Misinformation threatens democracies, says US government official David Moyer

Hyderabad: “It was imperative for Citizens to be aware of the misinformation ecosystem and counter it through truthful information. Misinformation threatens democracies across the world, as there is a divergence of opinion and no shared understanding of basic facts,” said David Moyer, Public Affairs Officer at the United States Consulate General in Hyderabad on Tuesday at Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU). He was addressing the inaugural session as the chief guest of the one-day Training Workshop ‘Countering Disinformation for Urdu Journalists’ organized by the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism (MCJ), MANUU in collaboration with the Department of MCJ, Osmania University (OU) and US Consulate General, Hyderabad.

Prof Syed Ainul Hasan, Vice Chancellor, MANUU presided over the function.

David Moyer said, “There is a need to change the nature of discourse in the media towards positive and factual information on the issues relevant to the public.” The workshop will help strengthen democratic foundations by empowering Urdu journalists with fact-checking skills and provide reliable news to the public, he added.

Prof Ainul Hasan urged the media to work to build trust by strengthening digital media literacy and empowering individuals to identify, critically analyse and counter disinformation. It is also our responsibility to know whether the information provided is correct or not. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first Education Minister of Independent India, and Maulvi Muhammad Baqir, who was the first martyr from the Indian journalist community, used journalism as a weapon during the freedom struggle, he remembered.

The guest of honour B. Sumathi, DIG, Women Safety, Government of Telangana, opined that countering disinformation may be used for the promotion and protection of women’s rights. Disinformation should not become a pretext to intimidate and harass critical voices, denigrate opponents or obstruct the legitimate activities of human rights, she remarked.

Prof. Stevenson Kohir, Project Coordinator and Head, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication,  OU outlined various topics of training sessions conducted by noted fact checkers led by Lead Trainer, U Sudhakar Reddy, Md. Abdul Basith, Media Advisor, US consulate General Hyderabad.

Prof. Mohammad Fariyad, Dean and Head, School/Dept. of MCJ delivered the welcome address. Prof. Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, Dept of MCJ proposed a vote of thanks. Ms. Uzma Sadaf, a student introduced the Chief Guest. A booklet “Standard Operating Tools” for Urdu Journalists was also released.

The resource persons – Mr. Krishna Sastry Pendyala, Umam Noor, Sudhakar Reddy Udumula, and M. A. Majid provided insights on various aspects pertaining to Countering Disinformation, Visual Content Verification, and misinformation.