JAKARTA: The second international Islamic media conference held at Jakarta’s Sultan Hotel from Dec. 12 to 15 has called on Muslim media organisations around the world to strengthen their cooperation in defending Muslim causes, spreading the message of Islam and promoting world peace and stability.
“Islam has a universal message. It’s a blessing for the whole of humanity as it works for promoting goodness and establishing justice in the world. It’s the duty of Muslim media to convey this message in the best form to people all over the world and restore the Ummah’s rightful position on the global stage,” declared Abdullah Al-Turki, secretary-general of the Muslim World League.
Addressing the concluding session, Al-Turki thanked the Indonesian government for making the necessary arrangements to hold the conference, which was jointly organised by the MWL and the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs. He called on Muslim media organisations to implement the resolutions taken by the conference in order to have a major impact on the world, correcting wrong perceptions about Islam and Muslims.
“We should also make use of the media including social networks to enhance dialogue with other faith communities,” he added.
Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali emphasized the need for a new Islamic information and communication system that can act as a power to act as a check and balance against news discrediting Islam that is broadcast around the world. “The conference was very important for the Islamic media to unite their visions in building an Islamic information and communication system,” he said.
More than 500 journalists, academics and intellectuals from different parts of the world attended the four-day deliberations that centred on five core topics: Contemporary Media: Components and Impact; Collaboration and Networking of Media in the Muslim World; Islamic Media Discourse; Media and Dialogue; and Proposals to Boost Muslim Media.
Several leading figures from Saudi Arabia figured in the conference, including Abdul Rahman Al-Shebaily, a prominent Saudi writer and former member of the Shoura Council who presented a paper on “Media in the Muslim Community in the Changing World.” Dr. Saud Saleh Katib of King Abdulaziz University spoke on “New Media and Social Issues”; Muhammad Sallam, director general of Iqraa Channels, on “Successful Satellite Islamic Channels & Websites”; and Prof. Malek Al-Ahmad of King Saud University on “Taking Advantage of Technological Means in Serving Islamic Media.”
Speaking to Arab News, Al-Shebaily said he was delighted to attend only the second Islamic media conference in 30 years. “I am the only person in this conference who had gotten an opportunity to attend the first one. I was knowledgeable about the first conference and the recommendations it had adopted. I am also proud of being one of the people who helped in organizing this conference in terms of selecting its subjects and speakers.”
Al-Shebaily said a lot of changes have taken place in the media world since the first conference was held in Jakarta in 1980, not only in content but also in the organization. “The new media has affected the political scene of the Arab world. They have penetrated our lives strongly. For this reason the second conference focused on the new media.” Al-Shebaily’s paper compared the media scene in 1980 and 2011. “In 1980 we were humble in our demands but now we are more demanding,” he pointed out.
Speaking about the negative influence of the media, Al-Shebaily said: “The governments and responsible people in Muslim countries should play a role in enlightening the public on how to utilize the media properly and usefully.” He said he had recommended the setting up of a commission of experts to serve as a think tank and provide necessary advice to media organizations in the Muslim world. “We should also utilize the media to enhance dialogue between cultures and faiths that was initiated by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah,” he added.
The conference approved a code of honour for media institutions and journalists in the Muslim world, calling on them to spread Islamic teachings and values while countering biased reports. The code will be circulated among the ministries of information and media institutions in the Muslim world. It guarantees the right to freedom of expression (but within the limits of Islamic teachings), the right to access information and the right to a good working environment to support journalists’ performance.
The fourth section of the code calls for “support for Muslim people in their efforts to resist oppression and occupation” and to adhere to general principles in journalists’ universal code of ethics such as “refraining from publishing and broadcasting all forms of incitement to violence,” “keeping away from fabrication of events” and to “verify the news and be honest in reporting.
Dr. Syed Arabi Idid, former rector of International Islamic University Malaysia, was one of the keynote speakers. He said education, tourism and the media can play a big role in strengthening relations among Muslim countries. “After 9/11 more and more Arabs are visiting Muslim countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia for education and tourism. This will have a great impact. It will also change the world view of Muslims,” he said. He warned of a hostile media’s efforts to create misunderstanding among Muslims. Speaking about the differences between traditional and new media, Idid said: “In the old media information is given with centralised control, it is one way and time-based, and has professional journalists. But in the new media information is sought, there is no control, it’s more interactive and not time-based and is run by citizen journalists.”
In his presentation, Dr. Saud Katib said social media such as Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized communication and interaction between people. “These social networks have not only created political revolution in Egypt but also triggered an intellectual revolution all over the world,” he pointed out. There are more than 400 social networks on the Internet. The number of Internet users has crossed 2 billion this year, which is 480 percent more than in 2000. During the same period Internet users in Africa rose by 2,527 percent while in the Middle East 1,987 percent. He also pointed out that about 48 percent of Facebook’s 880 million users are in the 18-34 age group. “The number of users of Facebook and other social networks in the Arab world is increasing day by day as young men and women are very keen to use these networks,” he said, adding that 75 percent of Facebook users in Arab countries are youths in the age group of 15-29.
Islamic TV channels were also represented at the conference. Farhad Omar, director of the Islamic Channel in Johannesburg, highlighted the media’s compelling influences on public opinion regarding culture, race and religion and called for a more realistic approach to confront the stereotypes against Islam and Muslims in the hostile media. “As Muslims we have been slow in providing a correct picture of Islam to the English speaking world,” he said. Speaking about his channel, ITV, Omar said: “Our content chose to showcase Muslim homes and lives rather than preaching about Islam. This led to two outcomes. The first was allowing our non-Muslim audiences to get a more accurate understanding of Islam, and secondly it empowered our Muslim audiences to stop being shy and apologetic about their faith.” The channel also offers an array of entertainment programs.
Source: Arab News