The media normally builds bridges between communities. Hasan al Lawati laments the Arabic-English divide in the press.
Last week, the Omani Journalists’ Association and the media houses here signed the first code of conduct for the press in Oman at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU).
The initiative, though not legally binding, has been welcomed by media institutions and journalism academics at SQU.
Funny enough, while almost half of Omani radio stations and newspapers are in English, the code was published only in Arabic.
This negligence towards “professionals” of English publications shows how divided our society is. Arabic readers have their own tastes and preferences, and English readers, mostly expatriates, have their own. That’s fine, but when it gets to a stage where what matters to English readers does not all bother Arabic readers, and vice versa, it’s a point of grave concern.
The hurdles faced by Omani teachers who complained about working in schools located hundreds of kilometres away from their homes were widely highlighted by the Omani Arabic media. In contrast, the English media turned a blind eye to the issue.
On the other hand, school bus accidents that involved non-Omani children caused a stir in English newspapers, but they were seldom front-page stories in the Arabic press.
This media bias is alarming, especially in a country with a small population like Oman where breaking news is a tall order.
This can stand in the way of having a united society with shared interests where all that’s happening in the country matters to everyone living here. It is a shame that the monthly announcement of petrol prices gets our collective attention; otherwise it is all either “expat news” or “ Omani news”. In any case, ignoring the power of the English media reflects the lack of awareness our academics and officials have.
The English media has a louder echo; its outreach is way far and high; and it has a bigger online audience. We desperately need our media professionals to build bridges between the Arabic and the English media in this country.