New Book Shines Light On History Of Newspapers In The Country

A new book that documents the history of Bahrain’s English language newspapers has been published.

Bahrain’s English Newspapers: An Illustrated History is the work of author Hamad Abdulla and illustrates how publications have evolved since the mid-1950s.

The 209-page coffee table book is the fourth work of the Bahraini historian and contains rare photographs from the pre- independence era.

“It took me over two years to gather all the information from different archives of newspapers, Bapco and the Isa Culture Centre to compile this book,”said Abdulla.

“The book fills an important gap in Bahrain and the region, highlighting the history of English newspapers on the island.

“Bahrain’s newspaper industry has a long legacy and I saw the importance of documenting it, while highlighting Bahrain’s achievement in this field.”

The book features several images of Bahrain’s first English weekly newspaper, The Islander, which was released by Bapco in April 1954.

It was initially published in magazine format before converting to a newspaper in 1956, with copies printed at the Bahrain Oriental Printing Press in Manama.

“This newspaper published local news about Bapco and other events that made it popular in the 50s and 60s among the English-speaking community in Bahrain,” said Mr Abdulla.

The book contains black and white photographs of the earliest major news reported in Bahrain, including the visit of King Faisal II of Iraq to Bahrain in April 1954.

Rare photographs document historical events, visits by foreign leaders, completion of new infrastructure and facilities in the late 1950s, dinner dances, exhibitions and other key events in Bahrain.

The Islander’s final edition was dated February 19, 1969 when the Bahrain government received three applications for new licences to publish English newspapers  but the publication was revived on July 3, 2011, in the form of a newsletter and continues to be published by Bapco.

On January 3, 1971, the first commercial weekly newspaper The Gulf Mirror was launched by Editor-in-Chief Ebrahim Eshaq and Bapco public relations employee Jim More O’Ferall, with Briton Andrew Trimbee as Editor.

The newspaper was initially published on Sundays, but later switched to Thursdays, and featured local news, business and sports coverage.

However, on March 21, 1978 the Gulf Daily News (GDN) was launched and has gone on to become the most successful English newspaper in the country.

It was envisioned by Ronnie Middleton, Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group Managing Director, and a series of photographs in Abdulla’s book depict the GDN’s first Editor-in-Chief Mahmood Al Mardi and Anwar Abdulrahman, who is the GDN chairman.

“I feel happy to see that the number of magazines and newspapers in Bahrain is flourishing more and more,” His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa said in the first edition of the GDN, when he pressed a button to start the printing of the first issue.

Mr Abdulla estimates that the GDN sold up to 60 million copies in its first 20 years and was read by as many as 200 million people in that time.

Several cut-outs of major headlines that dominated the GDN’s front page are featured in the book, along with coverage of key events including photographs.

Also documented is the launch of weekly newspaper Gulf Weekly, which was first published in November 2002, the Oil and Gas weekly newspaper which started publishing in 1983 and the monthly Travel and Tourism News Middle East.

“I realised the importance of reaching out to those unable to speak the Arabic language, from tourists to expats. As such this book came to display Bahrain’s rich history in this industry,” he noted.

“Such a publication will definitely reach out to many, especially during special occasions honouring pioneers of local newspapers and in museums,” he added.

Bapco has sponsored the printing of the book, which is available at leading book stores priced at BD20 ($53).

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