We Need A Vibrant And Critical Media: Vigilance The Price Of Liberty
26 May 2016
By Khaled Almaeena
They say eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. And that cannot hold more
true in this day and age where states and institutions are confronting natural
manmade challenges. How then can society face these threats if it is unaware
Here the role of the media becomes important as it formally updates people
about what is happening around them. While discussing media issues in a Gulf
country last week, an American friend asked about the situation of the media
in our part of the world and whether there is an awareness that it has to
catch up with other countries. My reply was that there is always room for
Customs and laws can sometimes conflict and may differ from country to
country, but it is vital that there exist a free, responsible and ethical
media that observes members of society, both those in authority and the
public. This media should give citizens an educated voice to analyze and make
their own decisions in affairs concerning them. If media is restricted, it
will curtail the role of men and women in society and reduce them to mere
onlookers rather than stakeholders and decision makers concerning their lives.
The flow of information is vital to the progress of any society and at times
even if governments do not restrict the press, the press may restrict itself
by confining itself to political party or religious narratives.
In our part of the world, there has been technological advancement in the
media and an unfettered flow of information. However, professionally trained
journalists are few. This is because no efforts were made by media
organizations to train aspiring men and women in this field. Secondly,
turnover was high as these people went to better-paying jobs.
The history of Arab journalism was overshadowed by arrests and dismissals in
some Arab states taken over by dictators. All of these were not encouraging
signs. What was left were groups of sycophants who would ''hail and praise''
at every given opportunity or even contrive stories to curry favor with the
powers that be.
With the advent of social media and the realization that restriction and
gagging would put media czars on the wrong side of history, the loosening up
of the media started. However, that proved to be a bit too much as the
newfound freedom saw everyone becoming a ''journalist, media analyst and
These pundits added confusion by irresponsible reporting, exaggeration,
factual errors and personal vendettas. This led to restriction, censorship and
total chaos, and as a result many websites failed.
So then what is needed? We need trained and responsible people who should
utilize all available resources to present to the public news, views,
analysis, facts and figures in a responsible manner that serves society.
We need a media that acts as a conduit between those in authority and the
public. We also need less control by overeager bureaucrats and groups that
question the patriotism of anyone who exposes the ills of society.
In short, we need a vibrant and critical media.
— The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena