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KUWAIT - Economy

Fatima Al Salem

Director General, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)

Bio

Fatima Al Salem holds a PhD in mass communication from Indiana University Bloomington in the US and is currently the Chairman and Director General of KUNA. She was previously an associate professor of mass communication at Kuwait University, where she has taught public opinion, global communication, digital media, and news writing. An avid researcher, she has published many research articles on journalism and social media in Kuwait in numerous international and Arab academic journals. She has also participated in many local and regional conferences where she represented Kuwait with her research. She has published three book chapters on Kuwaiti media and women’s political participation. Moreover, AlSalem has served as an advisor in several government committees.

"Kuwait has the highest registration rate for use of social media and digital news in the MENA region."
Fatima Al Salem, Director General of the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), talks to TBY about the organization’s mandate and digitalization in the media.
What is KUNA’s mandate?

KUNA was established in 1979 to provide Kuwait with an international presence and be a source of information for the nation and for international offices. What makes us reliable, and what makes KUNA a successful story of over 50 years, is the way it is structured. KUNA is funded by the government, yet very independent. We have our own internal rules and regulations. We have the freedom to cover news stories and have our own sources. The whole structure is built to be an independent institute. In addition to that, when KUNA was first established, it hired excellent journalists, and provided them with international training. Then, it signed MoUs with various news agencies around the world for news sharing, but also training. Our journalists have been trained at the BBC and Reuters, and other major agencies around the world. The other thing is that KUNA has a unique position in our society, being the only news agency in Kuwait. What many do not understand is the fact that we provide the news to those entities who provide the news to the public. This makes us unique. Moreover, our journalists are truly world-class. They are objective and strive towards accuracy. Our work ethic is built around the main values of journalism, which are objectivity, truth, and integrity.

What is your perspective of KUNA’s participation in the digitization of the media?

Kuwait has the highest registration rate for use of social media and digital news in the MENA region. We have a vibrant culture of digital media, and people are advanced in its use. The penetration rate of smart phones is 240%. One has to adapt to this reality or else go out of business. Many, if not all, have already become digital news providers rather than just a printed newspaper. The newspaper will stay, but the way they present news will certainly change. Al-Qabas is a great example of successfully turning a newspaper into a digital news platform. They offer podcasts and videos, addressing the need for digital data. When it comes to KUNA, we have had an app, that was later discontinued, yet now I have assumed my role here, this is one of the major projects on my agenda. We will have our application up and running again soon, and we have also started thinking differently about social media. We are engaging more with different platforms and adapting our activity on them to fit the audience profile. I want to create an identity and brand through our pictures and want people to say, “this picture is clearly from KUNA, from the way it looks.” We are working on that. Some people have a hard time accepting the fact that digital media is the new place for news, especially journalists. Yet from my journalistic experience, the job of a journalist will never end, merely evolve. Instead of writing so much, we will be doing more videos, more quick recaps, more short bursts of information. That is where the future of the news media lies. We will always need journalists, because the world needs people to put the information and facts into context and frame it.

What are you working to improve in the agency as part of your directorial agenda?

One of the things we want to re-establish is the KUNA Kids magazine. We want to educate children and youth on the importance of news. In addition, we want to teach them about the job of a journalist and media literacy. KUNA is not only a news agency but an education agent. We are responsible for spreading awareness and making people care for and understand the world about them. Finally, I am going to work on the way we produce our stories. I want us to publish more story-focused news and open a new channel of video news for our three-times-a-day headline news report.

 

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