Senén Florensa

Director General of the European Institute of the Mediterranean

In the era of information and of the mass media, one of the biggest challenges is that of achieving greater knowledge of the plural and versatile reality existing on both shores of the Mediterranean. Although it is true that until now we have never seen so many images of distant countries, it is also true that we run the risk of passing from mutual ignorance to a globalised simplification of attitudes, manifested in stereotypes especially reflected on television.

This is a mass medium that affects the collective imaginary and can either improve or damage relations between the different countries and, particularly, their citizens. With the objective of improving reciprocal understanding and warning of the risk we are incurring because of unilateral visions, of failure to meet and, especially, of the so-called information war, we dedicate the current number to the issue “Mass Media and Mutual Perceptions”. Most of the contributions of the “Dossier” and also of the other sections of this number are the efforts of professionals who work in the national and international media, and who are aware of the issues inherent in communication and their effects on perceptions.

Quaderns de la Mediterrània forms part of the strategic approach of the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed), whose objective is that of making known – above all from civil society – contrasted and plural visions that can improve and diversify the dialogue between the cultures of Euro-Mediterranean countries. Through reflections formulated by distinguished intellectuals and people with public responsibilities, the aim is to contribute, from the freedom of expression of each one, to the plurality of exchanges and to the improvement of mutual perception.

There is no doubt that the Barcelona Process, despite not being an instantaneous solution to achieve modernisation and bring societies together, is an instrument that helps to support relations with our neighbours and which stays alert to the more sensitive issues of the area. We believe that, in order to fulfil the objective of attaining a vision closer to the two shores, the initiatives concerned with the media and which bring together the professionals to debate with each other are good.

The initiatives of this kind were strengthened from 2005 with the group called “Euromed and the Media”, which met regularly and, in successive meetings, acted as an advisory body of the European Commission, debating the main problems entailed by intercultural understanding and preparing specific projects. The Euro-Med Media Task Force, as it is now called, and of which the IEMed forms part, has proposed more than 70 actions to be backed by the Commission with the end of confronting the different problems identified: gender equality, training of professionals, freedom of the press, independent press, and the fight against racism, xenophobia and exclusion.

All of this, as well as new proposals and activities, is reflected in the number we present. As expressed by several of our contributors, the media are considered instruments of intercultural exchange and the main vehicle for promoting awareness and the need for understanding. However, have they benefited this open and just debate or damaged it? Where are the borders between freedom of expression and intolerance that can strengthen or, in contrast, weaken the fundamental elements of intercultural understanding? Who decides on these limits? Undoubtedly, we are all involved in the successes and failures that can result from this dynamic.