ST PETERSBURG, Oct 4 (Bernama) -- Russia, which has 20 million Muslims among its population, continues to engage with the Islamic World, and one of the ways is through an annual people-to-people dialogue.
The latest such discussion - the 5th International Forum of Muslim Journalists and Bloggers - was held recently in this city of 42 islands connected by more than 400 bridges. St Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia after the capital Moscow.
It was organised by the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia-Islamic World’ which was formed in 2006 after Russia joined the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as an observer.
The forum drew more than 50 journalists, scholars and diplomats from over 20 countries including Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Russia.
They discussed the influence of the media on public opinion, the impact of the international agenda and information wars on public opinion, fake news and freedom of the media in the context of human rights.
“The media needs to address the problem of new challenges posed by the digital media in ensuring peace, stability and the promotion of human rights,” said Vladimir Kuznetsov, director of the United Nations Information Centre in Moscow.
He said it is the common responsibility of journalists to adhere to their professional ethics when writing the news.
The 1st deputy mufti of Russia, Damir Mukheddinov, called on Muslim journalists to practise good religious faith in providing news coverage in order to avoid biased reporting and misinformation.
Syria’s deputy information minister Ahmed Dawa explained at the forum how an information war has been used to attack the political, economic and social spheres in his country.
“Misinformation centres are waging an information war. Social media is used to distort the real situation in the country,” said Ahmed, himself a former journalist.
Tunisia Africa Press chief editor Sana Klich shared his experience of how transboundary psychological warfare is mobilised by irresponsible quarters during elections and crises to influence public opinion in political, economic and social matters.
The 1st deputy director-general of ITTAR-TASS news agency of Russia, Michael Kalmykov, said the World Order may collapse due to the misuse of social media in disseminating fake news.
He said journalists need to find allies in building barriers against the spread of fake news.
“Information warfare is no less deadly than traditional warfare,” said Nourhan Elsheikh, a scholar from Cairo University.
She said fake news is created not only by individuals, it may come from one country against another country.
Professor Mohamed Marandi, an international relations specialist from Iran, warned of the danger of untruthful news being mixed with truthful news in a bid to influence public opinion.
The forum was also enlightened on the greater media freedom in Malaysia following the change of government in May last year.
According to the World Press Freedom Index, Malaysia now ranks 123 out of 180 countries, having moved up 22 notches.