Media 'promoting accountability'
Manama, June 3, 2008
Although we are living in a fast-changing era, mental horizons and attitudes to the media often remain chained to past legacies.
That was the message from Dar Akhbar Al Khaleej Press and Publishing chairman and editor-in-chief of Akhbar Al Khaleej Anwar Abdulrahman to delegates at the opening of the second Gulf Forum for Practitioners of Public Relations at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain, Hotel and Spa on Monday.
Speaking at the opening session of the three-day event he said, 'We are living through a period of intense changes - ranging from economic transformation and greater freedom of expression, to a higher cost of living resulting in the rich becoming richer and the poor poorer.'
'In our profession more freedom means more open analysis and criticism - a sweet word in the mouths of many as long as it is aimed at others - but very bitter tasting when targeting them.'
'In fact pressmen often find that most giant institutions cannot tolerate criticism of any kind.
For example, if an ATM breaks down and a newspaper criticises it, that bank's management will invariably accuse us of staining its reputation!'
'If the bureaucracy in certain ministries is denounced for hindering public services, it will accuse the press of discrediting the ministry.'
'So although we are living in a fast-changing era, mental horizons and attitudes often remain chained to past legacies,' he said.
'Political societies for instance, are always demanding more transparency and accountability, yet if the Press aims questions at them and hints at any wrongdoing, they recruit pens to attack any newspaper daring to shoulder the responsibility of highlighting such deficits.'
'From our platform we must regard ourselves as neutral, only focusing on what we see. We also know that there is so much good in the worst of them and also so much bad in the best, so it hardly behoves any of us to talk about the rest of us.
'The dilemma is that man is ready to suffer anything from others, providing hurtful words leave him untouched.
'We in the Press have principles,' he argued. 'We don't review a book without reading it, nor criticise a person we don't know.'
'Society should have the courage to accept that no system is foolproof and that Press coverage regarding any incident is vital in unearthing shortcomings.'
'No society can flourish before developing its members, and experience has taught us that education is the remedy for enhancing man's mind,' he said.
'Unfortunately, in our society, even the most educated people, boasting certificates from Western universities, seem to metamorphose once they sit behind a big desk,' he added.
'The essence of their education - tolerance, respecting second opinions, acknowledging the democratic duty of our Press, is completely ignored.
'Even Western ambassadors, who would never dare to question basic Press freedoms back home, assume a divine right to try to muzzle local media once in countries like Bahrain.'
The Forum, organised by the Bahrain Public Relations Association, has attracted more than 70 delegates from across the region to discuss this year's theme of scenario management applications.-TradeArabia News Service