Wadah Khanfar`s Al Jazeera at TED: “The future has arrived in the Arab world..and it is now”

Few days ago Wadah Khanfar, general manager of Al Jazeera network, flew to TED conference and give this talk which I would like to share here.

The enthusiasm he delivers in the talk is the enthusiasm of all of us that have been witnessing, particularly after 9/11, an escalation of violence, war, foreign invasions in the Arab region and now can finally welcome -for the first time-a  change which is not coming from outside.

He speaks about a “a new generation, educated, well-connected.. that has taught us new ways to express our feelings”.He points out at he failure of the old generation (and the old regimes, and the West that has been supporting them for decades) in understanding what this generation wants and dreams about. He wisely invites the West not to think about the Arab world “as oil only”.

Rather, it should think at this youth as a new resource, as “an opportunity to see stability, security and democracy”  coming from within the Region.

When he talks about  the fact that Al Jazeera has been banned from operating in Tunisia for a while (and Egypt also has been trying many times either to shut the Cairo office down or to jam the channel TV signal) he says something very important. Prevented from working there, (Al Jazeera)

” we found that these people in the street were our reporters”. People that are armed with light cameras, mobiles, Facebook and Twitter accounts, You Tube uploads.

I remember very clearly many years Mohamed Nanahbay, now head of Online at Al jazeera English, talking at a panel where somebody asked why Al Jazeera was investing so much in new media, by giving people light cameras and mobiles to film. Nanahbay smiled and said: “we are training our future reporters! This youth at some point will go down in the streets filmming and writing and they will remember of us. They will remember that we have opened a channel for them”.

Well, I think that now this long-term strategy has finally paid back. And Khanfar,  himself young (he`s 43 and already director general of the whole Al Jazeera network), has won over  the prestigious TED conference`s audience and Chris Anderson and maybe many US viewers..

Later today Hillary Clinton declared that” Al Jazeera is gaining more prominence in the U.S. because it offers “real news”–something she said American media were falling far short of doing”.

Definitely a different scenario from the 10 years ago “terrorist station”..

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