Media must seek to bridge cultural gaps, Dubai forum hears

DUBAI // The media could play a role in bridging cultural gaps in a globalised world, experts at the Arab Media Forum said on Wednesday. But while traditional and trusted media play a responsible role, social media could widen these gaps due to irresponsible publishing of stories without the facts being checked and copy edited, […]

DUBAI // The media could play a role in bridging cultural gaps in a globalised world, experts at the Arab Media Forum said on Wednesday.

But while traditional and trusted media play a responsible role, social media could widen these gaps due to irresponsible publishing of stories without the facts being checked and copy edited, said Shobhana Bhartia, chairwoman of the Hindustan Times Group.

Ms Bhartia spoke during the Dialogue of Civilisations panel moderated by Mohammed Al Otaiba, Editor-in-Chief of The National, where participants debated the media’s role in fostering global dialogue.

While working in media was incredibly interesting, it came with a huge responsibility to ensure facts were correct and to reflect the views of society, said Mr Al Otaiba. “Media should play a role in bridging gaps instead of pointing fingers and printing news that will get more clicks or eyeballs,” he said. “We should tell the news as it is, professionally and truthfully.

“The world we come from has different heritages, religions, languages, and we try to find ways to coexist together. The media plays an important role and is a platform to bring these views together.”

The events of September 11 created fault lines among cultures – a situation that had not necessarily improved in the years following the attacks, said Ms Bhartia.

“Security has improved but new fault lines have emerged,” she said. “The role of media is now more important, as we set the context and all too often the media can further polarise people.”

However, the current conflict goes back thousands of years and in that time the means of communication have changed completely, said Abdulrahman Al Rashed, former general manager at Al Arabiya news channel.

“In America, Trump is playing on Mexicans for electoral purposes, which is negative, but in London, Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, has won the mayoral election, which is a great positive step.

“The notion that people can coexist together has a different dimension today.”

Before the panel, Mr Al Otaiba ran a poll on Twitter to ask: “With views so freely expressed, is unmoderated [social media] doing the region a disservice?”

While 63 per cent of respondents said no, Ms Bhartia and Mr Al Rashed expressed concern over new media’s ability to influence the reporting of events, compared with traditional media organisations.

Ms Bhartia gave the example of a man in India, where cows are regarded as sacred, who was falsely accused of eating beef. Rumours spread on social media and the man was beaten to death by an enraged mob.

“Social media doesn’t come with the accountability that traditional media does,” Ms Bhartia said. “Organised media has a balancing role to play, which is not possible with new media.”

Despite problems with traditional media outlets, they are still better than new media, as they are subject to certain protocols, said Mr Al Rashed.

“In the past, the media was told there was no need to attack other religions or groups, and they could be sanctioned for it if they did,” he said. “This is no longer possible in the advent of new media. It cannot be controlled.”

The Arab Media Forum, which ended on Wednesday, was held at Dubai World Trade Centre and was attended by more than 2,000 people.

newsdesk@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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