By Sarah Townsend
King’s advisor for information affairs calls for action 'to counter hostile campaigns against the GCC'
Bahrain wants a pan-GCC media strategy to ensure coverage of the region “reflects the principles and traditions of Arabian Gulf society”, the state news agency said on Thursday.
The country opened its first Middle East Conference for Media Strategy this week, inviting representatives from regional press organisations and local newspaper editors.
His Majesty the King’s advisor for information affairs, Nabeel bin Yacoub Al-Hamer, told delegates a coordinated press strategy is needed “to counter hostile campaigns against the GCC”.
He said: “There is a dire need for a media strategy to reflect the principles and traditions of the Arabian Gulf society and to project GCC identity, authenticity, history and long-standing heritage.
“The accelerating spread of terrorism, violence, extremism and conflicts necessitates an urgent media strategy to confront challenges, stave off threats and protect our societies against destructive intellectual and ideological acculturation.”
Al-Hamer’s comments comes in the wake of controversy surrounding Saudi Prince Alwaleed’s new station Alarab TV, which was suspended a day after its first broadcast when it aired footage of a member of the Bahraini opposition, Khalil Al Marzooq.
Despite its largest bureau being in Riyadh, with 20 employees, Alarab TV was forced to set up in Bahrain because Saudi Arabia does not allow independent broadcasters.
It is understood that the channel intends to relaunch in a different location, “with the same planned reporting standards”.
Al-Hamer insisted that this week’s conference reflected “the atmosphere of freedom, openness and democracy which is reigning in [Bahrain]” at present, and that the event was intended to advocate cultural differences and respect diverse opinions.
However, he added that a “defamatory” media campaign has been orchestrated against Bahrain over the past four years “in an attempt to subvert its stability, derail its achievements and spark chaos in the region as whole”.
Anwar Abdulrahman, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned Akhbar Al-Khaleej newspaper, agreed. He said: “The media being orchestrated against Bahrain is based on distorting truths and facts on the ground in Bahrain.”
Meanwhile, Tareq Al-Shaikhan, chairman of the Council of Gulf International Relations – which helped to organise the conference – issued a stark warning that the council “will not permit any person [media outlet] to target Bahrain or any other GCC country regardless of his religious or political position or any other consideration”.
Bahrain has tumbled in lobby group Reporters without Borders’ annual World Press Freedom Index since 2011 – this year from 159 to 188 out of 197 analysed countries – and is considered “Not Free”.