DOHA: Journalists and media professionals yesterday stood in solidarity against impunity and detention of journalists in observance of World Press Freedom Day at an event organised by the Doha Centre for Media Freedom (DCMF) at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Carrying “Journalism is not a crime” placards and photos of detained Al Jazeera journalists, the participants observed a minute of silence to condemn the continuing crackdown on press freedom.
“They are always in our hearts. They will come back and will be free. We are all committed to this cause,” said DCMF Executive Committee Chairman Abdeljalil Alami, as he opened the forum.
Speaking on the status of press freedom in the region, Alami said it had been a hard journey full of challenges.
According to the recently released DCMF annual report, 2013 was a “bleak” year for journalists and the second worst year for media workers after 2012.
A total of 70 professional journalists around the world lost their lives in 2013, of which 49 (70 percent) were killed in the Arab region.
While Alami condemned the culture of impunity and suppression of press freedom as opposed to “achieving prosperity”, he vowed to promote freedom of the press in the Arab region by developing its resources such as training journalists.
He said they are now preparing the Doha Index for Media Freedom which will make an international reference for detecting, monitoring and advocating for the media and press freedom in the region. The event featured “The New Media Forum” which featured panel discussions focusing mainly on new media, its role in the advocacy of human rights and challenges it faces.
Prof Khaled Hroub, professor of Middle Eastern Studies and Arab Media Studies at Northwestern University in Qatar, said freedom of expression is an indication of a humane and developed society and that the emergence of new media has raised the bar of liberty around the world.
New media, like traditional media, can contribute to the promotion of human rights by making people aware of their rights and unveiling human rights violations, which new media has made easier, said Dr Elobaid Ahmad Elobaid, director of UN Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for Northwestern Asia and the Arab Region.
Al Jazeera journalist Hasan Rashidi said new media has played major role in crystallising public opinion in some of the turbulent episodes in recent history such as during the Arab Spring.
New media in the Arab world, he said, faces great challenges in technological, economic and political aspects, specifically on lack of accessibility, literacy and digital divide.
Col Abdallah Al Muftah, Director of Public Relations Department at the Ministry of Interior, said social media has created a new form of communication which has become vital for the Ministry to relay important information to the people.
He said it is important to be transparent to the people because “if we do not tell them the truth, the piece of information might be distorted.”