Ruler of Sharja Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi
"It is more necessary than ever today to restore the spirit of humanity in people, and inculcate in them moral and cultural values. Media organisations must remain vigilant and approachable, uphold work and moral values, and help create
a world that that safeguards public harmony," HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, has underscored.
The Ruler of Sharjah made his remarks at the opening of the International Government Communication Forum 2014 (IGCF 2014) today in the presence of esteemed leaders such as Mikhail Gorbachev, the forum's guest of honour and last ruling President of the Soviet Union; Felipe Calderon, former President of Mexico; and Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
Delivering the opening speech, HH said: "The Arab world today stands at a critical phase in time. Things are changing at a rapid speed. The regional landscape is a state of flux - making it difficult to differentiate right from wrong. We see the enlightened moving towards darkness. Honesty is being taken over by falsehood. The virtuous are being forced to surrender to baser desires. And, thought leaders appear lost between fact and fiction, except for the few that have been spared by the Almighty." HH continued: "The question is: Where is the media in this chaotic landscape and what is its role here? Propaganda, dissemination of false news to mislead the public, validation of sources of information, and respect for privacy - all of these are serious components in the world of journalism that need to be handled sensitively. A media professional must respect the reader or listener, public interest, and people's right to information. He must demonstrate ethics in reporting the truth with accuracy, integrity and fairness. On their part, media professionals have rights that should be guaranteed by the law, including the freedom of expression, the right to criticise, the freedom of access to all sources of information, and the freedom to investigate without interfering in confidential public or private affairs, unless of course, the exception is clearly justified." Concluding his speech, Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi stressed on the fact that "It is more necessary than ever today to restore the spirit of humanity in people, and inculcate in them moral and cultural values. Media organisations must remain vigilant and approachable, uphold work and moral values, and help create a world that that safeguards public harmony." The opening speeches also featured an address by Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qassimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Centre (SMC). Welcoming the gathering, he said: "Two years ago the International Government Communication was launched at a time when governments across the world witnessed sweeping political and social changes, which led to a greater interest in enhancing government communications. Recent studies conducted reveal that listening, responsiveness, and prompt ethically correct reaction are the first criteria for people in choosing a government. This clearly indicates that things have changed; we too must change. It is essential now for us to understand the specificities of the people and their challenge - not just deliver job, healthcare, and education opportunities.
He added: "Today, we are missing an important person, Dr. Abdullah Omran Taryam, who established the first printing press in the UAE and was the first voice that called for change. In my last meeting, he said that he was glad that Sharjah was moving in the right direction."
In his keynote address, Gorbachev said: "The 20th century has turned out to be the bloodiest century. Although we are living in an interdependent world we are yet to live in interdependence. We are, therefore, seeing the consequences of this inability in political, economic and social interactions. Globalisation is the dominant reality of the world. The end of the cold war gave impetus to this globalisation.' 'When we worked towards ending the Cold War, we had a vision for the future. Unfortunately, globalisation has become thoughtless and imbalanced today. Major developing countries such as India, China and Brazil have managed to adapt to globalisation. This has not been true for all countries." Gorbachev criticised the way issues are being addressed: "In as much, the assumption that the current model of globalisation will see us overcome the problems of inequality is not working. In fact, we see the development of new weapons and conflicts while old conflicts remain unresolved. For instance, the economic crisis of 2008 is not over. It should have been an alarm bell - but we have not responded to it adequately; there has been no sincere shared effort." Speaking about the social conflicts across the world, Gorbachev said: "Today, the world is a kind of turbulent sea. The tensions that have accumulated can surface in the most dramatic way - although it will be difficult to say where. In such reactions, we have seen mass uprisings in countries such as Turkey and Ukraine that underline the failure of their governments to act democratically and talk to their people. The root cause of the unrest in Ukraine was an interruption of perestroika and of the democratic process there." Calling for change, he said: "Weak crisis management indicates lack of political initiative and courage. Leaders have been content with small steps and have failed to act in the spirit of collective leadership, which is the only workable format in today's world. The transition to a more sustainable world is imperative. If the current elite is not able to provide leadership to pioneer this change, it is time for the new race of leaders to take their place. Today, we need to look for solutions that lead to world peace. We need global governance - it is a multi-level initiative that covers the local, national, and regional levels. We have only years and not decades to resolve this problem."
During his presence at the forum, HH the Ruler of Sharjah toured the conference facilities and inspected the equipment and services provided at the venue. He also stopped by the memorial wall dedicated to the late Dr. Abdullah Omran Taryam and left a message that said: "To the spirit of a good friend and companion since childhood and until the end of days, me and all your loved ones pray for your forgiveness and ask God's blessing upon your children, who are as dear as you were to us." The opening ceremony featured a short documentary on various people from a large number of countries expressing the level of satisfaction with their governments, as well as their perceptions on how governments can be more connected and responsive to citizens' needs and voices.
In addition to a number of heads of government departments, members of Sharjah Executive Council, members of Sharjah Advisory Council, the opening ceremony drew the presence of dignitaries and heads and directors of government departments and organisations, media and communications professionals from various Arab and foreign countries, and representatives of regional and international corporate and government communication departments.
Themed "Different Roles.. Mutual Interest" IGCF 2014 will continue to discuss the positive impact of government communication on the relationship between governments and their audiences including citizens, government officials, private sector, public utility commissions and different media stakeholders. IGCF 2014 will also explore the role that government communications can play in improving a country's image and influencing its economic, social, and political future.
The first regional government communication event was organised by Sharjah Media Centre in 2012. The forum discussed relevant communication challenges that were triggered by the socio-political occurrences in the Arab world. IGCF 2014 is a first-of-its-kind event that articulates SMC's efforts to develop government communication mechanisms for the benefit of government institutions in the UAE and wider region.