What should media workers be like? Why is it important to develop cooperation between journalists from Russia and Islamic countries? What role do mass media play in consolidating and developing closer contact between countries and peoples? These are the questions that the participants of today online conference “Russia – Islamic World: Crossroads of Information Cooperation” tried to answer.
Russia and Islamic World are reliable partners
According to Deputy Chairman of the Strategic Vision Group “Russia – Islamic World” Farit Mukhametshin, the Group pays special attention to close contacts with the Union of OIC News Agencies. He says that Russia and Islamic countries are allies in defending cultural and civilizational diversity of the world.
“Today, a number of world media outlets continue to oppose the spread of the truth about Russia and Islamic countries and their foreign policy. In this regard, the reform of global communication systems and the protection of journalistic freedom remain particularly important. Thus, special attention should also be paid to observing professional ethics of journalists. We have spoken about this and will continue speaking about this at the annual international forum of Muslim journalists and bloggers”.
Mukhametshin also reminded the conference participants that in 2019 the Organization of Islamic Cooperation celebrated its 50th anniversary. “Now, the OIC is the main voice of the Islamic world, which defends the interests of the Muslim world community at the international arena. In his greetings on the occasion of the Organization’s anniversary, President of Russia Vladimir Putin noted that Russia and the OIC actively and successfully cooperated in a variety of areas, especially in combating global threats and solving humanitarian problems”, the speaker highlighted.
In its turn, the Strategic Vision Group “Russia – Islamic World” will continue to work towards comprehensive cooperation in order to develop inter-civilizational dialogue and consolidate existing trust.
Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Qarni, Secretary General of the Union of OIC News Agencies also spoke about the importance of establishing the cooperation between Russia and the Islamic world in various areas. “We should expand the horizons of the cooperation. Thus, our Union is a platform for comprehensive cooperation in order to consolidate trust among colleagues”.
Problem of terminology use and information capacity building
According to Permanent Representative of Russia to the OIC Ramazan Abdulatipov, Russia and the OIC have been cooperating quite fruitfully for many years. However mass media representatives are losing out in the coverage of this interaction.
“This year marks the 15th anniversary of Russia’s obtaining the observer status at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The OIC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia previously signed a framework agreement on cooperation, in accordance with which bilateral consultations are held annually. Within the framework of such consultations the parties reconcile positions and approaches to the whole range of bilateral relations and world politics. The positions of Russia and the OIC coincide in many ways”, Abdulatipov noted.
The Islamic world and Russia are close by the spiritual and moral guidelines of civilization. At the same time, the Russian public is insufficiently informed about the activities of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Russia’s status as an observer. “Therefore, it is particularly important to bring the “Russia – OIC” interaction to a new level of cultural and information support. Together we must work to ensure international information security”.
According to the speaker, the main task of journalists is to fight against ignorance, including in the religious sphere: “Taking into account the fact that they are Russia and countries of the Islamic world more often than not become the targets of information provocations, cooperation between the parties in this directions also seems promising. We must combat discredit. In this regard, I consider it appropriate to suggest establishing the Russian-OIC Information Club, which we all need. I suggest doing this on the basis of the Strategic Vision Group, which is a public devotee of the Islamic vector of Russian foreign policy”, Ramazan Abdulatipov summarized.
Younes Mjahed, President of the International Federation of Journalists, noted that the federation is fighting effectively against falsification of news and spread of fake information. The main tasks of the organization are to ensure press freedom and to protect journalists and human rights.
“Journalists and media in general play a crucial role in establishing cooperation between peoples. Our Federation, which unites a lot of information agencies and journalists’ unions, cooperates with a number of countries, including Muslim ones. Of course, we do a difficult but very responsible job, trying to implement the principles in practical work. It is gratifying to see that the Strategic Vision Group also pays much attention to this issue”.
Younes is convinced that it is dialogue that is important to solve these tasks. Head of the International Relations Department of the OIC News Agencies Union Hazem Abdo was also of the same opinion. He claimed that the mass media is an important engine for progress and consolidation of cooperation between peoples. “We have a lot of points of contact. And we are not just talking about cultural or historical legacy. I am speaking about close links between us in literature, culture, science and technology. But apart from this, I would also like the global journalistic community to talk about the problems that the world is facing. We have a lot of issues to discuss”, the speaker noted.
According to Hazem Abdo, the question of correct use of the relevant terms by media professionals is still very important: “Now it is very necessary to clarify the terminology base, because often the lack of necessary knowledge makes it possible to create a conceptual link between Islam and terrorism. And this discrepancy and misunderstanding hinder our fruitful and effective work”.
Media workers are facing very serious challenges. Director General of the Tunis Afrique Press News Agency Mona Muteibia is convinced that first of all, this is about conveying truthful information. She expressed this idea within her speech at the online conference “Russia – Islamic World: Crossroads of Information Cooperation”.
