Tag Archives journalism

News is Dead. Long live Content.

News is Dead. Long live Content.

When news is published, it’s just the beginning of the conversation, not its end.

This is what “news” is today. It’s necessarily a live conversation that informs, educates and empowers people to make better decisions.

Whether you like it or not, printed newspapers, and magazines are dead. I believe that they’re uselessly clinging to life through rusty and leaky support machines. If publications want to get off their sick beds and actually thrive, they need to think of themselves more as very technology-centric content producers than restricted news curators. They need to produce relevant content and publish it across a plethora of platforms in a variety of formats to reach a fickle and sceptical audience. Failing to adopt this business model will ensure nothing but their slow and painful demise.

Currently, none of the newspapers in Bahrain operate under this necessary business model, which is quite surprising as well as it being disturbing, as the technology is readily available to allow them to move into the content business and away from the obsolete static news business models. I daresay that money isn’t the major detriment should they choose to strategically tread that path, the real hurdle might well be the required change in publishers’ mindsets, their management methodology and style in order to fully benefit from this new business model. There is no denying that there definitely is a long way for them to go, judging by their obtuse and difficult to use websites. Entities which are generally digitised copies of their printed publication at best, save for the ability to provide moderated reader comments.

I have to ask, though, is this situation due to general lethargy, a pragmatic response to the minuscule market they operate in, absence of vision or is it due to bureaucratic restrictions that prevent them from adopting the critical change in direction which is necessary to ensure their very survival?

I note that some monthly magazines’ websites do have some video content – very little of it mind you and in mediocre quality; however, I’m unsure whether this is has been officially sanctioned or is made available by taking the oft-used and successfully implemented concept of when caught, opting to ask for forgiveness rather than originally seeking the onerous permission required to provide such a service.

Video alone is not the answer, of course. For a modern publication to thrive, it really needs to change its business model from traditional print publishing to multimedia interactive content generation and curation, as stated previously. To make this happen, the chief requirement for success is for the organisation to intrinsically add leading edge technological capabilities – either through in-house or outsourced resources – to continuously inject innovation into their Internet assets, integrate new interactive technologies and ensure that their content management system is solid yet flexible enough to respond to the immediacy of news in all of its formats, including crowd-generated and -curated content. From my observation, there isn’t a single media entity that fits within this necessary framework so far in Bahrain.

According to the Local Media Outlets list in the Ministry of Information Affairs, there are currently 10 radio stations, 6 television channels, 7 daily newspapers, 15 weekly newspapers and magazines, 17 monthly magazines and 9 electronic newspapers and magazines (Last Modified: 28-09-2014 11:38:05). Apart from the fact that the quantity of media outlets is despicably low for a country with over 1.2 million people, I believe that they’re all doomed to failure. They’re all are stuck in the past.

Strategically, to attain sustainable success for this critical industry, basic changes must take place, changes which have proven to have positively contributed to the success of the industry elsewhere: the state needs to inculcate and protect freedoms of speech as defined by the UN Charter’s Article 19, remove or at least appreciably reduce restrictions on the ability to publish physical or virtual periodicals and allow them to fairly compete in an open market.

Should these conditions occur, I’m sure that the media industry in all its forms will thrive in Bahrain and create an industry that will be match and possibly exceed those already present in the region, and innovation in the media space will sore, bringing with it much needed economic benefits.


Emirates retools press law

Good news this morning from a southerly direction that we hope that our newly appointed minister of Information as well as our parliamentarians will immediately emulate:

UAE rules journalists not to be jailed over work

9 hours ago

DUBAI (AFP) — The prime minister of the United Arab Emirates decreed on Tuesday that journalists should not be jailed over their work, two days after two were jailed for libel, the state WAM news agency reported.

Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum “has issued instructions … not to imprison journalists for reasons related to their work,” said the head of the National Media Council, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

Sheikh Mohammad stated that “other measures can be taken to penalise a journalist who has committed a particular violation,” added Sheikh Abdullah, who is also foreign minister.

