Global Media Congress 2022: Media should be truthful, make you a better citizen, says top UAE official

She emphasised that the youth of today want content that is relevant to the obstacles they face, such as mental health, unemployment and the climate crisis



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Ashwani Kumar

Published: Tue 15 Nov 2022, 5:07 PM

Last updated: Tue 15 Nov 2022, 9:09 PM

The media should be able to intellectually challenge and thoughtfully provoke people, especially the youth, with their content, said a top minister during the opening day of the Global Media Congress in Abu Dhabi. More focus should be given to issues like climate change, she added, and not on generating traffic from clickbait headlines.

“I’m a mother of two children. And I can’t help but think of how their future will be directly influenced by all of you – by your company’s choices and policies, by the algorithms you empower, by the NFTs you sell, by the decisions you make and will make in the future, by the world that you will create – more than they will be influenced by their education, more than they will be influenced by their peers, or any of my savvy parenting techniques,” Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs, said in an impassioned address before hundreds of heads, experts and journalists from media houses across the world.

“I want to be able to trust that you will all make decisions in their best interests, as well as the best interests of the 3 billion young people under the age of 30 living today,” she said during her keynote speech at Adnec.

Al Mazrui hoped for a standard of media that is sustainable, truthful, trustworthy, tolerant and thoughtful.

“We want to make sure that when our kids are left alone with a screen, or a virtual reality set, they will be fed thoughtful ideas, good manners and values, and be able to develop an authentic identity of their own. I want to make sure that they’re not going to grow up used to violence through shooting games, or scrolling aimlessly down a feed of celebrity gossip, or waste their life feeling disconnected from their own community values, and disconnected from the most pressing issues of this world and their generation.”

Yes, content is king, but...

The minister noted that editors and journalists have stereotyped the youth as an audience seeking to be entertained and offered content, which doesn’t “have public interest at heart.”

Providing insight into a survey conducted as part of a study, Al Mazrui said that the expectations the youth have from the media are quite different to what has been perceived by editors.

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“Surprisingly, perhaps, even though young people [are] extremely aware of all the technological offerings of AI, Metaverse, and NFTs, ticktockification, their answers didn’t include much about these, or any kind of enhanced immersive experience. Young people’s answers were loud and clear. Content is king. Yes, they wanted it to be enjoyable but they wanted to be entertained differently.

“They want to be intellectually challenged. They want to be thoughtfully provoked. They want to be able to learn new skills and gain new insights from the media. They want to be able to answer life’s most pressing questions. They want to be able to find meaning through finding solutions to their society and their generation’s problems.

And they want a media from which they can borrow real life experiences and risk-free rehearsals of life without going through it. They don’t want an algorithm that confirms what they already believe. They certainly, from the study, don’t want a news feed that is full of images of the Fashion Police, while the world is going through famine, floods, and wars. They want trustworthy information.”

Al Mazrui underlined that the youth want a type of media that is relevant in content and style for their generation’s aspirations, obstacles and complexities, such as mental health, unemployment and climate crisis.

“They want media that is engaging, that genuinely cares for their future, that makes them a better citizen.”

More focus needed on climate change

Returning after her participation at COP27 in Egypt, Al Mazrui said young people there were upset with the media’s lack of interest in climate change stories.

“How can we talk about [the] future of the media if the future of the planet is on the line? And we are not bold enough to feature it as the most critical story every single day? I know the gossip news on fashion fields or celebrity divorce, or even flashy, ambiguous clickbait, which somehow skip the facts and the fact checking process, can bring more clicks, more likes, more shares, and more profits for you all in the short term.

But what kind of [a] future can we imagine if our young people end up aimless, depressed, disconnected with mental health issues and jobless? What kind of economy can thrive? What kind of social cohesion can we rely on? What kind of legacy are we leaving behind for those who count on our oral intelligence?", the minister asked.

Al Mazrui then left her audience with some inspiring words. “I find it terrifying that an otherwise healthy, educated young person can change the trajectory of their future just by watching the wrong YouTube media, [or] following the wrong Twitter handle. But we’re not giving up this fight. I’m sorry. You all are more powerful than you think.

Media is in everything we do; it’s the lens [through which] we perceive our world and what is true, and what is worth it. And what is questionable is all through you. Media is in our habits. Our news bulletin, it’s with our cup of coffee. It’s our food for thought. It’s our self-talk. It’s our collective consciousness, and our very intimate personal narrative that we seek through your screens through your filters.”

The minister added that the media can get together to focus more on climate as the UAE is set to host COP28 next year. She urged participants to let their imaginations run wild during the conference.

“If you come up with a ground-breaking and novel idea, you will see it materialising in the UAE sooner than you realise.”


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