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Saudi chief editors reportedly meet minister, demand

BBC Monitoring

Text of report by London-based, Saudi-owned Elaph website on 9 November

[Report by Sayf al-Sani from Dubai: "The Information Minister Demanded Openness, So They Demanded More Freedom; Ilaf [Elaph] Infiltrates a Closed Meeting Between the Minister, Saudi Chief Editors"]

Iyad Madani, Saudi minister of information and culture, has discussed several issues pertaining to Saudi media in general with Saudi press chief editors in a closed meeting in Geneva.

Ilaf was able to infiltrate the meeting hall to obtain details, which went smoothly and calmly since the attendee and the host were the minister himself. It was noticed that everybody left the luxurious hotel where the minister was staying near his monarch King Abdallah after the meeting with the exception of Iyad Madani, who stayed at the hotel, whereas the others left to other hotels designated for the delegations accompanying the King.

Minister Iyad Madani, who has been haunted by expulsion and resignation rumours for months, made sure to dispel these rumours by ! talking about his future aspirations, which was an indirect way to convey the message. Talking about plans and future aspirations gave indirect signals of continuity and that he would be in his position for a long time, dismissing rumours about any real threat to his position.

Madani was talking surrounded by the members of his ministry, both those he has succeeded and those who will succeed him. According to rumours, the candidate set to succeed Madani at the Ministry of Information and Culture is a senior ambassador in the media and diplomacy. Travelling Riyadh rumours are seldom wrong.

During the closed session, which Ilaf was able to infiltrate, the Saudi press chief editors discussed the chaos surrounding the size of advertisements in the press. Several opinions were voiced, some believing the advertisements should be allowed to be published at any size, allowing the papers to make the decisions as the advertisers. Others, on the other hand, wanted to follo! w in the footsteps of the newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, which started t o control the sizes of advertisements on its first page in the late 1990's.

Minister Madani also suggested that journalists could benefit from the royal visit by extending bridges of cooperation and opening channels of communication with their western counterparts, who have a long experience and professional expertise in the press. He said this kind of cooperation should open new horizons to the outside world before Saudi journalists, particularly since we are currently living in what can be called a globalized age of media and information. He said information and news nowadays travelled around the world in seconds, stressing that opening up to the world has become a necessity that cannot be postponed.

The most heated points of the meeting were represented in the complaints made by journalists about the freedom allowed to some television channels owned by the ministry such as Al-Ikhbariyah, and denied to many other press and media establishments. They said that f! reedom to the media and the press were like water and air to humans. They said the more freedom they had the more creativity and more impact the media would have on the society. On the other hand, they said although freedom could result in some irresponsible actions by some in the field of media and press, the disadvantages of working in an atmosphere that is not free far exceed the advantages of working in an open and free environment.

Source: Elaph website, London, in Arabic 9 Nov 07



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