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Media, in throes of change, urged to experiment


The Middle East media industry was urged to experiment, at the 9th edition of the annual WAN-Ifra Middle East Conference that got underway in Dubai today.

The regional conference of the global organisation of the world’s newspapers and news publishers, was inaugurated by Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai.

In his welcome address from the region, Dhaen Shaheen, CEO of Publishing Sector in Dubai Media Inc. and Editor-in-Chief of Al Bayan Newspaper, pointed out that regional media industry is facing a new revolution with its own accompanying challenges.

"We need to more innovation and creativity. We do not have a clear road map to tackle the challenges and therefore, we need to experiment.

"Having said that, I still maintain that we are in yet another golden age of news users - we have both best practices and new tools to engage the public," Shaheen said.

He said "we have to manage time and control it, we have to explore advancements in e-Journalism and social media development and meld it with traditional media".

Shaheen was of the opinion that journalism is at its best today. "We have a much larger space today for both newspapers and digital media.

"Today in the UAE - and in 'smart' Dubai  in particular - we are working on modernising journalism; we are trying to get the most modern tools and are promoting and fostering digital media. Technology and traditional media need to be re-intergrated," he said.

Vincent Peyregne, CEO of WAN-Ifra France, praised Dubai as one of the world's best centres, while pointing out that of the regional conferences, 5 have been held in Dubai.

"Dubai leads development in the region," he said.

Peyregne said in today's world "credible news and information is needed for decision-making. People are looking for reliable and credible source of information -- and newspapers are the voice of the society."

He said media growth in the region needs support and Dubai has always been in the forefront in providing such support.

Saleh Alhumaidan, Managing Director, Al Yaum Media House, Dammam, Saudi Arabia, also welcomed the "great support by the Government of Dubai".

"Dubai has been the incubator of many innovative ideas," he added.

In her welcome speech, HRH Princess Rym Ali of Jordan, painted a picture of how the Arab Spring has impacted on the regional media industry - both positively and negatively.

"The success of media depends on the success of political reforms. Media cannot be free without journalists feeling free and safe," she pointed out while giving the reference of Libya, where she said, "the fear of the old regime has been replaced by another fear".

However, she pointed out that one of the Arab Spring's  biggest achievements is the tremendous boost to "freedom of speech" in the region.

"Arab media is in the throes of change," Princess Rym added.

The annual edition of world’s newspapers and publishers organisation will conclude tomorrow [March 13].

Today's speaker included Patrick Daniel, Editor-in-Chief, English and Malay Newspapers, Singapore Press Holding; Benjamin Gajkowski, Project Manager at Germany’s Die Welt, owned by Axel Springer; Jonathan Halls, Adjunct Professor, The George Washington University and Principal, Jonathan Halls & Associates, USA; Manfred Werfel, Deputy CEO, WAN-Ifra, Germany.

Tomorrow the speakers list will feature DD Purkayastha, Managing Director & CEO, ABP Pvt Ltd, India; Matt Kelly, Publishing Consultant, Cases i Associats, UK; Ed Capaldi, CEO & Founder Ed Capaldi LLC; Mohammed Fahad Alharthi, Editor-in-Chief of Sayidaty, Al Jamila and Arab News; PK Philip, Chief General Manager, Works, Malayala Manorama; Anand Srinivasan Research Engineer, WAN-Ifra, India, and others.