Democracy 'key to press freedom'
Manama, May 1, 2010
Press freedom in the Arab world and region will only be exercised to the degree that society practises democracy, a top media figure.
Bahrain's Akhbar Al Khaleej editor-in-chief Anwar Abdulrahman questioned whether the description given to the Press as the "Fourth Estate" in the 18th and 19th centuries had stood the test of time, especially in the Arab world and the region.
"Do we believe in the freedom of Press, democracy and practise democracy in the Arab world?" asked Mr Abdulrahman, who was a guest speaker at a major Rotary conference held in Bahrain yesterday.
"Freedom of Press comes from the freedom of society.
"Every publisher and editor wants to practise democracy, but when the society cannot relate, we can only do 50pc."
Mr Abdulrahman explained that education wasn't necessarily the path to democracy.
He said democracy had to start in the home where children were given the full right to express themselves.
However, very few children were given this opportunity and were instead treated as "children" until they graduated, he said.
"Education has failed to make the Arabs democratic, we send our children to the best universities in the UK and the US to study the sciences but they have no feeling of democracy," he said. "They talk about democracy but they don't practise it.
"Then they come into high positions in the ministries and they become bigger masters and dictators than previous ones.
So education is not working, something is wrong."
Mr Abdulrahman said there wasn't any media in the Arab region or Western world that had absolute freedom and all were fighting to separate bureaucracy from democracy.
"There is no absolute free media in any corner of the world," he said. "In Britain for example, the Prime Minister can't stop something going into the Press but major advertisers can stop things going in.
"There is no free newspaper anywhere."
Mr Abdulrahman said he would appear before a court within two days to defend a case against a human rights activist, which shows that individuals in the society speak about democracy, but reject it outright the moment it turns out to be against their interests.
Mr Abdulrahman also argued that we were living in an age that lacked the "greats" and this included talented writers. "Today, there is a scarcity of quality writers. We are not living in an age of great thinkers, musicians or writers," he said.
"Our time has changed. Unfortunately, education can't create a soul of a person.
I believe we are in an era between great things that have passed and great things that are to come."
Mr Abdulrahman was speaking on the role of the media in the community at the 74th District Conference of the Rotary International District 2450, which is being held at the Gulf Hotel's Gulf Convention Centre until tomorrow.
The role of the media in the community session was moderated by prominent businessman Khalid Almoayed.
More than 1,000 Rotarians from 10 countries in the Middle East and Africa are attending the conference, which is held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander.
The main focus of the conference is issues of health, water, hunger and literacy in the Middle East and Africa.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health assistant director general Dr Ala Alwan and other experts yesterday discussed various health issues affecting people in the region and some of the Rotary projects that had helped those in need. - TradeArabia News Service