World Journalists Conference 2019, held in the last week of March in Seoul, South Korea, brought together journalists from 50 countries. While in the first of the two sessions, everyone shared somewhat different perspectives on the role of journalists in the peace process between North and South Korea, the second session highlighted many similar struggles as they talked about the status of journalism in their countries.
Moderated by Lee Min-Kyu, the panel consisted of Paul Murphy (Chief executive, Media Entertainment and Art Alliance, Australia), Habib Toumi (Head of Languages Section, Bahrain News Agency, Bahrain), Dennis Jose Mora Guzman (Director, Horizontes TV, Costa Rica) Dorian Malovic (Asia editor, La Croix, France), Khatuna Chapichadze (Professor, Georgian Technical University and San Diego State University, Georgia), Alireza Bahrami (Chief editor, ISNA News Agency, Iran), Bayan Ramaznova (Executive secretary, The Union of Journalists of the Republic of Kazakhastan), Mandakhbayar KHarkhuu (President, Confederation of Mongolian Journalists, Mongolia), Kuber Chalise (Editor, TBi Publications, and Karobar National Economic, Nepal), Ramon Tulfo (Columnist, broadcaster, The Manila Times, Philippines), Khadar Ismail (Secretary for Information and Human Rights, National Union of Somali Journalists, Somalia), Mohammad Al-Muhaimid (Communication Engineer, Salam Initiative, Yemen) and Sadulla Hakimov (President, Union of Journalists of Uzbekistan).
It wasn’t surprising to see a pattern between the issues journalists face in every country. Most points, put forth by the participants, converged. It came into perspective that government’s control and censorship was one of the concerns of many journalists all around the world. Additionally, there definitely is lack of funding and opportunities for journalists to travel and report news first-hand instead of relying on second-hand curated news.
Media houses are also shutting down in many countries, including Pakistan and Turkey leaving journalists to either be in constant stress that they could lose their jobs anytime. Even in Pakistan, hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs since November because of national crises in media and journalism at large caused by lack of funding and budgetary restrictions.
Credibility issues surface when the public discards the supposed ‘truth-seekers’. This is clearly a consequence of spreading fake and unverified news. However, there’s more to the story. A deliberate dissemination of fake news is used as a propaganda tool by third parties, not limited to politicians. Forwarded messages on social media, particularly WhatsApp, duplicate and fake accounts on social media platforms and different kinds of manipulated visual media are only some of the ways fake news is transmitted, which in turns, affects the state of journalism in society. It becomes a grave concern when the public believes such widely and strategically circulated information rather than traditional and verified information.
The inevitable shift from traditional print media to social media has obviously changed the game. During the conference, Tulfo rightly pointed out the need for today’s journalists to “raise their profile and value and reach as a journalist through social media”.
Meanwhile, Al-Muhaimid brought attention to the use of violence against journalists to silence them for a myriad of reasons. Naturally, with a tumultuous past, Pakistan is no stranger to this issue as well with the press and media only expanding and gaining freedom in early 21st century. However, times have changed and we seem to be facing the same level of censorship and selective reporting, thanks to the heavy government and military influence.
Besides the conference held on March 25, the group of journalists visited different parts of the East Asian country until March 29, including Gwangju, Daejeon, Sejong and Incheon to explore Korean culture, lifestyle and have a sneak peek into its rich traditions, troubled past and future social, economic and technological advancements.