4 years of a Mediterranean Journalistic Network | Catherine Cornet
4 years of a Mediterranean Journalistic Network Print
Catherine Cornet   

4 years of a Mediterranean Journalistic Network | Catherine Cornet
Catherine Cornet
In presenting Babelmed’s work over the past 5 years, I am making a highly relevant contribution to today’s conference. Babelmed, the site for Mediterranean cultures, was launched in 2001, a year in which neoconservative theories on civilisation spread worldwide. A year in which the words such as Islam and the West started to be used as indisputable explanations for the state of today’s world. On 16th September 2001, Edward Said was already writing what sounds like a call to reason in his article: “Islam and the West are not the right flags”. This title perfectly sums up Babelmed’s editorial approach since its creation: to fly no flags.

I think everyone around this table is aware that we are all living a different Mediterranean experience. This is clear in our daily working lives: it is hard to meet and get together, we don’t have the same problems with customs officials or with our own governments, we are not under the same external pressures. And how can we forget that so much of what we have in common is the fruit of colonial struggles and occupation.

And yet. The Mediterranean identity is incredibly rich. It is an identity based on its complex diversity. It is this subtle cultural identity – which is so far from those simplistic Manichean theories - which, I believe contributes to the richness of our editorial content.

Babelmed is structured around an editorial team based in Rome and a network of correspondents based in major Mediterranean countries. The Roman team is responsible for soliciting, editing and publishing articles and keep the network alive while our journalists keep us up to date on new ideas, artists and personalities from their countries and beyond.

From an editorial point of view, it is fascinating to look at the various transversal subjects and topics which concern the Mediterranean region as a whole. Indeed, Babelmed features are created around a central theme to which each journalist brings a different point of view. For example, a feature on the city of Marseilles could include articles by Syrian and Maltese journalists describing their experience of the city. In the same way, a feature on migrations can be looked at from both a northern and a southern perspective, or by looking at the aftermath of war in cities such as Nicosia, Sarajevo, Bayreuth or Ramallah…

The Babelmed website published articles both in English and French and in part Arabic. Our objective for 2006 is to produce an Italian version too. This linguistic diversity and large number of translations is without doubt one of our biggest asset. We take advantage of our correspondents’ in-depth knowledge and insider vision. In some way they are “sent to investigate” their own countries and their own cultural environment.

“What went wrong?” asks Bernard Lewis in his latest book which follows his earlier work: “Islam and the West”. For me, the work we are doing here today at the Capitol can provide an answer. I believe that the exchange and dissemination of accurate information from the inside can make a real difference.

May 5, 2006
Catherine Cornet