Gulf journalists reject IPRA 'corruption' charges

Journalists and advertising professionals in the Gulf region have rejected accusations, from the International Public Relations Association, of widespread corruption among journalists.

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By  David Cass Published  August 21, 2002

Journalists and advertising professionals in the Gulf region have rejected accusations, from the International Public Relations Association, of widespread corruption among journalists.

A recent survey of PR professionals claimed to reveal widespread corruption among journalists around the world. "Cash for Editorial" is apparently the most prevalent of the unethical practices which remain rife in the print and broadcast media of many countries around the world, according to the IPRA.

Its findings have not, however, gone down well with journalists and advertising executives in the Gulf region. Here is a selection of comments: One Arabic newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, actually carries a statement warning individuals and corporations not to offer its journalists favours in return for coverage.

George Middleton, publisher of “Bahrain This Month” says readers are sophisticated enough these days to understand that travel and entertainment features, in particular, are generated by visits paid for by public relations firms and that there should be no reason to declare that fact. “However,” he said, “if journalists are taking money for publishing articles it’s an entirely different issue. It’s fraud and to be condemned.”

Amira Husseini, News Editor of the Gulf Daily News, says her reporters work entirely separately from the paper’s advertising department, so minimizing any chance of influence from advertisers. “It does happen, though,” she said. “We do occasionally hear from advertisers who feel we should be covering their event simply because they are advertisers. I always tell them we will only cover according to news values.

In Dubai, Madhu Subhana Rao, News Editor of the Khaleej Times, says that, in ten years as news editor/acting editor in KT he has never come across any case of a journalist being offered a bribe blatantly.

One practice which is peculiar to the region when compared with Europe and the US, is that almost every PR company gives lunch or a gift to every journalist attending a press conference. These can range from a trinket to something quite expensive.

Les Kentwell, from Gulf Saatchi and Saatchi sees the issue from the dual perspective of experience in both advertising and PR. He says the findings are “crazy”. “I’d expect that, if the government of Bahrain wanted to promote its tourism, they should pay to bring the journalists here. It’s well within the realms of decency to pay for such exposure.”

You will find more comments and the full article in the next edition of Arabian Business magazine.

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