OPINION – Credible, independent news, necessary to combat infodemic

By Iftikhar Gilani

ANKARA (AA) – The COVID-19 is the first pandemic in history in which technology and social media played a significant role in keeping people safe, informed, productive, and connected. Simultaneously, it also amplified an infodemic that undermined the global response and jeopardized measures.

This phenomenon has once again highlighted the role of accuracy and credibility in the news dissemination process. While exposing the dangers that the bare hands who manage social media can do, it has underscored the need that news like a vaccine or medicine should be handled only by trained communication professionals.

In May 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the World Health Organization called on the member states to provide reliable COVID-19 content, take measures to counter misinformation and disinformation, and leverage digital technologies across the response. The resolution also called on international organizations to address the menace in the digital sphere, work to prevent harmful cyber activities undermining the health response, and support the provision of science-based data to the public.

While resources for the media may have dried, the situation has presented an incredible opportunity to showcase the value of good journalism and build a credible relationship with viewers and readers.
The pandemic also once again proved that Western media's coverage of the developing world is laced with the episodic and fragmentary urge.

Late Robert Fisk, a writer and journalist who held British and Irish citizenship, once criticized what he described as "propaganda campaigns" that editors in the Western media go on in terms of spinning coverage of conflict and news in the Middle East. The result is that they package a tidy, palatable, censored, and inherently untruthful coverage of news in the region. He mentioned that the West Bank "barrier"— more significant, longer than the Berlin Wall — is referred to as a fence or security barrier in the Western press. The illegal Israeli settlements that are built on land stolen from the Arabs are referred to in the Western media as "Jewish neighborhoods."

– Biases of Western media

While reporting the 2016 defeated coup in Turkey, certain Western media outlets were labeling Turkish people's democratic and civil reactions as "Islamist" and even "jihadist." They treated measures taken after the defeated coup as a threat to democracy rather than the coup attempt itself. They tried to turn focus on the Turkish government rather than the coup plotters.

Many attempts have been made across the world to break the monopoly of the global media giants. Fortunately, precisely this is the time when the world is looking for alternative sources of news.

According to leading Indian media professional Saeed Naqvi, this quest is because of a straightforward reason: diminishing credibility of the Western media barring exceptions. Since the West has been perpetually involved in conflicts from Afghanistan to Iraq, their media has had to do so much drum beating that it has lost credit in the information marketplace.

In this state of affairs, independent and credible news is a priceless commodity.

Realizing the importance of the media, Turkish leaders had founded Anadolu Agency almost a century ago on April 6, 1920. It was the second news agency in the world — after the Soviet TASS agency — that came up in a non-colonized world to challenge the Western hegemony.
Since the inception of the wire in 1885, as many as 28 news agencies had mushroomed by 1920, but all of them were in the West or the colonies of imperial powers.

Even 136 years later, major news agencies are concentrated around the epicenter of the world's prosperous nations. These news agencies have a status that the rest of the world has unsuspectingly seemed to follow and replicate.

Global news agencies and the media have also been integral players in shaping the conditions that made globalization possible. In this stiff and relentless competition, where the powerful have regularly consumed the little fish, completing 101 years of existence is no ordinary feat for Anadolu Agency.

– Anadolu Agency's potential

With a network covering over 100 countries, it now covers world affairs with experience and accuracy under various categories — politics, economics, finance, energy, sports, technology, and others — in 13 languages. Furthermore, Anadolu Agency is the only global news agency from a Muslim country that is part of the G20 forum.

But there is a need for Anadolu Agency to fill the gaps and expand its operations to disseminate the priceless commodity that is credible and independent news at the doorsteps of the global audience.

By investing more in technology, expertise, human resources, new strategies, greater operational efficiency, cohesion, and integration, the agency has the potential to challenge existing media cartels and help shape a new world news order.

When social media presents a challenge in terms of speed, it has become necessary to deliver the facts as precisely and quickly as possible so that public opinion the world over can be educated with adequate information to appreciate a problem and suggest solutions.

For over 150 years now, media in the West has not only been foisting its own stories but also telling our stories to the world. The time has come for us not just to narrate our own stories but also to present its truths to the world.

That is possible by wedding technology to modern-day ethics, where journalism is no longer a sermon but somewhat interactive. The audience is now part and parcel of the information gathering and dissemination. But there is also much in common between old and new media and between developing and developed countries that all want a piece of credible, independent news to kill infodemics.

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.