His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah received the baton declaring Sharjah the Capital of the Arab Press 2016 from Haitham Yousuf, secretary-general of the United Arab Media Council (UAMC), at the Expo Centre. Shaikh Sultan Bin Ahmad Al Qasimi, chairman of Sharjah Media Centre was also present. Image Credit: WAM

Sharjah: Sharjah has been declared the Capital of Arab Press 2016 during the opening of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) on Sunday.

The announcement follows the inauguration of the fifth annual IGCF by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. Dr Shaikh Sultan received the baton of the declaration from Haitham Yousuf, secretary-general of the United Arab Media Council (UAMC), at the event’s venue, the Expo Centre.

Shaikh Sultan Bin Ahmad Al Qasimi, chairman of Sharjah Media Centre, said in a statement that the freedom that the media enjoys in Sharjah and the legal safeguards and investment opportunities that are offered to private sector stakeholders in print and electronic media in the emirate were part of the criteria that earned the emirate the coveted honour.

Manama was chosen Capital of Arab Press 2012, Riyadh in 2013 and Jerusalem in 2014-15, added a statement by the UAMC.

The two-day IGCF features local and international speakers discussing the importance of effective communication, especially between governments and their people in line with this year’s theme, ‘Citizens for Prosperity’.

During his opening address, Dr Shaikh Sultan said national progress and scientific advancement should not come at the expense of social values or the environment, for example. He stressed that today’s happiness should not be a cause for grief tomorrow, explaining that progress should be long-term and planned rather than expedient or impromptu.

He also described how Sharjah is developing according to a “well-reflected plan” to chart its progress in the coming years.

Dr Shaikh Sultan said “advancement is a reaction to ignorance” and must not come at the expense of the safety of others, nor at the cost of societal values or even the environment.

He stressed that today’s happiness should not be a cause for grief tomorrow, explaining that progress should be long-term and planned rather than spontaneous or short-sighted.

“Moral and social development are the two wings of advancement,” he said.

Meanwhile, Shaikh Sultan Bin Ahmad Al Qasimi highlighted the importance of communication, saying governments should announce and explain new services before launching them so they can design services according to the feedback.

“Otherwise there is a risk the service may not be understood by the audience or doesn’t serve the needs of the people,” he said.

Also speaking during the opening ceremony was Amal Alamuddin Clooney, a lawyer, international human rights activist and author. Clooney, who is visiting the UAE for the first time, shared her five-point suggestions for effective government communications, especially with regard to human rights issues. She added that a country’s reputation, trade links and political clout nowadays hinge on its human rights record.

“Governments need to be vocal about human rights… Sometimes saying nothing means you lose your rights,” she said, referring to examples of countries that had lost legal cases by remaining passive and silent on disputes.

She added states should also “be consistent” and “say it with one voice” when making a stand on a particular issues. She said contradictions in words and actions should not occur.

Her advice included the need to “be principled” and “be quick”, pointing out that the press is quick to refer to Twitter for “confirmation” of speculation, which sometimes cause “misleading headlines”. Governments should “get the message out first” before the situation devolves into confusion.

Clooney said it was “most important” to “be the future”, calling on Arab nations to ensure they uphold human rights, especially during times of crisis.