Government to designate media spokesmen

ABU DHABI // Government ministries will for the first time have a team of dedicated spokesmen to respond to reporters' inquiries. Aiming to improve transparency and communication between federal agencies and the media and public, the Secretary General of the Cabinet, Najla al Awar, introduced the Federal Government Spokesperson System at a meeting yesterday with the heads of local news organisations. Certain government officials, she said, have now been appointed as "the only individuals who are authorised to release statements to the media on behalf of the federal Government".

These people would be "the only sources of information according to their roles and responsibilities", she said. "Information collected through others at the governmental bodies shall not be considered as valid and authorised information." The Government has said it expects the plan to streamline communications and help news organisations get the answers they seek. There is no central communications office for the Federal Government. Official announcements or statements are often issued through press releases, which do not allow for follow-up questions or more detailed information beyond the release. Journalists often need to clarify information at short notice.

Under the new arrangement, a chief spokesman will field reporters' questions on federal issues for one or more executives within the ministry. For instance, the Ministry of Health's head of strategy, Dr Salem al Darmaki, might refer journalists to a spokesman who would also speak on behalf of the executive director of medical practice and licensing, Dr Amin al Amiri. Mohammed Yousef, who heads the UAE Journalists Association, said the new system, in theory, would be an improvement. Since journalists would now have access to someone specifically designated to help clarify points of confusion, he said, accuracy ought to be improved. But it was too soon to know, he said, just how easily information would obtained from the Government.

"I think the idea for this system is very good, but we need more," he said. "I think it's better than nothing." Mr Yousef acknowledged that the Government had become more engaged with the media in recent years and called the hiring of public relations companies by certain departments a step forward. But he lamented that requests for information were handled too slowly and often too late for publication.

Under the new system, ministers themselves may continue to speak about "strategic matters of their respective ministries", according to WAM, the state news agency. The new official spokesmen must first obtain authorisation from the ministers and approval by the Cabinet to speak on behalf of their federal organisations. The Government Communications Office falls under the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs.

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Stuck in a job without a pay rise? Here's what to do

Chris Greaves, the managing director of Hays Gulf Region, says those without a pay rise for an extended period must start asking questions – both of themselves and their employer.

“First, are they happy with that or do they want more?” he says. “Job-seeking is a time-consuming, frustrating and long-winded affair so are they prepared to put themselves through that rigmarole? Before they consider that, they must ask their employer what is happening.”

Most employees bring up pay rise queries at their annual performance appraisal and find out what the company has in store for them from a career perspective.

Those with no formal appraisal system, Mr Greaves says, should ask HR or their line manager for an assessment.

“You want to find out how they value your contribution and where your job could go,” he says. “You’ve got to be brave enough to ask some questions and if you don’t like the answers then you have to develop a strategy or change jobs if you are prepared to go through the job-seeking process.”

For those that do reach the salary negotiation with their current employer, Mr Greaves says there is no point in asking for less than 5 per cent.

“However, this can only really have any chance of success if you can identify where you add value to the business (preferably you can put a monetary value on it), or you can point to a sustained contribution above the call of duty or to other achievements you think your employer will value.”


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1. Black holes are objects whose gravity is so strong not even light can escape their pull

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