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“The media and the Gulf identity” was the breakthrough title for the Arab Gulf Forum for political media on 16th November 2016, convened by the Bahrain Institute for Political Development. The Forum invited a number decision makers, policy analysts, academics and media specialists to discuss crucial issues, challenges and obstacles in the way of fostering a united GCC identity.
The Forum had a magnificent outcome that inspired and united the media effort to a specific goal that can contribute to changes in mindset based on recent GCC cooperation needs and political direction, with a deliberate, systemic and unified vision. The lack of such vision has caused most historical efforts to promote GCC cooperation to remain in the formulation circle, without implementation.
Instead of internal and regional concerns there were huge concerns regarding the united GCC identity internationally. The Forum booklet issued by the Bahrain Institute for Political Development notes the need to foster a shared GCC identity and defend it from the challenges that threaten the security of the Gulf area. The Bahraini Information Affairs Minister, Ali bin Mohammed Al Rumaihi, spotlighted the image of the GCC, particularly with regard to women, and how it is prone to distortion internationally. Other threats raised included the erroneous conflation of Arab-Islamic identities with terrorism and extremism. Moreover, there was a lack of satisfaction with media coverage and provision for the younger generation to maintain their cultural integrity in the face of the flows of often overwhelming information to which they are exposed from outside.
Through the dialog sessions important signals were given to encourage and guide the media to foster and defend the united GCC identity internationally. Dr. Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar, the Diplomatic Affairs Advisor to His Majesty the King and Bahraini Ambassador to France, explained the deepened GCC united identity within the global world, while Mohammed Al Hammadi, the chief editor of the Al Ittihad UAE newspaper, pointed out that we need to be influential and not influenced by external media and ideologies. Analyzing the perspectives in the Forum reflected international challenges and threats to the united GCC identity that can be overcome.
The Forum context focused on fostering a united identity inward within the GCC, which is crucial but not enough alone. The challenges raised in the Forum need an outward approach in line with the internal effort. For instance, journalist, academics and politicians need to write in diverse languages and publish in other languages and parts of the world to defend the GCC identity from negative stereotypes, and illuminating the socio-economic strengths and development in the region, such as significant achievements in women’s empowerment. Changing these perspectives needs a shared language, targeted to influence. The Bahrain Institute for Political Development itself needs to include other languages in their competitions and not be limited to Arabic to meet the Forum targets in international duties. Far from reducing the primacy of the Arabic language as a core component of the GCC identity, this will help to deepen the united GCC identity in a holistic approach that enables the region to have a stronger voice in the world.
These Forum outcomes are predicted to contribute to changes in the media mindset and direction, and help foster shared values, language and targets to meet GCC current policies.
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