Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister for Tolerance and Coexistence, addressing the congress on Wednesday Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: Media must celebrate human diversity and help fight the flames of global intolerance, the Global Media Congress in Abu Dhabi heard on its second day.

Addressing the Congress, which aims to shape the future of the media industry, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister for Tolerance and Coexistence, placed the responsibility of cultural openness and inclusion on members of the media.

“’You have a duty to spread awareness in society about other cultures and belief systems, and a responsibility to call for solidarity and understanding among diverse groups. The media must highlight how diversity is a source of strength for societies, and help combat misinformation and fake news that breeds narrow-mindedness,” Sheikh Nahyan said.

“In essence, media professionals and companies must be role models in diversity and honesty because an honest and transparent media is the only real way to shape social awareness and inclusion.”

Sheikh Nahyan’s address at the Congress ushered in a day of discussion about the challenges in ensuring tolerance within the media sector. The minister himself highlighted the UAE’s inclusion efforts, including its establishment of a ministry dedicated to safeguarding inclusion, and the 2019 signing of the Document on Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi.

‘Fellowship for tolerance’

Senior journalists at the event said the UAE could even go on to provide tolerance training.

“This conference mentioned how the United Nations first began celebrating tolerance in 1995, and how the world is still talking about it today. We may still be talking about it 50 years later, but we have to be proactive. Media houses should not chase profit at the expense of social good, because being polarised certainly brings you eyeballs and profit but not social good,” Indian author and journalist Ruben Banerjee said during a panel session.

“Maybe Abu Dhabi can pave the way and institute a fellowship for tolerance that would have a cascading effect on tolerance.”

(from left) The panel included Lucio Adrian Ruiz, Ruben Banerjee, Caroline Faraj, and Dr Mohamed Al Ali Image Credit: Samihah Zaman/Gulf News

Role of families

Other panellists espoused the need for societies to spread the values of fraternity and togetherness amongst their members, saying that these values must be taught from a very young age. They also warned against falling prey to hate spread through social media.

Dr Mohamed Al Ali, founder of UAE-based think tank Trends Research and Advisory, said the bedrock of tolerance is laid within homes and communities, with elders playing a key role in shaping the way young minds think.

“A society cannot be built and developed without familial wisdom and reflection, and unfortunately, social media – with its gut reactions spread through keyboard-happy users – does not have its foundation in though, reflection and knowledge. This kind of gut reaction is an enemy to tolerance, especially as people are happy to share biased views while hidden behind their online profiles,” said Lucio Adrian Ruiz, secretary of the dicastery for communication at the Vatican.

“Families must play a key role in educating youth because we can trace intolerance to a lack of knowledge, and gullibility to fake news,” the official said.

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Need for education

In addition, social education and training is also required in order to ensure respect for diversity.

“We first learn to value differences in opinion within the family, when we disagree with our siblings or our parents. But families alone are not enough to create a tolerant society, and organisations must reinforce these teachings, which highlight the need for dialogue and respect among people who differ,” Ruiz said. Banerjee agreed, calling the world ‘a global village’.

“We are all connected in this global village, and we must learn to agree to disagree. This is the first step towards creating a unified society,” he said.

Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, secretary-general of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity and secretary general of The Muslim Council of Elders, discussed the important role of media in increasing understanding amongst communities.

"The Zayed Award for Human Fraternity is dedicated to promoting peaceful coexistence. Given the nature of this ambitious objective, we know that collaboration and cooperation are essential for success. We believe in the critical role that media plays in promoting mutual understanding. The media has the power to raise awareness and corral efforts around key issues and also bridge divides by providing fair and balanced information. We must all recognise and put into action the role we can play in creating a culture of peace,” he said.

The three-day Congress is being organised by the Emirates News Agency (WAM), in partnership with the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) Group.

The event will continue till Thursday, with more than 1,200 expected to visit. In addition to a dynamic conference, there are also a number of workshops for media professionals, and an exhibition of major media outlets and social organisations.