Bahrain information authority seeks ways to improve media standards

February 18, 2011

Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority (IAA) president has called for the formation of a joint committee that would help enhance journalism standards in the country.

The panel would be made up of the five editors of the daily papers in Arabic, members of the board of the Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) and representatives from the competent authorities, Shaikh Fawaz Bin Mohammad Al Khalifa said.

“The formation of the committee is the beginning of a process of engagement with the local media on a new framework for the press,” Shaikh Fawaz said, stressing that it was following instructions from King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa.

King Hamad has often called for greater media freedom and has urged the parliament to enact an “enlightened and advanced” press code that would underpin freedom of expression.

However, attempts to promulgate a new law that would supersede the controversial 2002 Press law have been foiled mainly by conservative lawmakers in the lower chamber amid claims that journalists should be given preferential treatment over other citizens.

Bahrain Journalists Association, the umbrella for dozens of Bahrain-based journalists, has often lobbied the parliament to support the drive to enact a more liberal press law, but was invariably frustrated by the formidable coalition of conservatives in the lower chamber.

But, now, the committee to be formed within days will help journalists break free from the stalemate caused by the inability of the parliament to move forward.

Shaikh Fawaz made the announcement as Bahrain started nationwide celebrations of the anniversary of the National Action Charter, the political document drafted by a popular committee in December 2000 and endorsed in an overwhelming 98.4% plebiscite on February 14, 2001.

The charter heralded wide constitutional, political and social reforms, including greater freedom of the press.

Shaikh Fawaz said that Bahrain remained committed to media openness and reforms and that the Information Affairs Authority would seek best practices in the US and Britain regulation to feed into the consultation process in Bahrain, while the private sector assumes a greater role in the media sector.

The delegation will visit the Press Complaints Commission and Foreign Press Association in the UK and the Federal Communications Commission and Foreign Press Centre in the US.

“After ten years of reform, we are looking to further enhance freedom of the media. While reforms to date have achieved a great deal, there is recognition that by working with the private sector more can be achieved,” he said.

“As we seek to improve the law and regulatory framework, we will also be looking to the media sector itself to take a lead in meeting professional and ethical standards and further incorporating international best practice. It is hoped that the public-private consultation will swiftly lead to the development of the new law, ensuring all sections of Bahrain society have access to yet greater media freedom and expression in the Kingdom. It is an exciting time for Bahrain as we enter our second decade of reform,” he said.

The new approach to self-regulation is also anticipated to extend to film classification, he said. “Cinema companies will be able to decide by themselves on the censorship level and on the classification of the films they bring into the country,” Shaikh Fawaz, who was given the information portfolio in July, said.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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