Kuwait’s media industry has grown considerably during the past decade, setting an example of a socially responsible media environment. While the State holds the right to intervene in order to maintain security, the government has demonstrated its backing for a culture of liberal thinking by making everyone eligible to hold a media license, according to Anas Al Rasheed, Kuwait’s Former Minister of Information.
Al Rasheed’s comments came during a workshop on ‘Kuwaiti Media: Progress and Expansion: Reminiscent of the Pioneering Days’ held as part of Arab Media Forum 2010. The workshop highlighted the Kuwaiti media scene, which appears to be establishing a new phase in the GCC media arena. Dr. Anas Al Rasheed commended the role of the Emir of Kuwait His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah in supporting the media.
Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, AMF 2010 opened on 12 May at Atlantis-The Palm. Themed ‘Shifting Mediascape: Inspiring Content…Expanding Reach’, the 9th edition of the event has brought together more than 2,000 media personalities and experts from Arab countries and across the world.
Moderated by Youssef Abd Al Hameed Al Jassim, CEO Six by Six Multimedia company in Kuwait, speakers at the workshop included Dr. Abdullah Al-Shayji, Head of the American Studies Unit, Assistant Professor at Political Science Department, Kuwait University; Dr. Sulaiman Al-Askari, Editor-in-Chief, Al-Arabi magazine; Adnan Al Rashed, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Al Anbaa newspaper; Ali Al-Rayes, General Manager, Kuwait Channel One Manager; Yousef Al Jalahma, General Manager, Al Rai TV, and Fajr Al-Saeed, General Manager, Scope TV.
Al Rasheed added: “The new Kuwaiti laws regulating the press have paved the path for a plethora of media channels, especially since the law facilitates working within a larger space of freedom. The advertising income of Kuwaiti print publications reached US$280 million last year, but this huge number of publications is not sustainable in the long term.”
Kuwait was characterised as a pioneer in media and the arts in the GCC and the wider Arab region. It was a cultural and intellectual storehouse through specialised publications and books in Arabic that are regarded as important international works in science, arts and literature.
Kuwait’s pioneering position in media and culture became the victim of Saddam Hussein’s aggression in 1990. Following the liberation, Kuwait implemented key changes at the state and community levels, which occurred around the same time when major developments happened in the international and Arab satellite media, and powerful media companies came into existence in the GCC and Arab world. However, Kuwait was not part of this development, despite the availability of abundant expertise of over 2,134 registered journalists.
Sulaiman Al-Askari, Editor-in-Chief, Al-Arabi magazine added: “The Kuwaiti journalism cared for the Arab national issues in a comprehensive manner, whether through its coverage of the Palestine issue or the Iraqi-Iranian war. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait caused a huge shock within the Kuwaiti nationals, affecting them intensely. This led the Kuwaiti journalism industry to revisit its contribution to supporting the Arab national issues focusing more on the internal Kuwaiti issues, channeling all the efforts towards raising awareness about them.”
The Kuwaiti media scene is currently witnessing a tremendous resurgence, particularly in the last two years. It boasts over 15 Arabic and two English newspapers, four government and seven private TV channels, in addition to many magazines and periodicals in print and online publications, news agencies, as well as news web portals.
Adnan Al Rashed said: “The migration of Arab journalism talents from countries such as Palestine and Lebanon to Kuwait has played a major role in enhancing the pioneering status of Kuwait’s media coverage around the Arab nation.”
Abdullah Al Shayji said: “The huge expansion that the Kuwaiti media industry is currently witnessing is a reflection of the media and political dynamics that has allowed numerous talents to enter this field. We need to utilize the current situation in reforming the media direction through making the media play a positive role in the Kuwaiti society without fuelling political bias.”
In view of the Kuwaiti media scene’s unprecedented growth, speakers at the workshop studied the reality, approaches, interests and ownerships in Kuwait media; the reason behind the relatively large number of newspapers and TV channels; the Kuwaiti media’s concerns and priorities; and whether it is right for the Kuwaiti media to be more pre-occupied with domestic issues and less interested in GCC, Arab and the worldwide environment.
AMF 2010 has served as a crucial platform for insightful discussions on issues such as citizen journalism, sports media, the media in Asia, Arabic channels’ diffidence to expand into other languages, and the etiquette of debate on live TV.
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, the winners of the third edition of the Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Youth Media Awards received their prizes at a gala ceremony on the first day of the forum.
The Arab Media Forum 2010 will conclude on 13 May with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid honouring the winners of Arab Journalism Awards, the region’s most coveted honours for journalistic excellence.
Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI), Arab Media Group (AMG), Nakheel, Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Emirates airline are the key sponsors for the forum.