The challenges faced by sports journalists in a restricted media environment in the Arab world and the critical role it could play in combating corruption in sports were highlighted at a symposium held in Dubai on Monday.
Organised by the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) and UAE Sports Media Committee with the vision of 'creating a unique sports community', the two-day Dubai International Sports Media Forum held at Hotel Movenpick was attended by sports media professionals, academics and researchers from the UAE and Arab world.
Mattar Al Tayer, Vice-President of DSC, Mohammed Al Kamali, Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee, Abdullah Ibrahim, Head of the Sports Media Committee in the UAE, Ahmed Al Fardan Secretary General of the Sharjah Sports Council, Ahmed Al Kamali, Chairman of the Athletcis Federation and Amer Ali, President of the UAE Volleyball Association were also present on the occasion.
DSC Secretary-General Dr Ahmed Al Sharif making the welcome address said the aim of the first ever seminar of this kind was to discuss the reality and look at the prospects for the future of sports media in the UAE and the Arab world through the experiences and views of a group of specialists in the media in general and the sports media in particular.
"The organisation of this important symposium displays the keenness of the Dubai Sports Council and the Committee of the Sports Media in the UAE to reinforce sports media in making positive change in the sports sector. Media is an integral part for necessary changes and the Dubai Sports Council considers media as main partner in that process. It has been translated with the media being given a key role in all conferences and seminars organised by the Council not just in the coverage of the event, but also as speakers and chairpersons. We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Committee in sports media in the country to consolidate efforts for the benefit and development of sports," said Dr Sharif.
Gianni Merlo, President of AIPS, the World Association of Sports Journalists, said this seminar would help contribute to achieving the objective of sports media development.
"Sports can help process of peace in many parts of world. But sports is in big danger because of corruption. Europe underwent a difficult situation in football. Match-fixing is a big danger for sport and we have to fight corruption," said Merlo.
The symposium kicked off with Abdul Hamid Ahmed, Editor-in-Chief of Gulf News and Muhammad Jamil Abdulqader, President of Arab Sports Media Federation discussing the 'role of sports media in capacity of the fourth authority' with Ali Obaid as moderator.
Abdul Hamid noted at the outset that conditions were not there for journalists to exercise their authority as the Fourth Estate which could help develop sports in the region.
On the other hand he felt they were not keeping pace with technological development in the media with information which was published in newspapers for instance being superficial or outdated without objective analysis.
He also accused some media personnel of being partisan and indulging in unethical practices which affected their freedom of expression.
For his part, Abdulqader said: "We live in the information age in every sense of the word, where the media plays a big role in guiding the community. Media needs the freedom to innovate."
"The sports media career as a beautiful and varied addresses all segments of society of all ages Sunni, the language of life and force development as the development and progress is linked to sports development in close liaison and media."
On the challenges and disadvantages faced by the sports media, he said the failure to keep pace with technological development is causing a decline in standards.
The heads of three Arabic UAE dailies Refaat Buheri (Al Bayan), Dea'a Alden Ali (Al Khaleej) and Ahmed Abul Shayeb (Emarat Al Youm) spoke on the 'media's responsibility with respect to monitoring and limit of criticism' during the second session moderated by Mohammed Al Joker, Secretary General of the UAE Sports Media committee.
"The primary role of the media is to enrich the sports movement, especially with the prominent place it occupies in the state, in terms of space allocated to it in the newspapers and television screens, and others, and the great interest of the community in various sports," said Ali.
He noted that the most prominent criticisms and shortcomings related to the sports media, are exaggeration and extremism.
Abu Shayeb said some officials lack the culture of dealing with the media causing to lack of transparency in the granting of information, along with the inability to accept criticism and superficially receive news by reading the title and not to read the full story.
Maryam bin Faha of Arab Journalism Award and Nasser Al Rahma of MBR Creative Award delved on the leading initiatives supporting sports media.
The most heated discussion took place during the final session entitled 'Role of visual media to enhance positive sports thoughts and values and code of ethics in sports media.
Mustafa Alagha, head of sports programmes at MBC, Dr Hessa Lotah, UAE media and academic figure, and Dr Yasser Thabit, new directors at Sky News Arabia were the speakers with Ahmad Al Rahoomi as moderator.
The session focused on the positive impact of television and need for code of ethics for media personnel.
The symposium continues on Tuesday beginning at 9.15am with three topics titled 'Sports media between responsibilities and challenges', 'The fourth generation of technology and influence on Advanced Media' and 'Sports Media Globalism'.