x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid calls for stronger links with the media

UAE's Vice President and the Ruler of Dubai tells all federal agencies to set up briefings and answer all questions to improve communications with local and international press.

DUBAI //Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, has ordered all federal bodies to become more transparent and to improve their communication with the local and international press.

The call for stronger ties with the media was revealed yesterday by Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs.

He said Sheikh Mohammed was keen to provide information about new initiatives and answer queries on issues of public interest.

Mr Al Gergawi added that regular media briefings would be organised by federal agencies to establish a direct and transparent communication system.

The first media briefing was held at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs' headquarters in Dubai yesterday.

At the meeting, Mr Al Gergawi said all media outlets would be invited to attend these sessions and ask questions on topics that affected the public.

"Under the directives of the prudent leadership, the UAE is seeking to create an exemplary model of the relationship between government bodies and media outlets, not only locally but also globally," said Mr Al Gergawi.

"The media briefing system is a form of open-door meeting that brings together senior officials and media reporters and representatives on a periodic basis to talk about recent developments in their areas of specialisation," he said.

Mr Al Gergawi said officials would be ready to answer any question posed by the media and discuss issues in the UAE.

"Officials will be able to offer direct explanation to reporters about services, government policies, new laws or social issues."

He said federal bodies would be trained to handle media enquiries effectively and organise meetings.

Ali M Jaber, dean of the Mohammed bin Rashid School for Communication at the American University in Dubai, said transparency with the media was a sign of a healthy society and political will.

"There is a lot to gain from transparency and nothing to lose," said Mr Jaber.

"Open communication leads to a better informed and responsible media," he said. "That means a lot of bad symptoms of any society can be addressed, put out there and eliminated through discussion."

Mr Jaber said the UAE had managed to establish better ties with the press than most countries in the Arab world.

"The media office is very accessible and you have spokespeople with a service-oriented attitude. So they are on the right path in that respect but have to work on it a little bit more," he said.

UAE officials have also taken advantage of social media to open channels of communication with the press and public. Sheikh Mohammed, who is active on these platforms, has more than 2.7 million followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Mr Jaber said government organisations had recognised such platforms as an important means of reaching out to people.

"UAE officials, especially Sheikh Mohammed, now announce key government initiatives through Twitter rather than mainstream media," he said.

"The policy of being on Twitter and other online media shows the government's keenness to involve the public in decision-making."

aahmed@thenational.ae