A BAHRAINI media pioneer has highlighted the need for more free speech, criticising political societies for seeking to control public opinion to suit their own agendas.
Dar Akhbar Al Khaleej Printing and Publishing House chairman Anwar Abdulrahman made the comments yesterday during a meeting of the Rotary Club of Manama.
During a talk he accused some people of failing to understand the concept of free expression.
“People do not believe in freedom,” said Mr Abdulrahman during the event at the Gulf Hotel.
“Our readers will be very happy when we criticise others, for example, but will consider it an interference in personal life when we criticise themselves.
“I have never seen a society, in any country in the world, similar to the one we have here in Bahrain.
“Everybody talks about freedom, but none actually believe in it – especially politically-minded individuals.
“When we write about these political societies in Bahrain, we immediately receive a letter from their lawyer saying that we have disrespected them.
“They have actually disrespected everybody in their ma’atams, in their masjids (mosques), but the minute we criticise them they say that we have disrespected their beliefs.
“Unfortunately, they wrongly believe that they represent God and we represent the devil.”
Meanwhile, Mr Abdulrahman emphasised the role of journalism in cataloguing history – providing a more accurate account of past events than historians, who might approach subjects with a particular bias.
“Today with satellite systems, no printing press is too far away from publishers,” he added.
“A newspaper can be edited in London and printed in Sydney.
“Journalism itself, although part of literature, has been labelled ‘literature in a hurry’.
“Today we realise that newspapers are the most accurate source of stories, because there are so many papers in the world that write about exactly the same news.”
During the event Mr Abdulrahman took the audience on a journey through the history of the media, all the way back to the ancient Egyptians and their efforts to document daily life.
“Many of the earliest records of everyday life were kept by the Egyptian civilisation,” he said.
“The memoirs of Egyptian physician Sineoohe Sinmut described his society in minute detail, drawing on documentation kept by architects, medical practitioners and also the formalities involved with bills of entry, shipping dockets and even primitive travellers’ cheques.
“Yet there was no sign of a daily newspaper.
“The nearest emerged from Imperial Rome where the Senate posted 2,000 copies of a handwritten publication Acta Diurna, which reported to elite officials news of personalities, deaths and gladiatorial contests.
“The second mention of a similar publication cropped up during the Sassanite Dynasty 1,800 years ago in Persia.
“It was called Rooz Nama, which means ‘Letter of the Day’, but again only for governors and the dynasty’s top echelons.
“In China, and precisely in 1361, a primitive weekly paper was in circulation.
“Printed from wooden blocks, it was called The Peking Gazette. But when the Jang Dynasty collapsed, it also disappeared.
“However, China’s invention was later taken up and prospered in Western Europe.
“The first indication of a publication in the Arab world was at Baghdad University about 1,200 years ago, published by one of the professors – Ahmed Rawandi.
“He named it Al Friend – meaning a fine sword of the highest workmanship.”
However, it was London’s Fleet Street that sealed the success and the future of the modern press.