DOHA: Concerned by the spread of social media in the region, the GCC countries are taking a closer look at the possibility of reining in the electronic media.
Information ministers from the GCC countries yesterday hinted they favoured framing laws to regulate the electronic media, including social media.
The ministers didn’t mince words while expressing their desire to regulate the electronic media in their direct interaction with senior GCC journalists at a key media forum that ended in Bahrain yesterday. The two-day event was held to discuss media freedom and national security issues in the GCC. The symposium which attracted senior media professionals from the GCC was organised on the sidelines of the 21st meeting of the GCC information ministers.
Addressing the event, Saudi Arabia’s Information Minister, Dr Abdul Aziz Khoja, said there was the need to differentiate between the organised media and social media. “Just as we managed to differentiate between the official media and unofficial media we must differentiate between the conventional media and new media,” he said.
The aim of the legislation is to regulate the electronic media is to protect the users, he said.
Kuwait’s Information Minister, Salman Al Sabah, said there was a draft law to regulate the electronic media but that was shelved. “Now we might be having a fresh draft,” he suggested.
Mubarak Jaham Al Kuwari, Head of Qatar Media, said Qatar was about to enforce a new media law. He said the country disbanded the information ministry years ago. The GCC states have urged Bahrain to study the media situation in the region and recommend steps to be taken to organise it.
Earlier, journalists attending the forum also raised concerns over the contents of social sites that include footages, pictures and information provoking sectarian violence under the pretext of freedom of speech. There was consensuses among speakers to educate the users of social sites about moralities and values in place of imposing strict monitoring on it.
“We are living in the era of information chaos without ways to confirm what we hear is true or false. Even we do not know the purpose of such information and its impact on our social life”, said a senior journalist from Al Arabia Channel, Mohammad Al Arab.
Bahrain was a victim of social networking sites where false and provocative materials were being posted against it, which was very serious, he said.
False news is carried by social sites, like of aircraft bombing civilians and showing Bahrain as if it is Afghanistan. Then satellite channels air such news quoting these sites, he added.
It is better to take an initiative to introduce youngsters to better uses of these sites, speakers said.
“We are the people who have consumerism in everything, even in the use of social networking sites”, said a senior Qatari journalist, Jasem Salam.
The largest number of Facebook users in the Arab world are Egyptians, while GCC citizens use Twitter more, and Saudis top the list in using YouTube, he added.