Abdullah said the prime minister also called for speeding up the enactment of a new press law in line with amendments introduced by the National Media Council.

The amendments drop imprisonment as a penalty for press offences.

Sheikh Mohammad is also ruler of the booming emirate of Dubai, a member of the UAE that hosts scores of regional and international news organisations operating out of Internet and media free zones.

His move came two days after two Dubai-based journalists — an Indian and an Egyptian working for the English-language daily Khaleej Times — were sentenced to two months for libel, according to local press reports.

They have since been released on bail and are appealing.

Two UAE nationals were also recently sentenced to jail for defamation on an Internet site in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, another UAE member, and are appealing the rulings. The website has been closed.

Abdullah Omran, lawyer of one of the two, hailed Sheikh Mohammad’s decision and said he hoped it would apply to Internet sites.

“We welcome this positive move, which proves that our wise leadership is responsive to the aspirations of its people. We hope it will extend to electronic sites, and that violators will be penalised by measures other than imprisonment since they are electronic journalists,” Omran told AFP.

Omran is the lawyer for Mohammad Rashed al-Shehhi, owner of the website who has been jailed for a total of 17 months in two defamation cases involving local officials.

Fellow Emirati Khaled al-Asli was sentenced earlier in September to five months in jail on charges of writing an article on the site that slandered a local official.

Asli, who has denied writing the article posted under a pen name, has been released on bail while Shehhi is behind bars.


Bloody condensation

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I drove to the Tree of Life this afternoon in order to get good sunset shots with the Old Lady in them.

Almost at the site, I parked the car by the side of the road and got out in order to take the wide shot of the locale and other general shots to sweeten the edit. So I took out and set up the newly delivered tripod then enthusiastically (and gingerly) took the new superduper camcorder out of its also just delivered hard case, put it on the tripod and switched it on. After the customary greeting (it just reminds you that it is, in fact, a Sony and that you are indeed in a camera mode – proving that technology does talk condescendingly to mere mortals) a couple of beeps and an unusual message started flashing on the screen with a couple of weird icons to accompany it:

Moisture condensation.
Eject the cassette

Lovely. I’ve just driven in rush hour and got here in more than an hour and I get this. Yes it was hot. Yes the camcorder was in an air-conditioned office and yes it is a bit humid today, but you would think that it would be resilient enough for these “normal” operating circumstances in Bahrain!

Ah well. Checked the manual and all it said is eject the cassette and leave the compartment empty and the camera turned on for an hour before use. Huh? Okay, if that’s what Mr. Manual says then that’s what’s got to be done. I pressed the Eject button and the bloody compartment only rose half way and it was solidly stuck! What the hell. I tried to console and cajole it a bit for it to release the tape but no joy. Back to the manual and it said that if the mechanism does suffer from condensation then the tape might get stuck and it will take about 10 seconds for it to eject it completely. Okay, wait for a little longer, but not joy.

So I left it as it is in the case and continued my drive to enjoy the view of the Old Lady for a while. It was pristine and quiet, only a couple of cars which drove off as I approached, so it was quite peaceful too. The heat and humidity were bearable, it is the end of August in Bahrain after all.

In a while I looked at the camcorder but was surprised that the bloody thing was still flashing at me. I relented, I thought there is no way that that would go away yet. It seems like a real infestation of water in there that it might have just as well been at the bottom of a swimming pool.

I drove back to the office and Googled the error which resulted in various references, none as novel as this:

solved the problem very easy in 5 seconds…
by remove all batteries (inclusive the very small one (maybe behind the screen shing).. then hit it very hard..
now the memory can’t hold that there is an error and with the hitting things get better
[…] I have in fact seen with my very eyes, repair people (independent not at Sony) take a camera in, wait until the customer was out the door, take the main battery off, whack the camera VERY HARD and turn it back on. This has worked so many times I am embarrassed to mention it. They then put the camera on the shelf for a couple of days and call the customer back and charge them for a complete (and expensive) cleaning. The camera was usually fixed before they got to the car.


