Newspapers shape public opinion

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Okaz

The biggest problem here is that we neglected our traditional media institutions. We had accumulated experiences from the 1980s and 1990s when we had strong media presence in Europe and America.

THE vicious media campaign that was launched against Saudi Arabia in the past few weeks was led by the traditional Western media, including newspapers like The Washington Post and The New York Times, BBC, CNN and France24. This campaign proved that what shapes public opinion in any media war is without doubt newspapers and TV channels, and nothing else.

Is this the first media campaign launched against Saudi Arabia? And is it going to be the last?

No doubt this is not going to be the last. What is happening now is elevating this media war to its fullest level. This is mainly because Saudi people chose to live and not die, they chose the future and not the past, they chose to live in their own country and not as refugees in other countries, and they chose their own leaders, instead of the supreme guides in Iran or the murshids of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Since the founding of Saudi Arabia, the country was exposed to many defamation campaigns. In the 1950s and 1960s, the media campaign against the Kingdom was mainly at a regional level. They were orchestrated by the leftists, the communists and the Ba’athists. They viewed Saudi Arabia as a backward monarchy that does not suit their revolutionary ideals. They not only spread lies against Saudi Arabia through their newspapers and radio and television broadcasts, but they also included these lies in their school curriculums. The extreme hatred toward the Kingdom today is the result of those curriculums, which injected poison into the minds of many generations.

In the 1970s, the West woke up to Saudi Arabia imposing an oil embargo. Saudi Arabia proved that it is an independent country that does not accept embezzlement and extortion. The media in the West, especially the leftist media, did not like what the Kingdom did and they started continuous smear campaigns against the country, which continues even today.

The war against Saudi Arabia today is a war with no bullets. There are no soldiers landing on our beaches and there are no jet fighters hovering in the sky, nor are missiles launched against us. They are just spreading lies and misleading information to pressure Western politicians and heads of companies and organizations to take a tough stand against the Kingdom. It is a new kind of terror that aims at retaliation against a country that did not surrender to them. They are targeting the Saudi people who refused to get out on the streets and protest against their government, carrying placards prepared by the Muslim Brotherhood under the supervision of Western intelligence agencies. They wanted the Saudi people to be like the Libyans who became homeless and scattered in their own land. They want the Saudi people to be like the Syrians, who are refugees on the doorsteps of Europe.

There is an active cell that is spearheading this media campaign against the Kingdom. They are planning the news on the backstage of countries in the region and the West and their intelligence departments. They leak fake information to newspapers, which are not neutral. These newspapers put their credibility and professionalism aside and publish reports that suit their ideology and promote hatred toward the Kingdom, and then spread them through all their platforms.

The biggest problem here is that we neglected our traditional media institutions. We had accumulated experiences from the 1980s and 1990s when we had strong media presence in Europe and America. For example, we had Asharq Al-Awsat, Arab News, Sayidaty Magazine, the MBC and other sport and entertainment networks. Yes, they do exist even today, but why are they not effective anymore?

The West has traditional media that manage change; in fact, they enact the new scenes based on their own plots, not the plots of others, so they do not lose control. They sell the news online and on paper, increasing their income and influence.

But the legacy of our media institutions faded because we ignored our accumulated experience and we did not make any effort to improve on them. We then allowed social media platforms to evolve like mushrooms and take over the media scene. Are these so-called media stars able to stand firm for long amid the ongoing media war? In the apparent absence of the traditional media, the Saudi Twitterers, driven by their love of their country, were forced to defend it on social media. Without doubt they have won but the war is long and protracted, and it needs institutions, not individuals, to fight it out.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize that we should not believe those who argue that, to face the Western media, we need to give up the past and forget about our traditional media tools. In fact, we need to strengthen our traditional media institutions and provide them with support. People do trust our media and are attached to it emotionally. They do remember its ability to defend the Kingdom during the first war with Yemen and during our standoff with the Nationalists and Ba’athists. They do remember the stance of our traditional media against Iran and Saddam Hussein, and in the aftermath of 9/11. They do remember how our traditional media stood against extremists, terrorists and, lastly, Qatar.


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