Media Observatory debates online fake news, rumor-mongering

The Yemen-based Observatory on Thursday held an online panel disussion under the motto " Rumors and their impact on the credibility of journalism". 

At the opening of the function, which involved several of academics and journalists, Mustafa Nasr stressed the importance of this seminar that debated the subject of rumors and the spread of fake news, being a sensitive issue that should be dealt with in scientific and technical ways.

He added that if such a kind of news is not tackled, then media would lose their credence amid stiff competition over polarization of the spectator, coupled with the growing effect of social media. 

For his part, Ahmed al-Shami, Proffessor of Mass Communication and Journalism at Qatar University, spoke about rumors, their types and their impact on the profession of journalism, affirming that a journalist must stick to the truth and be a detached observer over the work of power, not expressive of it. He further asserted the task of dealing with rumors on the part of Yemeni journalists is no easy one, especially given the war still ravaging their country. This, however, never relieves them of their duty of verifying information by the use of high-tech. 

Ahmed al-Zurqa, Director of Bilquis TV Channel, also talked of his media experience and how his Space Channel reckoned with rumors and fake news. He added that rumors would still be there in the absenc of information from responsible sources, noting that information is not readily accessed, as many officials shy away from the media spotlight, with lots of agencies not confirming or denying fake news. 

" We are trying to avoid fake news, however, we face a big problem doing our job, including the vast amount of fake news put out by parties, institutions, and countries, as well as setting up rooms for rumor-mongering, which led to lack of information and falling into the snare of disinformation.

Khaled Aulian, deputy chairman of Yemen TV, and director general of Yemen Space channel programme Dept., expatiated upon the technological revolution triggered by the emergence of the internet, and how it contributed to the proliferation of fake news. He also touched on the quick strides made by such high-tech that dwarfed our ability to keeb its content at bay.

He highlighted that with the spread of various social media, fake news are uncontrollable, and yet, such a problem can be obviated by the use of high-tech and digital tools, or rather reverse image search to fact-check information. 

Journalists should work together to fight such misinformation in such a way as to boost the public's relationship with, and trust in the media.

For his part, Waheeb al-Nussari, chief editor of al-Mushahid news website, that journalism in Yemen have largely spun out of control amid the war still raging on in the nation, which made it hard to verify information. He cited some instances where they confronted fake news head-on on their website. He dwelt upon the methods of approaching news by the news site, including by reliance on indepth news stories and averting breaking news so as not to get drawn into rumors.

He added that the journalist must be quick-witted in following events closely, suspecting and then verifying social media news before publishing same. Journalists must also have the skills of online research, quick access to informaion, digging deep for nitty gritties , and not taking things at face value.

MCJ scholar Abdullah Ba Kharisah threw light on the role of social media in the propagation of rumors and misinformation, indicating that sudies have proved that fake news spreads more quickly on social media than real news, especially in times of crisis. A Case in point is coronavirus news, he said, noting that easy and free access to social media is among the factors behind the spread of fake news, not to mention the lack of oversight over such platforms.

Journalists must remain fixated not only reporting news , but also on cross-checking information and sources, he said, adding that verification is the only thing that sets journalists apart from other social media users.

Watch the Symposium