But it was yes bloody way throughout the comments after that one with none showing any dissent on that point of view! I couldn’t believe it, I thought that this must be a major leg pulling exercise.

I searched some more (while the camera was still comatose with its compartment door open and the cassette still jammed) but couldn’t find any further references. It’s been more than 2 hours now and this bloody thing is still dead.

Exasperated, I judiciously (I’m an electronics engineer and been around cameras for a while, so please don’t try anything of the following things I’ve done unless you want to irreparably damage your camera and invalidate its warranty – you have been warned!) applied pressure on the compartment down and fortunately the camera restored the compartment where it should be and I could hear the head engaging again. But unfortunately the condensation message was still lit. I tried ejecting again but the compartment once again got stuck. I repeated the process quite gently and tried ejecting yet again, fortunately I was second time lucky. The tape came out. Phew!

But the condensation message was still lit!

I removed the battery and re-inserted it in again only to be rewarded with the same error continuing to be displayed.

To hell with it (please don’t try this!) I turned the bitch upside down and wacked it (gently and judiciously!) put the battery back in and viola! It worked!

An afternoon was wasted, but I learnt a couple of things:

    1. Don’t keep tapes in the camcorder; only insert them when you need to and remove them when the shoot is over.
    2. Don’t store your cameras in a cold (or hot) location, certainly not in direct air-conditioner stream of cold air. If you do, you will most definitely invite condensation into your camera and will lose its use in no time. At best you will waste half a day waiting for it to re-acclimatise with the surrounding environment. They are not as good as we are in adapting to situations and they are expensive beasts (not just physically but in lost time and expenses).

I’m quite happy that it’s fixed and can look forward to going out and shooting… but bad luck hasn’t finished yet, my daughter just called to say that our whole neighbourhood has been blacked out! No power!



New Toys!

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Have a look at these beauties guys:

New toys, the Sony HDV Camcorder HVR-Z1E and the HDV player/recorder HVR-M25E

These, my friends, are the Sony HVR-Z1E HDV Camcorder with the accompanying HVR-25E HDV player/recorder. I’ve had to wait for about a month to receive them. They finally arrived this afternoon. There are still a few accessories still to arrive later this week.

I suppose I should now pull the finger our and make some movies!

If you know anyone who wants to do a corporate or industrial video, give them my details please. I’ll buy you a cup of your favourite brew if you do with my thanks.

Me sooo happy! 😎


It’s the UAE’s turn to imprisson online publishers

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Here we go again:

UAE online forum administrator sentenced to prison
Earlier this month, on August 8th, Mohamed Rashed al-Shohhi, an online forum administrator in the Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah (UAE) has been sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of nearly US$ 13,600 (Dh50,000) for content deemed defamatory published by anonymous on the popular forum board he moderated majan.net (suspended).

It has also been reported that the department of e-government services managed to access the forum’s control panel looking for registrants email addresses. And it seems that this has led to the arrest, on August 19th, of a forum registrant, Khaled El Asli.
GlobalVoices Advocacy

Why is this, I hear you ask?

الدكتور هاشم الرفاعي مدير عام دائرة الهيئة الالكترونية في رأس الخيمة أكد ان المنتدى الالكتروني أغلق درءاً للمفاسد حيث كان يطرح بعض القضايا التي تمس الخصوصية والتدخل في الحياة الشخصية ناهيك عن السب والتشهير.

