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The performance of the Saudi Arabian press during the Gulf conflict, 1990-1991

By Abdrahman M. Al-Kahtani


This thesis analyses the performance of the Saudi Arabian press during the Gulf Conflict of 1990-1991. It seeks (1) to present the opinions of Saudi media academics and journalists regarding the performance of the Saudi press during the Gulf conflict; (2) to analyse the\ud content of the Saudi press in terms of the number of stories/ issues dealing with the Gulf conflict, the theme of these stories; the characteristics of the Saudi press and the agenda - setting capacity of the Saudi press before, during and after the liberation of Kuwait; (3) to\ud look at Saudi journalists' actual perceptions of the ideal function of the press in time of war, and their views and level of satisfaction with the Saudi press's actual performance in its coverage of the Gulf conflict; and (4) to find out what factors influenced the Saudi press in its reporting of the conflict. An attempt is also made to examine the applicability of various media theories to the Saudi press.\ud \ud Semi-structured interviews were conducted with media academics in all Saudi universities and with journalists in the Saudi press organisations. Content analysis of the Saudi press during the Gulf conflict was carried out, using a constructed week approach, for the periods before, during and after the liberation of Kuwait. Confidence interval and Chisquare analysis formulae were used in order to test the research hypotheses. A survey questionnaire was administered to journalists regarding ideal press functions in time of war and the actual performance of the Saudi press during the Gulf conflict.\ud \ud The interviews with Saudi media academics and journalists revealed that the Saudi press role was largely reactive in nature, including little comment or analysis. This was because of the lack of information and political awareness in Saudi society as a whole, including amongst journalists. Even after the liberation of Kuwait, little changed in the Saudi press function, due to inadequate planning, lack of sufficiently trained and skilled journalists, and the continued constraints imposed by the press' relationship with the Saudi information policy.\ud \ud The manifest content of the Saudi press revealed that it depended in its coverage of the Gulf conflict on foreign news sources such as Reuters, AFP, AP, UPI, and paid greater\ud attention to news stories originating outside Saudi Arabia such as from the USA, Western Europe, Asia and other Middle Eastern countries, and relied more on foreign personnel,\ud specifically foreign government officials. Regarding the press agenda, political and military/defence movement news was regarded as most 'newsworthy' followed by crime,\ud law and justice, economic and religious news relating to the Gulf conflict. The majority of news tended to be positive in tone and to support the UN resolutions in relation to the Iraqi regime. The leading articles, similarly were anti-Iraqi, and also attacked Iraq's allies\ud such as Jordan, Sudan and Yemen.\ud \ud The survey findings confirmed those of the interviews and content analysis, that the Saudi press depended on foreign sources in their conflict coverage. Those surveyed felt that the press had not fulfilled its ideal role because it was not informative enough, gave too little coverage and was not always trustworthy. The survey participants also felt that the Saudi press regulation should come from the press itselt rather than be imposed by an external body.\ud \ud It is concluded that no single theory is sufficient to explain the performance of Saudi press during the Gulf conflict. The authoritarian model was only partially upheld; in other respects the press functioned more in line with the loyalty theory.\ud \ud The findings indicated the importance of developing the Saudi press in terms of management and journalistic skills. Recommendations and suggestions are presented, both for the Saudi government, represented by Ministry of Information, and for Saudi press organisations, to improve and develop their functions into the next millennium

Publisher: School of Media and Communication (Leeds)
Year: 1999
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.whiterose.ac.uk:442

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