Manama, Oct. 17: Information Affairs Minister and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bahrain Institute for Political Development (BIPD), Ali bin Mohammed Al-Romaihi, has participated in the “Media Forum on Risks and Threats” 2018, organised here by the Supreme Council for National Security’s National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, NCEMA, under the theme “Media system facing risks”.
The minister delivered a speech in which he extended sincere thanks and appreciation to the UAE for the warm welcome, hospitality and outstanding organisation of similar events, which reflects its constant keenness on promoting regional and global peace.
Al-Romaihi stressed that mass media and means of communication –in all their traditional and modern forms- are witnessi8ng successive and unprecedented developments, adding that mass media are no longer just channels to spread news and circulate information or entertainment but have turned into a huge and influential international industry.
This is reflected in in the increase of global media spending by US $ 1.7 trillion per year, 45% of which on digital or electronic media, and the surge in the number of private satellite channels, including (963) private Arab satellite channels, or 86% of the total number of Arab ones, he said, adding that the number of social media networks’ users has gone up to 37% of the world’s population, 193 million of whom are Arab users, or nearly half of the population of the Arab world.
The minister pointed out that a report by NATO Strategic Communications Centre, revealed that Information Technology (IT) has changed the nature of conflicts through creating a virtual atmosphere that paves the way for launching disputes and battles on the Internet that would affect the material world, citing computer systems.
He asserted that social media networks have become one of the most vital platforms in many countries, adding that ICT tools have proved their pivotal role as developed weapons to defend countries’ national security, hence the increase in global spending on the information and communication sectors, which, he said, exceeds global military spending, estimated at US $ 1.67 trillion.
The minister affirmed that many countries have recognised the importance and the strength of various mass media, and as a result, large countries tend to reduce their military budgets and increase their spending on cybersecurity.
Tackling the role of the media in the regional crises, the minister said that the media did not play a clear role in wars as people used to have access to official media only.
In 2011, the masterminds of the so-called “Arab Spring” used social media networks, such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, to spread the culture of shouting and incitement of hatred, which resulted in the destruction of countries.
He stressed that shouting, and defamation of religions, sects and national symbols are not part of the freedom of expression that the Arab citizen is looking for, adding that some media outlets tend to manipulate the feelings of Arab citizens, trade in their issues and politicise their needs through an abhorrent discourse of hatred.
What is more dangerous, he said, is that the phenomenon of speakers who legitimise the killing of people through fatwas is no longer condemned or denounced by human rights “shops”.
He asserted that Iran, the “first State Sponsor of Terrorism in the World”, spends billions of US dollars every year on media discourse that fuels sectarianism, distorts Islam and sanctifies individuals, adding that Qatar also spends billions of dollars on media for the aim of toppling Arab ruling systems, but refrains from covering the activities of the Iranian opposition.
Referring to the Qatar’s Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel, the minister said that it is the exclusive broadcaster of the speeches of terrorism leaders, without exception, and films of kidnappers with indirect messages emphasising their “good treatment” of the abductees.
He also said that the same channel tends to emphasise that all terrorist groups are Islamic one, citing its surveys, such as “Do you support the victories of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria?” or “Do you think that the victories of the Islamic State serves the region’s interest?”, that expose its real visions.
He said, while citing a Jordanian study conducted in 2009, that Al-Jazeera, tended to give the opportunity to Israeli Army’s spokesperson to comment on the war on Gaza and highlight his country’s point of view.
He also indicated that the Arab and English channels use different terms while covering Palestinian events, noting that Al-Jazeera English refers to victims as “dead” while Al-Jazeera Arabic uses “martyrs”.
The minister affirmed that Al-Jazeera has managed to re-structure the Arab national awareness, presented a false narrative on Arab struggle, created crises in every Arab country, defamed national leaders and misled people.
The Information Affairs Minister called for an integrated media system to confront conspiratory media that serves non-national agendas through disseminating the truth and not just responses.
He stressed that Saudi Arabia, the GCC and the Arab world are facing immoral media campaigns for more than 20 years.
He affirmed that that the GCC and Arab regions, given their historical and religious roles, economic importance and strategic geographical location are the most affected by risks and crises, including extremist and terrorist discourse, as well foreign interference in internal affairs, particularly since the “Iranian Revolution” for the aim of subverting their security and stability by supporting terrorist parties and funding their acts of sabotage.
He said that Bahrain has been affected by regretful events and crises, citing natural disasters, economic crises resulting from the decline in oil prices, violence and terrorism.
He affirmed that effective crisis management requires the creation of the “Crises media” to prepare the public opinion and raise social awareness, stressing that mass media –in all their forms- have to be accurate, transparent and credible in covering the events, while taking into account the humanitarian and social impacts of rumours and fallacies, as well as containing damage and reducing the negative effects.
“We need a responsible media that carries out its national mission to raise awareness with honesty, transparency and objectivity, It should also be committed to media ethics, being the first defence line in preserving our development and civilisational gains and protecting our national security,” he said.
The minister affirmed that developing the role of national media and enhancing joint media work are necessary to be able to manage crises or emergencies collectively.
This could achieved through the commitment of ICT means to their duties, which include giving top priority to national interests and covering events timely, accurately and transparently, he said.
This also includes taking legal action against media outlets that incite hatred, in line with Arab and international media conventions, and raising social awareness on the wise use of the Internet and social media networks.
Concluding his speech, Al-Romaihi extended thanks to the UAE’s National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, NCEMA, for inviting him to the event, expressing hope that the forum will come up with practical proposals that enhance the media’s role in achieving national interests, preserving countries’ cultural and historical identity and maintaining their development and civilisational gains.