Sectarian Discourse and the Media during the Crisis
The media can be used as a tool for inciting political and social
schism and can become an important tool in calming disagreements,
problems and conflicts. According to Bassiouni’s report, the media
of both sides, the opposition and the loyalists, participated in
increasing the political tensions and the social division. The report
also stressed, in its recommendations, the importance of impartiality,
objectivity and making space for the opinions of others.
In October 2012, a report was issued by the British Foreign Ministry
assessing the situation in Bahrain in which it expresses its concern
regarding the use of sectarian discourses by media loyal to both
the Government and the Opposition. The report also stated that the
British Government will continue urging the authorities to respect
the standards of professionalism and ethics. This is in order to
avoid extremism and the incitement of hatred and violence.
Undoubtedly, the use of sectarian discourses and incitement has
decreased, but has not ended. There are still two separate media
outlets, one supports the opposition, relies on the internet, does
not connect with other forms of media and refuses to participate
on the TV channels and press of the ‘other’. There is also the Government
media which is directed at a specific group and cannot penetrate
the audience of the opposition or affect its political convictions-
especially after the increase in sectarian?divisions and the political
Bahrain lacks an alternative impartial media which could be able
to attract both sides and help them discuss national issues rationally
and with consideration for mutual interests. Private media is partial
and does not address the masses; hence it is possible to act without
limits and accountability. A rational media which presents the views
of both sides and avoids radicalism and extremism is very much needed.
Currently, the media is divided with each side trying its best
to defame the other and satisfy its own audiences who do not accept
rational evaluations of their opponents’ opinions. This kind of
partial media leads only to hatred and violence. Both the opposition
and the loyalists expose their audiences to one opinion only which
renders them intolerant of other opinions. The damage inflicted
by biased media on the social fabric is going to need long years
to fix. Politicians like to use sectarian rhetori? for mobilization
but the final result is catastrophic for the society.
Bahrain needs an impartial media, for the existing outlets have
failed to convince the divided public of their impartiality and
respect for the various positions. The Government bears the responsibility
of reducing polarisation in the media and putting an end to the
incitement of hatred.
Firstly: Government media should be regulated in order to reach
all citizens and should reflect their concerns. Biased official
media leaves the public susceptible to foreign influence.
Secondly: regulating official media is not enough to solve the
problem, for the Government should also prevent all incitement of
hatred and punish those responsible. It will be difficult for the
Government to control the electronic media outlets of the opposition;
however it can definitely regulate local media under the law.