(ANSA) - Rome, May 21 - The media have a crucial role to play in fostering dialogue in countries around the Mediterranean, journalists at a conference in the archaeological site of Pompeii said Wednesday.
During the conference co-sponsored by ANSA and the Campania region, journalists from Lebanon, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, and Italy told stories of their countries and their conflicts.
A consensus developed around the idea of the value of better communications with the goal of increased understanding.
Antonio Polito, director of the Corriere del Mezzogiorno newspaper, said that even within a country - such as Italy - dialogue does not always exist.
"The first task is to talk among ourselves as Italians, sometimes it is easier to talk to a Tunisian (than with other Italians)", said Polito.
"We must first clarify what we as a country want to be".
The international conference Memory of the Future, which opened Tuesday, focused on the value of communication in the cultural dialogue of Mediterranean cities with an emphasis on themes including economics, identity, and the importance of communication in conveying cultural values.
The Mediterranean basin is seen as a place of cultural exchange, particularly through such events as cinema, music and theatre festivals as well as exhibitions.
ANSA's Mediterranean network ANSAmed, founded 10 years ago in Naples, has played a significant role in the exchange of information and cultural communication with countries on the shores of the Mediterranean with the aim of contributing a class of new communicators that have a clear Mediterranean identity.
Caterina Miraglia, the Campania region's council member in charge of culture, said the conference emphasized what the people of the Mediterranean have in common. And journalism, said Miraglia, "should focus more on positive aspects and not only on the negative".
"The idea is to bring together people who share not only the sea but also deep cultural roots, which is why we gather in Pompeii, which is one of the cradles of culture in the Mediterranean", ANSA Chief Executive Giuseppe Cerbone said.
"Communication can act as a glue between different nationalities. We need to exchange ideas and opinions to understand the problems of each and moreover, to ensure that people and institutions talk to one another".
The Mediterranean is still plagued with enormous problems, as shown by the plight of thousands of desperate migrants fleeing their war-torn African countries and often heading for Italy's shores in unseaworthy rafts and boats.
On Monday alone, the Italian Navy rescued some 100 children from two migrant boats in distress off the coast of Sicily.
"There is nothing more eloquent than the faces of the 100 children rescued by our military forces", said ANSA Editor-in-Chief Luigi Contu.
"Those faces show us how distant we still are from finding a solution to our shared problems. The news coming from the Mediterranean proves the importance of accurate and in-depth information on what is happening in our countries," said Contu.
News coverage can also influence policymakers, added Italian MP Khalid Chaouki, who chairs the cultural commission of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Parliamentary Assembly.
Created in 2008 to promote stability and prosperity throughout the Mediterranean region, the UfM is a multilateral partnership of 43 countries from Europe and the Mediterranean basin.
"Not all European institutions have grasped the degree to which the situation has changed in (southern Mediterranean shore) countries, which now want a policy of mutual exchange and not just aid", Chaouki explained. Italy is ready and willing to do its part to heal the rifts between Mediterranean countries, added Culture Ministry Undersecretary Francesca Barracciu. A strong signal "would be sent if Italy, during its six-month duty presidency of the European Union beginning in July, "were to grant all children born on Italian soil the right to citizenship," she said. "In the Mediterranean we have two roads open to us: entrenchment or dialogue. I think dialogue is the only way forward for us all," she said.