AMF 2017: ‘Governments, media must work together to promote tolerance’

AMF 2017: ‘Governments, media must work together to promote tolerance’
Alex Aiken, UK’s executive director for Government Communications, at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai Monday.
Updated 02 May 2017

AMF 2017: ‘Governments, media must work together to promote tolerance’

AMF 2017: ‘Governments, media must work together to promote tolerance’

DUBAI: International governments and the media must work together to lead, reinforce and defend a culture of tolerance, the UK’s Executive Director for Government Communications Alex Aiken told a crowded room at the Arab Media Forum (AMF) in Dubai Monday.
The two-day event, themed “Civil Dialogue,” has brought together more than 3,000 participants and industry experts to examine the role of the media in promoting peaceful coexistence and tolerance.
Aiken, who is responsible for creating the UK’s Government Communications Service and developing cross-government campaigns, shed light on the responsibility of governments and media organizations to spread a culture of tolerance, especially in the social media age.
“My purpose for giving this speech is to argue for the government and the media to lead, reinforce and defend a culture of tolerance, setting high standards which will strengthen national dialogue and unity in the face of huge challenges,” he said.
“On social media platforms, everyone in our society is a potential editor or commentator and sometimes this commentary can undermine shared and established values and culture,” he warned, adding that it is up to journalists and government authorities to encourage impartiality.
“It’s not possible to control social media but we can set an example for our fellow citizens by encouraging them to correct or join the debate.
“I believe that communication is a hugely effective force for good to create a more tolerant and inclusive society… If we can create that robust, honest and tolerant dialogue, we can build a discussion,” he said.
Aiken noted the importance of the media in spreading a culture of inclusivity, referencing the recent spate of headlines championing the young Muslim woman who stood up to a far-right protester with a smile in Birmingham.
Aiken also spoke of British newspaper The Sun’s 2014 decision to run an image of a Muslim woman wearing a hijab printed with the Union Jack on its main page, saying the government had worked with the British media on similar campaigns “to actively promote tolerance and integration and build the idea of a multi-racial, multi-faith community.”
He said that civil servants and journalists were all bound by “a code of conduct that requires objectivity, truth and impartiality,” which forms the basis of a good working relationship targeted at promoting tolerance.
The 16th edition of the AMF brings together prominent media figures, academics and experts to discuss a range of topics related to the Middle East region.