ECSSR Symposium No. (57) Experts and Media Professionals: Saudi Media Plays a Vital Role in Achieving Saudi Vision 2030

The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) held a symposium titled ‘Saudi Media: Change and Evolution,’ on Monday, February 10, 2020, in the presence of H.E. Prof. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the ECSSR. The symposium was attended by officials, media professionals and writers, as well as an elite group of intellectuals, diplomats and an audience with a particular interest in the media. 

The symposium began with welcoming remarks from H.E. Prof. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, in which he explained that the symposium addresses several topics pertinent to the media in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These include Saudi media’s role in achieving Saudi Vision 2030, enhancing international perceptions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, spreading awareness about societal change taking place in the country, and Saudi media’s portrayal of other cultures. 

His Excellency introduced the symposium as part of a series, ‘Arab Media 2020’. Organized by the Center, the series acknowledges the important role of all forms of media, particularly new media, the role of which is intensifying amid rapid global developments in technology, brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The remarkable progress in Artificial Intelligence technologies has also contributed to this sweeping change. 

The symposium’s first presentation saw Mr. Ali Al-Alyani, Editor-in-Chief and Host at MBC, examine ‘Saudi Media’s Role in Light of Saudi Vision 2030’. He explained that Saudi media seeks to unify its public discourse on Saudi Vision 2030, counter erroneous news reports and develop media plans that support implementation programs. He added that the Kingdom has established the Center for International Communication to consolidate the Kingdom’s image locally, regionally and globally. The Center also aims to strengthen citizens’ pride, awareness and interest in the government’s policies and programs.

Mr. Saud Al-Rayes, Editor-in-Chief of the Saudi and Gulf editions of Al-Hayatnewspaper, discussed ‘Perceptions of Saudi Arabia: Past, Present and Future’. He pointed out how some Western media outlets seek to distort the process of radical reform within the Kingdom. As a result, Saudi media shoulders a great responsibility to counter these portrayals and promote a positive image of Saudi Arabia. He added that even though social media platforms have become the Fourth Estate in the Kingdom, traditional media should not be neglected. Instead, Mr. Al-Rayes urged support for the important role traditional media has to play in sending positive images of Saudi Arabia to the world.

Mr. Zaid bin Kami, Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat International Newspaper, United Kingdom, delivered a paper titled, ‘The Importance of Media Awareness Amid Societal Change in Saudi Arabia’. He explained that Saudi media plays a significant role in educating society on the initiatives and programs of Vision 2030. He added that Saudi media also highlights the Kingdom’s intellectual and developmental achievements, including; industrial, agricultural and cultural innovations; progress on environmental issues; the empowerment of women and promotion of their role in development; and, the importance of increasing awareness of nutritional education, literacy, health and responding to the digital world. 

The final presentation came from Mr. Mohammed Al-Harthi, General Supervisor of the Saudi Media Forum and Editor-in-Chief of Sayidatyand Arrajolmagazines. He discussed the image of ‘the other’ in Saudi media, highlighting how Arab and Saudi media outlets suffer from the issue of generalization. While we accuse Western media of generalizing and presenting a negative image of Arabs and Muslims, Arab and Saudi media suffer the same problem in its treatment of the West. Mr. Al-Harthi pointed out that our view of ‘the other’ is dominated by emotion rather than reason, and that these stereotypes stem from a lack of knowledge and selective perception, as we adopt information that fits our convictions. He stressed the need to open up to ‘the other’, to gain an accurate understanding of different cultures and overcome negative stereotypes. Central to this effort are strong media platforms operating in a positive and favorable environment, as well as building strong relations with ‘the other’. Also vital is overcoming hate speech by criminalizing it, striving for inner peace among individuals; and, viewing the media as a partner in the success of state institutions.