وأضاف الدكتور الهاشمي ان التقنية تحتاج إلى تنظيم والحرية تحتاج إلى توجيه، موضحا ان الجانب السيئ للجوانب التقنية يكمن في عدم تحفظها، وإدراكها للجانب الاجتماعي المدني وما يمكن ان يترتب عليه مضيفا ان إغلاق المنتدى جاء بسبب الحوادث الكثيرة التي اشتكت ضده مؤكدا ان العقاب يردع كل المسؤولين عن المنتديات الالكترونية ليتجنبوا تلك الطرق في طرح المواضيع مشددا على أن الفرد إذا أراد إيصال آرائه فيمكنه ذلك بطرق رسمية أخرى متاحة ككتابة رسالة أو إرسال فاكس أو عن طريق قنوات البث المباشر مؤكدا أن المسؤولين يتقبلون تلك الطرق ويولونها الأهمية.
الخليج – Google translation of full article

What is essentially happening is that an anonymous commenter entered a perceivably defamatory comment and the forum moderator got it instead. Making true the local adage that if you can’t handle the donkey, break the cart! Or in Dr. Hashim Al-Rifa’i’s words – who heads the eGovernment Department in Ras Al-Khaima, a small and almost forgotten emirate in the UAE – if you have a complaint, you had better write a letter or send a fax! I wonder what his “eGovernment” initiative is like, it must be better than the telex technology, don’t you think.

He must also fully believes in the Big Red Switch which he and his government must have been ecstatic at activating against this new fangled thing called the Internet.

The situation in the whole Middle East is quite tenuous now and publishing anything on the internet is getting quite scary.

Well needless to say that I support Mohamed Rashed al-Shohhi’s right to freedom of speech and that he should not to be held responsible for comments entered in his electronic publication; therefore, ask for his release and exonoration from those ridiculous charges he has been imprisoned under.


Divided Island?

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Al-Jazeera English’s Abdulrahman Al-Shayyal produced a short documentary to explore the sectarian divide in Bahrain. He came and interviewed me amongst many other Bahrainis to find out the underlying reason that these tensions exist.

Here’s the segment he produced:


BBC’s “Crossing Continents” does Bahrain

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Bill Law will be persona non-grata for a while in Bahrain I guess after this program and his Telegraph article about our fair isle.

Unrest in paradise
direct link to radio program which might be customarily removed a week after it is broadcast

Bahrain is increasingly featured in holiday brochures as a relaxing winter-sun destination for the weary north European.

The image Bahrain projects is one of a wealthy, progressive and open society – an evolving Arab democracy.

But there is a different story behind the prosperity and glitz.


BBC Radio 4’s Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 26 July 2007 at 1102 BST.
It will be repeated on Monday, 30 July 2007 at 2030 BST.

Presenter: Bill Law
Producer: Linda Pressly
Editor: Maria Balinska


Bolstering the blogosphere

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Good News™: More people noticing that blogging is no longer a phenomenon:

The blogosphere, as media expert Dr. Mark Lynch points out, is able to ‘escape the state driven red lines which even the most independent of Arab media is forced to acknowledge’. As such, they fit in with the EU’s agenda, enshrined in the Barcelona Process and European Neighbourhood Policy, of promoting a freer media in the Middle East. Not only does the internet allow Middle Eastern citizens to hold their (often unelected) leaders to account, it also provides a medium through which citizens can engage with politics and with each other. Empowering pluralism and strengthening civil society have also been among the much heralded side-effects of the blogosphere, both of which are central tenets in the EU’s relationship with the Middle East.


Young Bahraini Entrepreneurs

Guys, can you suggest some names of young Bahraini entrepreneurs that I might interview? I would appreciate it if you would provide me their contact details if you don’t mind too, if you don’t, then a name and why you would nominate a person should be enough for me to start my research.

The targets whom I require should be between 18 – 40 and own their own successful businesses, both young men and women are required.

This is partly for my work within the Young Businessmen Committee at the Chamber and partly personal as I would interview and publish their interviews here or on Bahraini.TV and possibly syndicate them elsewhere too.

Much appreciate your help, thanks.

Update [email protected]: I just added a forum at Mahmood Talk billed as Entrepreneurial Pursuits — The business of finding solutions to problems, and profiting from it at the same time! Share your war stories and business ideas here.

Please visit and contribute if you would.