ISLAMABAD: A group of several journalism and mass communications departments of universities from across Pakistan, independent digital media platforms, journalists’ associations, media rights groups, and civil society organizations and activists have launched the “Coalition Against Disinformation” (CAD) to defend public-interest journalism against threats to its credibility from various sources.
The Coalition was established at a national conference between academia, digital media and civil society groups seeking ways to combat disinformation, especially in the digital media and online domains where the incidence of disinformation is being felt the greatest. The dialogue was hosted by Pakistani media rights watchdog Freedom Network and the Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP) in Islamabad, a press release issued here on Monday said.
The conference, “Academia and Media: Promoting Media Literacy on Countering Disinformation” was attended by heads of departments of various journalism schools, scholars, digital journalists, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Women Journalists’ Association, the Alliance for Diversity and Pluralism in Media, the Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition, digital rights activists, media legal experts and senior journalists.
The Coalition approved a foundation charter that aims to raise public awareness about safeguards against online disinformation and work with key stakeholders, such as academia, digital media and civil society organisations, to support factual information. It also plans to undertake media and information literacy (MIL) initiatives in collaboration between academia and digital media involving students, researchers and young scholars.
Addressing the conference, Freedom Network Executive Director Iqbal Khattak said the coalition is an attempt to facilitate collective and cooperative solutions to the problem of online disinformation. “The huge scale and complexity of disinformation in Pakistan means that no single individual, group or organization can solve it,” he said, emphasizing that countering disinformation demands a collaborative approach.
Media development expert Adnan Rehmat said academia is the missing link in the collaborative efforts to combat disinformation. “Unfortunately, the academia is not considered a part of the solution to curbing disinformation in the public imagination whereas involvement of academia is at the heart of creating a critical mass of influence to counter disinformation.”
DigiMAP Secretary general Adnan Aamir said the future of journalism in Pakistan, like elsewhere, is digital and emerging independent online public interest journalism platforms are vulnerable against the growing tide of disinformation. “We are seeking an engagement with the academia and journalism students because developing a media literacy program can be the starting point for the coalition’s work and aid key stakeholders understand how to distinguish between reliable information and false messages,” he said.
The coalition will work closely with journalism schools at including with faculties and students to assist in mapping and combating disinformation on digital media and create research studies and learning resources. It will also help organise training for key stakeholder groups, including journalists and journalism students, to improve their comprehension of disinformation-related issues.
Head of Journalism and Mass Communication Department of University of Peshawar Dr Faizullah Jan supported the collaboration between journalism schools and emerging public interest digital media to raise awareness about the dangers of disinformation and defending public interest journalism.
Amber Rahim Shamsi, the Director of the Centre for Excellence in Journalism at IBA-Karachi, said it will be useful for the coalition to address questions about credibility of information sources and amplification of false messages when it comes to countering disinformation.
Dr. Asmat Ara, the head of the mass communication department of Karachi University, said her department prioritizes research studies on issues related to online disinformation and would support the coalition’s efforts.
Heads of journalism departments of International Islamic University Islamabad, Riphah University, BUITEMS, NUST and Rawalpindi Women University also spoke, emphasizing the need for restoring credibility of media through resisting disinformation.