His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, reaffirmed that the Publications and Publishing Law in the UAE was passed at a very sensitive point, where the country was a target for opportunistic trends that infiltrated NGOs. His highness said: "We promise that once these issues are straightened, we will open the doors wide for publishing."
His Highness’ comments came during a seminar on journalism in the UAE, which was held yesterday evening (Wednesday) at the Sharjah International Book Fair, and discussed the past, present, and future of the press and publishing in the UAE. His Highness continued saying that he used to read Alkhaleej newspaper regularly for over an hour every morning, focusing on news related to culture and art, and pulling away as much as possible from news related to fighting and destruction, because he did not want to contaminate his soul with such news. He pointed out that during his readings, he noticed some articles and political analysis coming from knowledgeable people with links to institutes, centres and schools that obviously provided them with certain ideas. He noted that he completely neglected such writings.
HH requests the Media to abstain from provocation when reporting news and features, pointing out that this method will not result in better sales or a wider readership. He advised all journalists to talk to official sources to get correct and useful information. He pointed out that the use of provocation in the press only leads to distortion of information, which may lead to conflict and even legal action, highlighting the red line experience on Sharjah Radio, and the high level of transparency and credibility it succeeded in creating.
The Ruler of Sharjah stressed the importance of editors in chief assuming their full responsibilities, especially when it comes to reading everything before publishing, urging them to dedicate enough time and effort to this task. HH also highlighted the use of English words during the seminar, from people who are supposed to promote the use of Arabic.
Habib Al Sayegh, editor in chief of Alkhaleej newspaper took part in the seminar, along with Dhaen Shaheen, Executive Director of Publishing at DMI and editor in chief of Albayan; Mohamed Al Hammadi, CEO of Abu Dhabi Media and editor in chief of Alittihad; and Sami Al Riyami, editor in chief of Al Emarat Alyoum. The seminar was moderated by Mohammed Yusuf, President of the Journalists Association.
Habib Sayegh reviewed some of the most important historical stations in journalism in the UAE, starting with Alittihad newspaper in 1969, and Alkhaleej since 1970. He stressed that the experience of official and semi-official journalism requires a lot of studying and research, as manifested by the role Albayan and Alittihad played on the local and federal levels.
Concerning publishing legislation, Sayegh pointed to the importance of ensuring that there are no gaps in the current law, highlighting issues pertaining to the law of media activities, pointing out that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai extended his directives to prevent the imprisonment of journalists in issues that relate to publishing. Sayegh stated that the current law is no longer appropriate, stressing the need for new legislations in line with the ambitions of the UAE.
He highlighted the need for personal licenses to issue daily newspapers, stating that the complete ban is not correct. He also pointed out that relying on official spokesmen did not achieve the desired outcome, as journalists need further information, and they need their questions answered.
Regarding the issue of printed press vs. electronic media, Sayegh stressed the importance of objectivity in discussing this matter, pointing out that the general trend is moving towards electronic journalism. He pointed out some shortcomings and pitfalls in cultural journalism in the UAE, highlighting a gap in specialised journalists, and stressing that such news should revolve around intellectuals rather dignitaries attending a cultural event.
Dhaen Shaheen explored the history of journalism in the UAE, stressing that the printing press is the foundation around which journalism is built. He pointed out that before 1973, there was no journalism printing houses in the United Arab Emirates, and the first one arrived at the UAE in 1974, which was owned by Mohammed bin Dasman, marking the real start of journalism publishing in the country.
He also highlighted the next step in journalism printing press, which came through Albayan in 1980, with new technologies that facilitated the process.
He stressed that this great development in the world of journalism publishing would not have been possible without the general atmosphere in the country, which was in favour of using advanced technology in all domains, including journalism.
Discussing main challenges facing journalism in the UAE today, he pointed out the issue of quality content, and building good journalists in a country whose population has low affinity for this profession.
As for Sami Al Riyami, he stated that modern technologies have contributed to the development of journalism by up to 90%, reviewing the first attempt to cover an event abroad in 1996, and the difficulties he faced as a journalist to get pictures and send them on time, which is an easy process today given modern communication technology.
He asked: How will media domain look like in five years, in light of the continuous progress of technology? Will the printed press still be there? Pointing out that journalism would evolve, but never disappear. He also pointed out that Al Emarat Alyoum readership online is threefold as large as the readership of the print copy.
Mohamed Al Hammadi began his speech by saying: "We fell in love with reading through the Sharjah International Book Fair," and pointed out that the press history in the UAE is worth reading and researching, highlighting that journalism has been present in the UAE since the 40s and 50s of the last century, even before it officially started with Alittihad in 1969. He pointed out the importance of using and employing modern technology in the world of journalism and publishing, highlighting that Alittihad was the first newspaper to launch a website back in 1996.
He also remarked that there are about two billion people reading print newspapers in the world every day, and there are 2.5 billion people reading them online as well, with about 2 billion people who have smart phones, which is expected to reach 5.5 billion people in 2019. He stressed that the future of journalism in the UAE calls for keeping up with technological development, as well as developing legislations and achieving modern laws in this domain.