CAPE TOWN - CO-OPERATION, tackling a swiftly evolving media landscape and the glut of information, often false, were the main subjects of a virtual BRICS Media Forum meeting this week.
Also discussed were the continued challenges of reactions to Covid-19 globally, and its associated information overload, Independent Media executive chairperson Dr Iqbal Survé, who was also co-chair of the 5th presidium meeting of the BRICS Media Forum, said on Tuesday evening.
The BRICS Media Forum was launched in 2015 at the suggestion of China-based Xinhua News Agency and was jointly initiated with the mainstream media from Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa.
Aims of the forum include establishing an efficient working co-ordination and relationship between BRICS media, advance innovation-driven media development and gathering stronger momentum for the development of BRICS countries through exchange and pragmatic co-operation.
“The relationship between BRICS media forum countries has become even more important in this period, and all countries should encourage information sharing, journalist exchange and other forms of resource exchange to enhance the accuracy and efficiency at which information is communicated to the public,” said Dr Survé.
Remarking on the need for greater co-operation of media in the member countries due to the sheer volume of information on offer for consumption, Dr Survé said “as media houses, it is our responsibility to ensure information is accurate and factual, and what better way to ensure that, than share information and sources across the BRICS countries”.
Also attending the presidium on Monday were José Juan Sanchez, president of Brazil’s CMA Group; Sergey Kochetkov, first deputy editor-in-chief of Rossiya Segodnya, Russia; and their Indian counterpart, N Ram, chairperson and publisher of the Hindu group, as well as He Ping, president and editor-in-chief of Xinhua News Agency,
China. The media is a powerful force in influencing how any particular environment is perceived, understood and experienced. When there is a “captive” audience, that influencing role has even greater responsibility.
During the global lockdowns, the World Economic Forum ( WEF) said 80 to 90 percent of people consumed, on average, 24 hours of news and entertainment a week, which placed an even greater weight on the media to ensure that the truth was conveyed, Dr Survé said.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that there had been an excessive spread of misinformation in what it had dubbed as an “infodemic”, he said.
Dr Survé said the integrity of the media had never been more vital.
He had shared in the meeting how in South Africa the information from the media on Covid-19 had become focused on government measures, statistics, the progression of vaccines and treatment methods, and he also called on the member countries to share advice on mistakes, lessons learnt and how, as a grouping, the BRICS countries could be more collaborative in the media space.
Suggestions for ongoing co-operative task forces included having regular conversations via webinar between media houses in the BRICS countries.
“We could have conversations on the experiences of journalists, what campaigns have been effective, how to celebrate front line workers, how do we stop the spread of misinformation and so on,” said Dr Survé.
Such was the scourge of fake news that UN Secretary-General António Guterres remarked at the opening of the annual General Assembly in September that online misinformation was “a toxic virus shaking the democratic underpinnings of many countries”.
Dr Survé said the onus was on the media to keep the public’s trust in the information it served.