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Judgment day for news agencies

Judgment day for news agencies

The region’s news agencies have been accused of being government mouthpieces and complacent. What’s their problem?

October 13, 2008 2:38 by

Arab news agencies, especially the active ones, have reasonably and acceptably adapted to the information, Internet and satellite revolution. Their scope, however, is still narrow and limited due to the fact they are still government agencies and have no competition in the home countries, Media Professor at the Mass Communications Department at the Faculty of Arts at Kuwait University Dr Khalid Al-Qihs said yesterday.
Speaking on the role of Arab news agencies and the extent of their competitiveness with their foreign counterparts, Al-Qihs said that news agencies totally differ from the Internet and newspapers due to the fact that the dailies’ readers are the public, while the readers of news agencies are the media, and therefore, the technological development of information technology have benefited all alike.
Dr Al-Qihs noted that it was necessary to clarify the role of news agencies, as there are international ones that serve subscribers throughout the world, the regional ones serve a specific geographical area, while the local news agencies, which Arab news agencies are part of, serve local clientele and their citizens abroad. “We must not put all Arab news agencies in one basket, as they vary in terms of technological potentials with qualified human resources operating them. They vary in the political, economic and social circumstances that they witness,” Dr Al-Qihs said, adding that the margin of freedom of speech was also a major factor in determining how these agencies operate, which makes it difficult to talk about Arab news agencies as a whole.

Asked if Arab news agencies have begun to be biased to the governments of the countries that they operate in, Dr Al-Qihs believed that government agencies were already biased, which is natural, as these agencies were under the authority of the state and therefore they would logically reflect the official position of it. He pointed out that one could monitor such approach when ‘sensitive’ news is involved, where agencies tend to highlight the positive side of the story and turn a deaf ear on negativities.
As for professional creativity in the press and comparing it to the work of news agencies, Al-Qihs said, “Comparing newspapers and the Internet to news agencies is like comparing between apples and oranges,” noting that each media means had its own work nature and a different readership, yet news agencies were actually the ones serving newspapers by impersonating the job of the news provider to the dailies, and in turn, these newspapers provide the news to the public.

He added that creativity needed a competitive and motivational environment to stimulate it and to encourage media men/women to exert utmost efforts, “a requisite thing that government news agencies lack,” he noted.

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