Media’s role in countering disinformation critical: Pakistani official

Marriyum Aurangzeb tells Islamic nations to use digital platforms ‘optimally’ to improve image of Islam, Muslims.

Media’s role in countering disinformation critical: Pakistani official

A top Pakistani official urged the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) member states to “optimally utilize” opportunities offered by digital platforms and social media to help improve the image of Islam and Muslims.

“The media’s role in this regard, while critical, would only be meaningful if it is given a common sense of direction,” said Marriyum Aurangzeb, the minister for information and broadcasting.

Aurangzeb was in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul to attend a two-day 12th Conference of the Information Ministers of the OIC which concluded on Saturday.

The conference underscored the need to combat Islamophobia and hatred against Islam in all manifestations while calling for “utilizing new and emerging platforms and technological innovations to present the truth” about Islam effectively.

It also emphasized the importance of cooperation among OIC member states in “developing necessary mechanisms to fight disinformation and other related challenges of the post-truth era, and devising short, medium, and long-term strategic processes in the total fight against disinformation.”

Pakistan's current role in OIC

Pakistan currently holds the chair of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM), which Aurangzeb told Anadolu Agency, is a “singular honor and important responsibility” for the South Asian nation.

Several initiatives were taken under Islamabad’s leadership, she said, including the Plan of Action on the Kashmir dispute, the peace, and security architecture at the OIC, launching and strengthening of humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, efforts for the appointment of a special envoy on Islamophobia and enhancing economic coordination amongst OIC member states in critical areas like trade, investment, and IT cooperation.

The initiatives are part of resolutions adopted at an Islamabad summit of OIC foreign ministers in March.

“Pakistan is committed to playing an active role in these important areas during and beyond our chairmanship of the CFM,” she said.

Fraternal relations with Türkiye

Aurangzeb said Pakistan and Türkiye “enjoy excellent fraternal relations” which have been “transformed into a strategic partnership.”

In recent years, Ankara and Islamabad have upgraded bilateral relations through what is called the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) – where annual meetings are held in either country.

“Both countries are making progress in deepening bilateral relations in diverse areas: political, defense, trade and economy, health, education, and agriculture and industry.

“We have excellent ongoing cooperation through Joint Working Groups (JWGs) in these respective areas as well as the Strategic Economic Framework (SEF),” said Aurangzeb, urging the two sides “to step up their cooperation in deepening economic and trade ties.”

She said because of the signing of the Trade in Goods Agreement (TGA) in August, during the Turkish trade minister’s visit to Pakistan, “We hope that both countries would be able to achieve the target of $5 billion in the next three years.”

Current trade stands at a little more than $1 billion while the target to boost trade to $5 billion was set when Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited Ankara in June.

Pakistan will ‘never forget’ Turkish solidarity during floods

Aurangzeb said Türkiye dispatched 15 humanitarian flights and 13 “Kindness Trains” to Pakistan during recent floods which devastated the South Asian nation with damage of around $30 billion, according to government estimates.

More than 1,700 people were killed during the flooding which affected 33 million Pakistanis.

“Türkiye is one of the foremost countries contributing to the flood relief efforts in Pakistan.

“We immensely thank President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and our Turkish brothers and sisters for generously contributing to relief efforts being undertaken in Pakistan after recent catastrophic climate-induced floods in the country,” she said. “Turkish solidarity with Pakistan during these challenging times is a testament to our heart-to-heart relations. We will never forget this.”

Cooperation in co-production of audio-visual services

Aurangzeb said her ministry had concluded two “cooperation protocols” with the Turkish Radio Television Corporation during the 6th High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council when the Turkish president visited Islamabad in March 2020.

In addition, two more “cooperation agreements” were signed within the same HLSCC framework.

“These instruments provide great avenues of bilateral cooperation on information and content sharing as well as collaboration in broadcasting,” said Aurangzeb.

She said an agreement on co-production in audio-visual services “is being actively considered from both sides.”

Presidential orchestra gives Turkish rendition of Pakistani anthem

Expressing “profound appreciation and indebtedness” to the Presidential Symphony Orchestra of Türkiye, Aurangzeb said the Pakistani national anthem was given a fresh rendition by Turkish artists.

Thanking Turkish maestro Cemi'i Can Deliorman, she said he “not only graciously agreed to render the recording but also declined to accept any payment of a fee to the orchestra as an expression of the close friendship between the two nations.”

“An orchestral version of the national anthem using stringed instruments, in addition to brass band instruments, is a unique asset in the national anthem repertoire of Pakistan,” she said.

She said the excellent quality of the new Pakistani anthem by the Presidential Symphony Orchestra “reflects high levels of professional artistry and skills and its audio-visual content has been uploaded for streaming on relevant online platforms and websites of the government of Pakistan for everyone to benefit from.”

Pakistan’s ‘balanced, logical approach’ to disinformation

Acknowledging the “improved” penetration of the internet in Pakistani society and “into our lives as a global phenomenon,” Aurangzeb said the advent of powerful smartphones and easy-to-use graphic editing software, “users can create and post some content online, which is defamatory, or false or fake, leading to misinformation and disinformation.”

But she said Pakistan has “adopted a balanced and logical approach on this issue.”

“On one hand, the legal framework is being strengthened to protect people from the effects of this disinformation.

“On the other hand, the government is making every effort to educate, inform the masses on the topic as well as to create awareness in the masses,” she said.

Aurangzeb said her ministry is “taking every effort to inform and educate the masses on this.

“Any fake news worthy of clarification is rebutted through print, electronic and social media,” she said, adding that a dedicated cyber wing at the ministry responds to “fake news” related to the government of Pakistan.

Urges OIC to send journalists to Kashmir, Palestine

Calling for strategic partnerships with media organizations in OIC member states, the Pakistani minister said: “The situation in the Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir is very well-known to the world. International media has regularly highlighted the plight and continued violation of human rights of Kashmiris at the hands of Indian occupation forces.”

“This is despite the fact that Pakistan and the Kashmiris have been subjected to one of the severest forms of sustained government-funded disinformation campaigns,” Aurangzeb said.

“The EU DisinfoLab’s revelations unearthed a years-long disinformation operation carried out by Indian agencies to target Pakistan and the Kashmiris,” she said.

A 15-year campaign to “denigrate” Pakistan and Kashmir at international forums was discovered by the Europe-based disinformation watchdog in late 2020.

The EU DisinfoLab exposed how India Chronicles targeted the European Union and UN with more than 750 fake local media outlets and more than 10 sham non-governmental organizations.

Calling on the OIC to lead efforts to “counter disinformation and Islamophobia,” Aurangzeb said the multinational group “can select journalists from member states and organize field trips to Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine with a view to facilitate investigative journalism and factual reporting.”