The special tribute by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to the Bahraini press for its significant role in confronting the coronavirus pandemic consolidates its status as a highly trusted source of information for the nation and the world.
“The coronavirus pandemic, and the global challenges it imposed, demonstrated the significance of the Bahraini media as an active partner within Team Bahrain led by the dear son, the Crown Prince, His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, ,” HM King Hamad said in his address on World Press Freedom Day.
“Through its commitment to publish verified information in confronting misleading rumors and false news, deepening societal awareness of precautionary and preventive measures, and stimulating voluntary and humanitarian work, the press contributed to spreading reassurance, preserving public health and safety for all citizens and residents, and highlighting the Bahraini honorable model in managing the crisis and its repercussions, internally and externally.”
When Bahrain set up the National taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in early February, the Bahraini media was among its components.
The taskforce was well aware that confronting the increasingly ominous virus required expert management of the crisis and medical and biological expertise, but also a robust media that people could trust and rely on the information it provides around the clock.
It was a monumental responsibility for the local media. The confusion and lack of information in the early weeks of the pandemic was used by some as a fertile environment for jokes, rumors, allegations, misinformation, disinformation and malinformation.
Some of the “creative ideas” and “wild imagination” in making up stories and doctoring pictures for false narratives were driven by malicious intentions that invested in crises, fear and anxiety, while others were stimulated by a distorted sense of play and an aberrant idea of fun.
It was unfortunate that the “exponential leap in technology” to make the world a better place was matched by an abuse of the same technology to disseminate misinformation and disinformation and ravage the world.
The Bahraini press, guided by HM the King’s trust in its patriotism, sense of responsibility and aptitudes, and driven by the “can-do” attitude and think-ahead strategies of HRH Crown Prince Salman and Team Bahrain, uncompromisingly set aside all sensational reports and news and dealt solely with trusted sources.
For Bahrain, the best way to confront the tsunami of misinformation, disinformation and malinformation was to draw up a communication strategy that boosts awareness among the masses, hold regular media conferences to provide updates, promote proven facts, motivate the media to handle such crises responsibly and encourage people to assess claims via fact-checking sites.
By building trust between the state, experts, the media and the public, the strategy has succeeded in tackling the potential to tap into people’s emotions troubled by fear and uncertainty.
The Bahraini press has succeeded in strengthening its status as a trusted source of sheer facts, verified information and substantial reports. Now building on the experiences of the last few months, it is looking into the future where online reporting, the use of data and infographics, the posting of digital reports under new norms are establishing new values for journalism.
As Bahrain joins the international community in celebrating World Press Freedom Day, its journalists look with special pride at the special patronage they have been generously accorded by HM the King, the strong support they have been given by HRH the Crown Prince and Prime Minister and the deep trust they have been conferred by the nation.