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No free press, no democracy, says Kuwaiti MP
A seminar on journalism held in Kuwait exposes the nation’s struggle to maintain press freedom
January 27, 2009 12:52 by Rawan Khalid
There cannot be a democracy without a free press, explained MP Saleh Al Mulla. The Kuwait Journalists Association (KJA) organized a seminar on Sunday titled ‘The responsibility of the Media in Protecting the Society from the Implications of Conflicts and Crises.’ Key speakers included former Minister of Information Dr. Anas Al Rashid, author Zayed Al Zaid, and MP Saleh Al Mulla.
The media holds a great responsibility to the public, Al-Mullah stated in a speech at the seminar, adding that this is the case especially when facing crises, and this can only happen through transparency. In addition, he praised the local press and its role in revealing the facts of cases such as the fourth refinery and the Dow chemical partnership.
Al Mullah voiced his regret regarding the lack of a popular press that can genuinely express the beliefs of the Kuwaiti people. “There are good journalists that address crises we are facing, and there are other journalists, like those who tried to cover up the many thefts that have come to light,” he said. More importantly, Al Mulla pointed out that some newspaper owners are unprofessional and own these newspapers just to propagate their political parties and their ideals instead of voicing the beliefs of the Kuwaiti people.
The editors try to pacify the newspaper owners, and so they publish articles that go against their true values, he said. “We are in need of tabloids owned by various segments of the society, in order to express the opinion of the community. We also have to admit that we are a community of immigrants and our survival depends on our acceptance of one another. The media and especially newspapers should preserve this social fabric instead of breaking it down,” he concluded.
Dr. Anas Al Rasheed noted that Kuwait has made a huge leap in liberal thinking, making everyone eligible to hold a media license. He also explained that the seminar’s title was inadequate as it bears the media with the responsibility of solving crises, whereas it should only reveal it.
“There are four media theories,” Al Rasheed explained. “First is the theory of authoritarianism, which does not allow the media to criticize its governments. Second, the theory of Communist authoritarianism places the interests of the party over the State. Third, there is the American doctrine of freedom, which provides freedom of speech and places the citizen above the government. Finally, the fourth theory was established in Europe, and it is the theory of social responsibility, which gives the state the right to intervene to maintain security,” Al Rashed added.
He explained that all big media organizations follow a code of honor, which helps them face external crises. He stressed that opinions are free but facts are sacred, and thus writers must explore accuracy and truth. “A crisis is a natural thing in every society and conflicted communities always try to avoid it. We in Kuwait are facing crises and not just conflicts,” said Zayed Al Zaid.
“The principle role of the media is transparency,” he added, explaining that organizations must not publish or hide information to serve only their cause.
Al Zaid stated that some MPs blackmail and extort other MPs, and behave in a manner that negates their role as representatives of the nation. They do it in order to protect their interests, he said. He later explained that no one can blame the media, as it bears so many responsibilities.
The economic crisis will have a huge impact on the survival newspapers because of the lack of liquidity, explaining that this will be the reason that many newspapers will fail, he concluded.
First seen in Kuwait Times.