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DOHA: Freedom of expression comes with responsibility and writers and journalists should not ignore this fact in their efforts to attract more audiences, the Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani told an international audience in Vienna yesterday.
“Understanding others and respecting their cultures and beliefs and the renunciation of extremism, hatred and racism are the most effective ways to plug the pretexts used by those who try to exploit these manifestations to encourage violence and terrorism. The growing responsibility of media in portraying the right image of the other while avoiding prejudices and stereotyping others, and looking at the facts to judge accordingly,” said the Emir.
Addressing the fifth Global Forum of The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in Vienna, the Emir underlined the need for building trust between nations and peoples saying that the past years had witnessed “an increase in the manifestations of misunderstanding about Islam and the Islamic civilisation in addition to the Muslims’ suffering from marginalisation, discrimination and hatred in many parts of the globe”.
H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasser attended the session, along with Austrian President Heinz Fischer, Romanian President Traian Basescu, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a number of other dignitaries.
The Emir said the role of media is to portray the right image of the “other”, while avoiding preconceived notions and stereotyping.
He said the media should take into consideration that they have a mission and a humanitarian responsibility, and that “even under the domination of market laws its mission should surpass excitement, and to secure high rates of audience, and that their writers and journalists might be carrying preconceived notions as a result of their own upbringing and nurture, and that freedom of expression is vital but not enough, and must be coupled with responsibility.”
“Therefore, we underline the importance of consolidating the effort to correct fallacies and address all destructive trends that promote the spread of hatred, extremism and violence and block the prospects of dialogue and alliance among civilisations. The major test in this respect is not what we say in conferences but in tackling such destructive ideas internally, when they assume a form of political demagogy that would embarrass rulers, or when their ban contradicts the freedom of expression, so we need methods of enlightenment, or even finding new legal means to address them,” he added. The Emir said the Forum had assumed a great significance at the present, when the severity of divisions have increased as a result of tensions, conflicts and instability in many parts of the world.
“No doubt that the complexities of striking a balance between the freedom of expression and respect and protection of the rights, sanctities, beliefs and feelings of others, and the failure to criminalize racist practices are all contributing to strengthening the clash of civilisations’ myth, helping root hate language in the collective consciousness, sparking the flame of conflict, and undermining efforts to disseminate the principles of convergence and co-existence and promotion of cultural diversity among peoples,” said the Emir. The Peninsula
“The world is replete with political and ideological divisions that require continuous efforts from the international community to eliminate the causes of disputes and the risks of conflict and to work hard and diligently to spread the values of the culture of understanding and coexistence, wherein dialogue, alliance of civilisations and development of sound relations between nations and people thrive.”
The acts of violence and gross violation of human rights occurring in Syria and Palestine constituted a disgrace to humanity and the international community should bear its responsibilities by standing up to address these violations and back the Syrian and Palestinian peoples to attain their legitimate rights.
“Still there are major powers in the world that adopt an unfair attitude preventing the resolution of the last colonial issue in history, the Palestinian cause, which is exacerbating and constituting a constant source of tension in our region, and it also constitutes a source for people to believe that racism is still prevalent in the international community, and to make them sceptical about the fairness in implementing the international law. Recently we also have witnessed a supportive attitude by central countries of the genocide committed by a regime that lacks legitimacy in Syria, while other countries only condemning that verbally,” said the Emir.