Coronavirus Pandemic

‘On social media, some still think Covid-19 pandemic is a lie’

Afkar Abdullah /Sharjah Filed on November 11, 2020
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Truth has become very slippery today. Social media is a root cause of distortions that we no longer know what is true or false.

“Many people still believe the pandemic is a lie,” a veteran journalist and author has pointed out in a virtual discussion that raised concerns about the “credibility crisis” that have been affecting both literature and the news industry.

At a recent session on the SIBF’s Sharjah Reads virtual platform, journalist and author Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said: “Truth has become very slippery today. Social media is a root cause of distortions that we no longer know what is true or false.”

Equally concerned about the rise of disinformation, Muhsin Al Ramli — an Iraqi writer, poet, academic and translator — joined the conversation.

“Before the advent of social media, we could rely on just a few newspapers for credible information. But today, there is so much disinformation as the sources of ‘news’ have increased, and we often do not know what the truth is,” said Al Ramli, whose novels Dates on My Fingers and The President’s Gardens were longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

He said it’s high time that “powerful journalis” rose to the challenge and re-establish its reputation as the “real source of verified information”.

“In journalism, credibility is judged based on the accuracy of reporting while in literature, the humanitarian ethos has been a constant and this lends it greater credibility,” Al Ramli added.

Alibhai-Brown, a print journalist for the past 35 years and who also has experience in both radio and television journalism, also said she is worried about the emergence of “selfie media”.

Young people go all out on virtual platforms with no understanding of what might happen,” said Alibhai-Brown, author of Ladies Who Punch.

“The commercial exploitation of these young people who are turned into influencers on platforms that follow no rules or regulations is a disturbing development. Social media has given everyone a voice and extreme views are often amplified here.”

Al Ramli begged to differ, saying: “The positivity and negativity of social media stems from the way we use them. The discussions and sharing of ideas that once happened in physical cafes has now moved online. The strength of the individual comes from being part of the larger group, whether in a virtual or physical space.”

Afkar Abdullah

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