bahrain will not let our journalists step foot on their soil. We were also banned in Ben Ali’s Tunisia. Elsewhere, in the United States, Al Jazeera faces a different kind of blackout, based largely on misinformed views about our content and journalism. Some of the largest American cable and satellite providers have instituted corporate obstacles against Al Jazeera English… We are not available in the majority of the 50 states for much of the general public.”
“Through investigative and on-site journalism, our ultimate goal is to bring greater awareness, painting a more complete picture of the Middle East’s realities. Armed with more informatioAl Jazeera’s approach to journalism emphasizes “re-thinking authority, giving a voice to the voiceless,” Khanfarn, we believe the people of this region and further afield can make better choices to guide their lives – hopefully ones that will lead to a more peaceful and democratic future, regardless of where they live.”
Al Jazeera is the only international TV network based in the developing world. Al Jazeera’s approach to journalism emphasizes “re-thinking authority, giving a voice to the voiceless,” says Khanfar. In their recent coverage of events, they have relied heavily on user-contributed content and information.
No other news network has attracted as much controversy as Al Jazeera, or as many obstacles. They have faced the closure and bombing of local bureaus, the torture and murder of its journalists, the blocking of its satellite feed, and official state propaganda smears. And in spite of all this, they are delivering the most relevant and accurate news on the planet, especially related to events happening in the Middle East and North Africa.
Even American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been praising Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Arab uprisings. She said that Al Jazeera is gaining more prominence in the U.S. because it offers “real news”, something the American media weren’t doing. Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, she said the U.S. is losing the “information war” around the world. “We have not really kept up with the times,” Clinton argued.
Another 2011 TED talk was with Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who helped jumpstart Egypt’s democratic revolution. Ghonim is an Internet activist and computer engineer who started an influential Facebook page that galvanized voices of protest in Egypt. In early 2011, he was detained by the Egyptian government for 11 days. After he was released, he became a leading fugure in the youth revolution that forced Hosni Mubarak from power. Speaking in Cairo, he tells the inside story of the past two months, when everyday Egyptians showed that “the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”
“Our revolution is like Wikipedia. Everyone is contributing content. You don’t know the names of the people contributing the content. Revolution 2.0 in Egypt was exactly the same. Everyone contributing small pieces, bits and pieces. We drew this whole picture of a revolution. And no one is the hero in that picture.” Ghonim explained on 60 Minutes.
Wael Ghonim: “This was Revolution 2.0. No one was a hero, because everyone was a hero.”