Minister of Information Affairs Isa bin Abdulrahman Al Hammadi emphasized the importance of openness and direct face-the-press meetings in compliance with the directives of Kingdom's leadership and holding direct meetings with journalists to provide them with information.
The Minister told Al Ayam newspaper that there are four routes of ongoing work regarding opening the door for investment in the media field, creating suitable legislative frames for this sector by activating the role of the Media and Communication High Commission and the enactment of the Media Law, boosting the role of External Media and the official media and communication institution.
The Minister affirmed his seeking to break what he termed as the stereotypical " taboo" in the mind of journalists regarding the Ministry of Information.
Al Hammadi said that there should be a welcoming environment where journalists opinions can be heard without reservation which enables them to pose questions and to express their viewpoints and that the duty of a media official would be to answer the questions of journalists. The Minister said that these are the preferences of HM King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister.
He added that there are always the directives of the leadership regarding the importance of opening onto the press, hearkening to journalists and answering their questions, pointing there are various channels to communicate citizen's concerns over service issues on radio programmes, which should be met with an official voice replying to the citizen.
The Minister said that there is a thoroughfare onto the press and the mass media, hence, we're now working on breaking this prevalent stereotype of the Information Ministry and our ambition does not stop at just meeting with the press but open various channels of communication with all mass media.
The Minister of Information Affairs stressed the importance of holding weekly meets that are open for the press to directly speak and communicate their viewpoints.
The Minister dismissed any reservations around media faces previously excluded from the screen for certain reasons, remarking that anybody who enjoys media efficiency won't have the door closed in their face.
Isa Abdulrahman Al Hammadi stressed that there is a coordination mechanism with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for activation of an integrated setup which seeks to create continuous communication channels with all external media abroad.
Regarding official media, the Minister said that there is a media discussion which comes in context of reaction towards developments, and what we need today is a media that takes the initiative and which is readily available to respond with an event, and this does not only lack staff but also specific coordination mechanisms of work in order to apply such policies which enable us to reach our aspired goals, currently there are ideas tabled which we began to discuss with other ministries in order to be available in the circle of an event without delay in responding and dealing with the event and mass media and the expediting of the official voice, and also under government media we would like to exit from the frame of concise official statement(s) to give sufficient background regarding important topics by communicating directly with the media.
Minister Al Hamamdi added that giving details on important issues to the press would be done through meetings with chief editors in order to provide adequate information to the press in order to enable them to professionally and independently deal with such information according to their capacity as the "fourth authority".
He said that we intend to have meetings with chief editors, opinion columnists in order to obtain full details regarding key issues during such meetings, stressing that the freedom of the press continues to be maintained which is an unarguable issue. He said that we aim to keep the official point of view clear and uncontestable however this cannot be accomplished unless we provide the press with information and therefore we fully seek to keep away from centralism, and I have great trust in our national media staff who are working with me today in the Ministry.
And regarding training of media staff, the Minister said that today we are considering cooperation with various media institutions in order to training our media staff through the provision of suitable training required for the media staff members.
And regarding the Press Law, the Minister said, as you know there is more than one proposals pertaining to the law presented earlier until it reached the legislative branch, and we now seek to hear the opinions of journalists. There is a tendency to have a comprehensive law and there is a tendency to have the visual aspect separate from publishing matters, but what is most important is that there should be an opinion from journalists regarding the Press Law and there shall be consultation with the body of journalists regarding the law to have a mutual view in order to ensure that everybody participate in drafting the law. We may not arrive a unanimously conceded law however everyone should partake in its drafting. Therefore, we are looking forward to the formation of a committee in the Ministry to communicate with all press institutions today and also with the Bahrain Journalist Association (BJA) before we begin with the technical aspects. There was an opinion from the BJA regarding its involvement in the bill of law and we therefore look forward to a bigger role for the society in the future.
And regarding Bahrain Television (BTV) and the development of its channels, the Minister said BTV is a moving and not a fixed target since viewers would always like to view the best and as the competition is always strong in the presence of several channels and the issue of developing channels does not only relate to content but also to technical aspects.
The Minister said that there will be focus on local channels content, investment in developing infrastructures such as studios which will be used in the requisite form, pointing out that the available array of channels will be developed in future in order to provide specialized channels.
The Minister added that the Information Affairs Authority (IAA) tends to develop Radio and TV content and we can see today positive indicators which require more coordination and that you will feel the requisite development in the foreseeable future. What we need today is to measure opinion regarding displayed TV programmes. We must hear people's opinion according to methodical instruments so that the viewer and listener shall be part of the developmental process and not only relying on in-house assessment in order to meet people's aspirations.
Regarding Al-Arab TV Channel's anticipated broadcast from Bahrain in February 2015, the Minister said the door will be open for investment in the media for private channels. And regarding the importance of existence of a Visual Media Law Minister Al Hammadi said that this is the strategic preference currently and also the present circumstances point out that there investment in the media should be opened so as to have an attractive environment capable of contributing into economic development and the provision of job opportunities for citizens as part of available ideas, which will have coordination with the relevant economic sides, and when we say that we would like to have a media city we must have the suitable legislative frames for such disposition and also suitable infrastructures.
The Minister said that there is a tendency from His Highness Shaikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa the President of the Media and Communication High Commission to activating the Commission in order to assume its role in the requisite manner and also the existence of a Visual Media Law capable of organizing such investment as well as the development of government media frames to become more effective in responding to events and also activation of the role of External Media.
And regarding the activation of the Media and Communication High Commission, the Minister said that there was a huge interest towards the establishment of a Media and Communication High Commission and eventually the Royal Decree was issued with its formation, citing the aspirations of His Highness Shaikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa for activation of the Commission in order as to assume its role in accomplishing the objectives of its formation.