‘Unmoderated social media can mess up’

Session: Dialogue of civilisations

Abdulrahman Al Rashed, former General Manager, Al Arabiya News Channel

Shobhana Bhartia, Chairperson, Hindustan Times Group

Can media be responsible in a tumultuous region, in such times?

Bhartia: 9/11 focused on the fault lines that existed. Integration of societies has not happened. Difficult to categorise if we are better off. We are better at understanding issues pertaining to different backgrounds. Security apparatus has improved. But new fault lines have surfaced. Cultural economical integration, has it happened?

France manifestation, where minorities live on the periphery. We live in a complex world. There should be better appreciation. Role of media is more important. We give the right context. Very often it polarises people.

Al Rashed: The historical journey, cultural conflict goes back thousands of years. The societal integration and the immigration, means of communication has changed, that we see things in a different. We see Trump who plays on minorities for electoral purposes.

We see Muslim Asian Mayor of London. We see people worse in one part, worse in the order. People coexisting together has a better dimension. We are at a very big state of war.

Can the media play a constructive role in dialogue of civilisations?

Majority feel media can bridge gaps.

Al Rashed: Sadiq Khan is not a Muslim or a British citizen. He being a mayor of London, people voted for him. Not all were Muslims. They have come together for a joint cause. London has a tolerant environment.

The challenge in modern societies is how can these conflicts be positive in forms of communication.

Are Arab affairs correctly portrayed in media?

Bhartia: Goes back to Indian culture if I compare to India. We called ourselves a secular state. There was a divide on basis of religious lines. Founding fathers said there was a sense of security for those who stayed behind.

India has upheld that in spirit and law.  Our approach is like a mosaic, of different identities to live together. Even legally, through governance, that minorities are protected. We have no state religion.

Fault lines exist. Media’s role is to play an impartial role. Media jumps in to contain fallout. Social media also plays a huge role. As economic prosperity has sunk in, smartphone users are at an alltime high and they access media.

Irresponsible messages and rumour mongering goes hand in hand, and the convention media has a job to bring a counter narrative.

Social media gives ability to scale, but it comes with lack of credibility. This is where organised media should intervene and clarify stories.

Media freedom of speech and social media moderation?

Al Rashed: Social media unmoderated can mess up societal fabric.

There is no problem to have freedom of expression or a follower a person’s party. It’s about using it for your own benefit.

If you don’t have clear cut laws of rights of expression and when you are hurting people, it can cause schism.

If we don’t have systems to solve conflicts in a civilised manner, then conflicts will continue.

Governments play a very important role.

Leadership needed for media

Bhartia: Media role should not be about stoking conflict. Media is not a single animal anymore. It has been redefined by social media. It is further retrenching prejudices.

You getting into the filter bubble though and the news you are fed is what algorithms decide for you. Your view is now myopic. So media can’t fulfil role it is meant. It should give a counter narrative. But media does not get the chance. To pander to short term gains, commercial media polarises prejudices.

Media has to be commercially viable, but if it doesn’t stand for its ideals, a social charter, then it defeats the purpose.

Editorial transparency and integrity is what builds the trust factor with audiences.

Al Rashed: Media is based on competition amongst media outlets. It’s a business.

Second problem is, despite the fault lines, it is better than new media. The alternative of media is to promote ideas today.

If our idea is to fight extremism, these are ideas. If we can adopt these ideas, then people on social media who read this are taking on this mission. There is no need to attack different religions.

Lack to trust in Arab media exists. The most difficult is the brand. It is essential in any medium to take a stance.

Without the availability of brand in social media, you wonder where it is going. Things will autocorrect at the end of the day. But we don’t know when and how.