“Our agency works hard in order to overcome various distortions and falsifications. This is a rather relevant problem for us. I fully support the idea having been expressed earlier, to create a practical platform for media workers’ meetings on a regular basis, where they will be able to share their experiences and information. After all, the mass media play one of the most important roles in bringing peoples closer together and establishing closer cooperation”, Mona Muteibia believes.
The media play a crucial role in bringing peoples together
“Journalism in today’s world is extremely diverse not only in terms of geography and culture, but also in terms of the processes taking place in the world. Our federation is a unique cross-section of the world”, Vice President of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Head of the International Department of the Union of Journalists of Russia Timur Shafir said.
Nowadays, the mass media have to face a range of serious challenges, including new media that have a significant impact on the developments in the Islamic world and in the journalistic sphere in general. In this regard, according to the expert, it is extremely important to share their own experiences, establish a dialogue and improve their skills. “I fully support the idea to create a practical platform on the base of the Strategic Vision Group, which will operate on a regular basis. We are ready to take an active part in this process”.
With the development of technology, borders are blurring, while the work is becoming more public, mass media are improving, - Deputy Director General of the Union of the OIC News Agencies Zayed Sultan Abdullah is convinced. According to him, communication should be based on mutual respect for all cultures, religions and worldviews. Only in this case a constructive dialogue is possible.
“The information revolution has led to increased flows of information, often completely uncontrolled. Therefore we must choose what we transmit next. And in the conditions of the pandemic, special attention should be paid to the development of online communication. The spread of the coronavirus infection has set us new challenges in conveying truthful information to a wide audience. We must strive to overcome attempts to impose information from the outside and try to act to consolidate cooperation between peoples and to overcome conflicts”, the speaker summarized.
Potential of Russia mass media in the Arabic-speaking world
The leitmotif of today’s online conference is the idea that the Strategic Vision Group “Russia – Islamic World” is an effective tool to develop and enhance information cooperation between Russia and the Islamic world. This was also stated by Head of the Press Centre, Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Alexander Bikantov.
“Russia is a reliable partner of the Islamic world”, he highlighted during his address to the counterparts. “It is therefore no surprise that one can witness a significant growth of Islamic mass media in Russia. As of today, we have 59 correspondent offices from 15 states. Of these, 44 are from the CIS and 45 are from the Islamic world. This is why we must learn to establish a fruitful and long-term dialogue on a whole range of media topics, not forgetting to combat the spread of fake information and the hegemony of specific media”.
Director for International Cooperation of the International News Agency “Russia Today” Vasily Pushkov believes that the conference “Russia – Islamic World: Crossroads of Information Cooperation”, which is being held today, is the first platform where it is possible to speak to the colleagues from the Islamic world. “Nobody, except the Strategic Vision Group”, has decided to focus on the dialogue between Russia and the Islamic world, with the exception of the Ministry of Digital Development”.
As the speaker noted, the media have a very heavy burden in overcoming the misunderstanding existing today between peoples of different countries and the correspondents themselves from Russia and Islamic countries.
“In this regard, I would like to highlight the work carried out by our International Agency “Radio Sputnik”. This year has been extremely fruitful for us, probably because of the fact that we have given up the illusion that in order to establish a dialogue we must literally sit down at one table”.
Pushkov notes that “Radio Sputnik” broadcasts in 32 languages, but the Arabic language is one of the priority and success areas. “We have a huge audience in Islamic countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Algeria and Morocco. We are widely read. For instance, we are one of the most read Arabic-language publications in Saudi Arabia. This makes it possible to say that they are ready for the dialogue and to hear a different point of view. Thus, the process of building a multipolar world and actively opposing hegemony in the information market are taking place.
Specialized projects were set up, including “Sputnik with You at Home” project, the audience of which is about half a million Arabic speakers. Within the framework of the project, 100 interviews with the first level politicians, including representatives of the Arab region, were prepared. “There is also a specialized information feed in Arabic, which produces up to 200 messages per day. I would like to speak separately about the launch of a separate information feed in Farsi, which is popular with colleagues in Iran”, Pushkov added.
Director for International Cooperation of the International News Agency “Russia Today” is convinced that it is impossible to work fruitfully without any dialogue between journalists: “We already have 8 official partners in the Islamic world. Media communication is exactly what we are trying to develop. This is what our project “Sputnik Pro” is aimed at, which has been designed to help establish direct communication between journalists”.
Summing up his speech, Vasily Pushkov announced the possibility of concluding a partnership agreement with the Union of OIC News Agencies.
We would like to remind that the conference “Russia – Islamic World: Crossroads of Information Cooperation” is held with the support of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Union of OIC News Agencies and the Union of Russian Journalists.
The event is part of the preparations for the VI International Forum of Muslim Journalists and Bloggers, which the Strategic Vision Group “Russia – Islamic World” is planning to hold in 2021 in online format. The previous forum took place in 2019 in Saint Petersburg and focused on the impact of mass media on public opinion.