Manama, For Yahya Al Omari, the festive Eid this year could not mean spending time with the family, enjoying the first hours of the feast marking the end of the blessed month of Ramadan.
The young Bahrain TV News reporter, covering how Bahrain dealt with the challenge imposed by the coronavirus through its leadership, national taskforce, healthcare professionals, experts, communal unity and trust among all was the true mission at hand that deserved personal and family sacrifices.
He was member of a team of dedicated Bahraini reporters who proved their effective role in spreading awareness and societal culture in the time of the coronavirus pandemic.
They highlighted the national taskforce efforts to combat the coronavirus openly, reporting events as they happened and developed, enduring stress and pressure, and facing potential danger in the fields and all the places where they pursue facts and information.
It was not easy. Yahya said he has spent more than three months covering non-stop Bahrain’s proactive measures, responses and follow-ups at all levels, moving from one place to another, entering restricted areas and taking high risks.
Fellow TV News reporter Talal Nayef recalled how serious concerns about his health forced him to interrupt his coverage and quarantine himself.
“I was assigned to cover the arrival of repatriated Bahrainis,” he said. “After some time, I felt my body getting feverish and I had difficulties breathing. I panicked, almost sure I had the virus. I called 444 and I was tested. I was kept for 16 hours in an isolation center in Muharraq until I was told the result was negative. I heaved a deep sigh of relief. Yet, when I went home, I isolated myself to make sure everything was fine before resuming my mission.”
Talal said he could not stay away from a team that spared no effort to convey the full picture of the developments of the situation.
“I was fascinated by the sincere and promising energies of Bahrainis, in the midst of this pandemic, and how they coordinate with the relevant authorities to make sure the information is accurate,” he said.
Humood Al Jeeb, the head of producers at Bahrain Sports Channel, said that he joined the News team to contribute to highlighting the impressive efforts exerted by the national taskforce.
“In the middle of the cascade of mixed news from all sources, the Bahraini media has a crucial role in ensuring people receive genuine and honest information,” he said.
“The national taskforce has been admiringly committed to transparency and openness in highlighting facts and figures, and our role was to build on their approach. We had great support from the Ministry of Information and we were all keen on documenting all aspects of the unprecedented situation.”
Bahrain TV News presenter Bassam Al Badawi said that the Ministry of Information had prepared plans for a full coverage of the pandemic that included physical presence in the centers set up by the Ministry of Health.
“We witnessed how the isolation and quarantine centers were run as per international standards, which really helped us in covering the situation,” he said.
“I interviewed the first case to recover and we were all happy to take the happy news to the nation. People appreciated that the health professionals were competent and could handle the situation. Everybody was satisfied with how the situation was evolving. It became clear that Bahrain could handle crises competently.”
For Yahya, who despite his young age, Yahya has already built a strong reputation as a dedicated reporter whose adrenaline gets higher when he is in action, this time, the situation was vastly different, the challenges more difficult and the responsibilities much heavier.
But he was determined. His on-the site job allowed him to see how the precautionary measures to mitigate the spread of the virus were being applied; he witnessed how real heroes, doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, police and military officers, and many other professionals dedicating their time and devoting their energy and skills to help save and protect lives and keep Bahrain safe.
“The National Taskforce for Combating Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been extraordinary in its ideas, approach and follow-up regarding every single detail,” Yahya said.
The taskforce was set up in early February by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, well ahead of the first case in Bahrain. It brought together experts and specialists from several ministries and institutions into what looked like a “war room.”
“Seeing how they acted to bring all vivacious forces together and to strengthen trust between them, Bahraini citizens and the members of the various expatriate communities was highly motivating. That inspired us as people in the media to play a greater than usual role and intensify our responsibilities during the challenges that Bahrain has to confront. The media was always at the forefront to cover the efforts of the taskforce to protect the nation and to report them live or recorded to the people.”
As a TV reporter, Yahya was able to visit the various sites where ideas were generated, action unfolded, emotions displayed.
“Our responsibility at Bahrain TV News was to transport the sounds and videos of the efforts, often Herculean, exerted by professionals and volunteers, mainly from the health sector. People were curious to know what was really going on, and we rose to the challenge and to their trust in us by making that possible.”
The news department launched a special program devoted to the coverage of anything related to the coronavirus.
From live press conferences held by the national taskforce to field visits to interview doctors and patients, to special features that brought tears to both speakers and viewers, the news was there. And Yahya was one of the TV crews who helped bring the incredible images, the unprecedented videos and the professional and emotional voices into the homes of thousands of citizens and residents.
“It was not easy, of course, since this was the first, and hopefully the last, health crisis we have had to face in Bahrain in recent times. But it was truly humbling, something that I will always recall with great pride. We as a team worked together to ensure everything was well coordinated and that we could report in the most appropriate way,” he said.
“We have been able to highlight the tremendous work exerted by the national taskforce and the sense of sacrifice that characterized its members. We have shown how people, each to the best of their ability, contributed to Bahrain’s success story. Heroes were able to tell stories that would inspire so many other people. Volunteers, some in their 70s, demonstrated how much Bahrainis loved their country and worked selflessly.”
The news department was able to build quickly a strong team and train its members for the challenging situation and difficult uncertainties that demanded strength of character and command of emotions.
“It was important for us to possess the necessary skills, energy and determination to face the daunting circumstances successfully,” Yahya said.
“We had to be ready. We worked on the way we approach patients and professionals, the type of questions to ask and how to pose them, the way we report, the way we work on recorded reports. We addressed behavioral self-control in the face of adversity. We even worked on the best ways for us to ease tension within ourselves.”
He said that he learned how and when to activate his plan to distress by taking short breaks, engaging in exercises or watching light clips on his mobile.
Yahya said that the approach of the National Taskforce during their media conferences motivated him and his colleagues.
“They were amazing. They inspired us through their example to make sure our reports are based on truth, not on opinions. Their health experts showed us that science is the way forward, not speculation. Zero tolerance for any form of conspiracy theories, or fake or exaggerated news. All our reports have been based on that – Truth, not opinion, and science, not speculation.”