Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
On March 17, 2012 Arab News published an article about young Saudi students in the West and their role as the Kingdom’s young unofficial ambassadors.
Undoubtedly, through their hard work and eagerness to learn more about other peoples and cultures, they create a very positive image of their country. Many of them become active and productive members not only in their schools but also in their host communities.
A few years ago, Nazeeh Alothmany from Jeddah headed to the American city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was on a scholarship. He attended the University of Pittsburgh and majored in electrical and computer engineering. His majors were far from media or journalism. But, as time passed he started dealing with the local media outlets.
Being an important country of the world, Saudi Arabia is mentioned in various reports about the region and other global issues. Local people want to hear from Saudis so as to better understand their viewpoints and to know more about Saudi Arabia. Sometimes, the role of these scholarship students also become very important in quashing rumors about Saudi Arabia and Saudis.
Keeping in view the importance of media, Alothmany and many other students studying abroad take to the media to present their version to the world, as this is the only way to promote coexistence and harmony and to dispel the wrong notions about Saudi Arabia. Dialogue is the best way to resolve conflicts and perhaps the best way to deal with criticism, particularly if it is not based on facts.
Nowadays, many Saudi youngsters in the Kingdom and abroad are playing an important role in talking about Saudi Arabia. But, we need more.
Saudis are known to be media shy and until recently we were lagging behind and maybe we are still way behind when it comes to talking to others. We let the others talk about us, but when something negative is discussed about the Kingdom then we start blaming them. Saudis should be more open with the outside media. We have a lot to show about the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia is a huge country with such strategic importance. We need to counter stereotypes about the Kingdom. The main reason for this type of negative media coverage is that they don’t know about us.
Saudi television and newspapers must keep pace with the fast- moving world. It is true that there will always be negative news or documentary coverage about any country including Saudi Arabia but it is important to take measures to counter such negative reporting.
During the past few decades, Saudi Arabia witnessed many events that threatened its security and stability. Local and foreign media outlets covered many of those events but many of the foreign media outlets failed to show the real picture and some of them even distorted it.
Now, many young Saudis are forming a line of media defense to fight lies and propaganda. They are using new technologies to show the achievements of their country. Social media is a playing a huge role in this regard and young Saudis are becoming more open, well informed and transparent. Many young Saudis have learned the importance of communication and many of them have mastered this art.
We need to encourage them and should utilize their talents to the fullest.
Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Using Media for Image Building reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.