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The Future Investment Initiative Demonstrated That Media Relations In Saudi Arabia Are Often Misunderstood

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The Ritz Carton in Riyadh is regal.

Although a hotel, and having housed those on corruption charges last year- it hasn’t lost any of it’s glamour. The high walls, the stunning avenue aligned with bright flowers, the numerous fountains around the grounds; inside has stunning high ceilings, every room had the most fantastic chandeliers and everything is lined with gold.

I was attending the Future Investment Initiative event in the capacity of a media guest. And I felt privileged to be there. But I wasn’t out of place, in fact, media is very much an integral part of society in modern day Saudi Arabia.

Media outlets and journalists were very much part of the set up at FII this week

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There are surveys and reports that state there isn’t free press in KSA. However, that would be missing the point, understanding the nuances of where this emanates from, is understanding a culture that is based on respect.

In the past twelve months since Lovin Saudi launched, we have monitored constant negative sentiment based on Saudi foreign policy. The major stories and the object of the op-eds and front pages change, while sentiment will remain, the buzz will die down.

Taking each negative article, and responding in kind, keeps the narrative on the negative topics.

This is a country that embraces and respects the media

The Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman has even had a social media agency as a business interest in the past.

The core values of journalism are still practiced in Saudi Arabia, by both locally owned and foreign media titles.

And it is thought provoking; perhaps other societies could learn from what’s tolerated in the media from Saudi Arabia.

It begs the question – would we all be better off without, the sheer volume of hate inciting articles that are published in many publications?

There has been some fantastic journalism in the western media brands coming out of Riyadh in recent days.

Balanced reviews combining mood and business reporting.

Sky News Arabia streamed President Erdogan’s speech in the foyer of the Ritz Carlton.

In time a different view of Saudi Arabia, than is being portrayed in the western media, will emerge

After leaving the summit last night, I had a meeting in the stunning Le d’or Café in the upmarket Prince Turki Ibn Abdulaziz Al Awwal Road area. The restaurant was playing trendy dance music, and staff presenting two Saudi females with a birthday cake, singing happy birthday in English.

Sometimes I wish that people could have the myriad of cultural immersions and heartwarming moments, I have experienced in both Riyadh and Jeddah.

It might take more tourists to visit, but it will also take what’s necessary to change existing perceptions, an open mind.

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