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05 December 2023

Dubai forum calls sports media to act responsibly

Dr Ahmed Al Sharif, Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council signing a memorandum of understanding with Gianni Merlo, President of the International Sports Press Association on Tuesday after the Dubai International Sports Media Forum. (SUPPLIED)

By Allaam Ousman

Sports journalists were reminded of their responsibilities to society and be better equipped to face the challenges in a changing media environment accentuated by the pace of globalisation at a symposium held in Dubai on Tuesday.

The two-day Dubai International Sports Media Forum organised by the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) in association with the UAE Sports Media committee came to a successful conclusion at Hotel Movenpick.

"We have to look to a future which is completely different. Everybody is afraid of the Internet. It can be a very important tool and also a monster. We have to find a balance. In some countries Internet is controlled but we must be careful with controls. However, the most important control must be control of ourselves. We must be conscious of what we are writing because in future what will always count is the quality of the product," said Gianni Merlo, President of AIPS (International Sports Press Association) during the final session entitled 'Sports Media and Globalisation'.

He emphasised the importance of education and called for investing in a new generation of journalists who could handle multiple tasks of writing for both newspapers and online in addition to clicking photographs and recording videos.

"It is very important to exchange information with the new generation," said Merlo who launched a 'Young Reporters' project last summer during the University Games in Shenzen, China which attracted 42 students from around the world and 15 from China.

"Journalists are in some way fans of say a football club and are able to be act independently. It's normal for somebody to have special feeling for a team. One way of helping them to be independent journalists is by inviting them to see how people work in other countries. We have to invest in education to change attitudes of people. Globalisation can also be a monster if it is not used in a proper way," said Merlo.

Asked what are the challenges faced by sports media, Merlo said: "We have to fight against bad tradition for example. Things of past which cannot work. There should be a new process of evolution."

On the federation's fight against corruption in sports, Merlo said: "We are always against corruption and dishonesty. We will continue to fight for more transparency in sport. Match-fixng is something that can destroy the sport. It is more dangerous than what we think."

However, he cautioned the media to clean their house before throwing stones from glass houses. "We have to compel the people of sport (players) to follow the rules. If players follow rule, official will follow. But we also have to follow rules of our profession and maintain our dignity so we can help sport to be clean," he said.

Merlo said there was no danger from past players who have become media celebrities.

"They qualify only because they were players. But a journalist is different. It is possible to judge a match from every side. We know the rules and what it means. The problem is even some players do not understand strategy. For this we need to speak with coaches to understand what is in their mind," he said.

Asked what he felt about armchair critics, he said: "Before we criticise we must be ready to criticise. We must have the knowledge and also the experience. We are not fans looking at a match in a pub and discussing it. We have a deeper duty. We have to think about it before giving an opinion."

Faisal Al Qana'ae, Vice-President of the International Sports Media Federation recalled how times have changed since he covered the first Gulf Cup in 1970 when television footage was recorded by film cameras for posterity and newspapers published photographs two days later.

"Now 42 years later there has been a complete revolution in media communication and the world has become a small village. Sports media has become a profitable industry with television earning through broadcasting rights. Although it is scary at times, globalisation has had a positive impact," he said.

Mohammed Jamil Abdelkader, President of Arab Sports Media Federation, also spoke during this session which was moderated by Sami Imam, Head of Media at Dubai Sports Council.

During the first session entitled 'Sports media between responsibilities and challenges', Salem Habsi, President of the Gulf Sports Media Federation, Dr Hadi Abdullah, member of the Executive Board of the Arab Sports Media Federation and Ali Obaid, a UAE media and academic figure spoke with Mohamed Jassim as moderator.

Habsi confirmed that the sports media is facing several challenges, namely: the high cost price of the newspaper paper compared to the Internet which have become free in most Arab countries.

Under the topic 'The fourth generation of technology and new media', the speakers were Dr Khalid Al Khaja, Dean of Information, Media and Human Science Faculty of Ajman University, Saeed Hamdan, a UAE writer and researcher and Jaber Al Janahi of Etisalat with Meshal Al Qahtani as moderator.

Hamdan presenting a paper entitled 'Sport in the era of new media' said: "The most important elements of new media are websites, forums, blogs, YouTube, BlackBerry, social media like Facebook and Twitter. The overwhelming response to the new media and its advantages is because it is easier to access."

He pointed out that the Dubai symposium recorded 470,000 hits as a result of a search at the end of first day. He also revealed that the UAE occupies first position among Arabs in the use of the Internet, according to Report of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.

"Studies have shown that the Emiratis are focusing on the use of the Internet for social purposes with a specialised study finding that 70% of the participants in the UAE spend three hours or more online a day, according to Forbes magazine issued of September 18, 2011, and that they prefer sports websites on Twitter," he noted.

The outcome of the seminar resulted in the Dubai Sports Council signing four MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding) with the International Sports Federations of Asian, Arab and Gulf, in order to strengthen the mechanisms for communication, cooperation and consolidation of joint efforts between them to implement the programmes, initiatives and projects that will improve the sports media in the UAE and the region.

It was signed by Dr Ahmed Al Sharif, Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council and Merlo, in the presence of Mohammed Jamil Abdelkader, President of the Arab Sports Media Federation, Salem Habsi, President of the Gulf Sports Media Federation and Faisal Al Qana'ae, Vice-President of the International Sports Media Federation.

The memorandum seeks to reinforce this relationship in a formal framework designed to unify the joint efforts and find the best solutions to benefit from shared experiences and work on developing the sports media among locals and help them meet the challenges of the professional era. The Dubai Sports Council had signed a MoU with the UAE Sports Media committee last week.