In media landscape: Creating balance between free expression and defective views

"It is not always easy to draw a boundary between freedom of expression and expression of intolerant or offensive views"

Prof. Dr. Noshina Saleem

Dr. Amir Mehmood Bajwa

For a functioning democracy, the freedom of expression is essential. However, absolute freedom of expression may lead to hostility, especially in countries where many ethnic, lingual and other divisions exist. Considering the fact that increasing digitisation along with globalisation and commercialisation together with a convergence of media is transforming communication system in terms of time and space and social behaviours. It is not always easy to draw a boundary between freedom of expression and expression of intolerant or offensive views. Having due regard to the need to foster an environment of free speech involves having due regard, in particular, to the need to tackle prejudice and promote tolerance, understanding and acceptance for each other.

Therefore, protecting freedom of expression requires a continuous dialogue about where the social, ethical, and legal bounds are set. The vibrant Department of Media Studies of the leading Lahore Garrison University is organizing the International Media Conference on balancing the expression while exploring antagonism in the world media ecosystem, in collaboration with the Department of Communication & Media Research of the School of Communication Studies, the Higher Education Commission, Punjab Higher Education Commission, National University of Modern Languages, Lahore College for Women University, and the Kinnaird College. The two-day conclave will start on June 8 [today on Wednesday] at the Jinnah Auditorium of the Lahore Garrison University and will end on June 9 [tomorrow on Thursday] at the Al-Razi Hall of the University of Punjab.

The media conference will be unique in its nature and aims at providing an opportunity to national and foreign academicians, researchers, students and professionals from communication and media discipline to share their views and suggestions for protecting values of freedom of expression in media, creating a balance between free expression and respect and tolerance in the current media landscape specifically in relation to social networking sites. We also want to share what we will discuss during these two days i.e. from media-related issues to societal issues to Kashmir and impact of social media on our public, especially younger generation. The prestigious gathering will discuss a hot topic that is ‘fake news’ in pandemic, self-protective behavior and issue of mass media information’s credibility during COVID-19 in Pakistan.

We will discuss investigating sources and consumption of the ‘fake news’ through fact-checkers on Twitter, besides perceptions of journalists regarding credibility of the social media as a news source, and this is one of the interesting topic. Also, we will discuss a very sensitive topic that is information versus misinformation on digital media, especially a focus on younger generation. The international conference will highlight circulation of ‘fake news’ and ‘propaganda’ on different social media sites and mobile applications, as a new form of ‘yellow journalism’. Our speakers will share role of media literacy while encountering misinformation; dissemination of ‘fake news’ about different ‘schools of thoughts’ in digital media eco-system; and will analyze online education in the era of digital divide.

As the conference will be attended by leading professionals, academicians, and researchers, there will be a good discussion on the concept of media ecology from birth till date besides perception of ‘Twiplomacy’ by talk show anchors by infodemic and public sphere. The necessary digital media ethics will be discussed while analyzing effects of Instagram’s memes on youngsters. There will be a discussion on influence of watching Netflix 18+ content on the youth. The academicians, and researchers will analyze social media trend-making and hashtag-activism, besides social media debate on dramatization regarding ‘marital rape’ and its effects on youngsters. The conference will focus on increasing trend of web series and effects on youth, and role of original sound tracks [OST] of TV dramas in increasing the viewership.

During the two-day activity, shift in parenting culture will be one of the burning topics along with emergence of a dichotomous culture in new media and freedom of speech. Discrediting human rights; privacy invasion in digital age, and ethics and stereotypes in media ecosystem, especially social media portrayal of iconic Aurat March and audience response will also be highlighted. Reinforcing sentiments through WhatsApp statuses; and exploring addictive patterns and consumption among users of digital media in daily life will be discussed besides violating women rights through drama industry by glorifying ‘submissive’ women. Interplay between media ecology and political culture will be analyzed besides digital versus real personalities of the Facebook users. Influence of beauty-related vloggers on buying behavior will be an interesting topic, to be discussed during the conference.

Portrayal of the much-discussed and much-debated Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) in leading liberal dailies and advertisements in context of the freedom of expression and social responsibility will be discussed in the presence of senior media professionals. Ethical dilemma in social media, as a serious concern for the youth in digital age, will be another topic of interest. A comparative analysis of Pakistani, Kashmiri and Indian leading English newspapers will share representation of young people on the Kashmir issue. A very interesting topic of maintaining relationships on Facebook that is associated with ‘jealousy’ and ‘satisfaction’ among partners. Overall, the two-day conclave will discuss everything that may affect you or inspire you – both in positive and negative perspective.

The International Media Conference is an amazing opportunity to guide our society, especially younger generation, about achievable peace at national, regional and global levels. In presence of academicians, researchers, and top media professionals, the much-awaited conference will prove that the Lahore Garrison University is a great platform to share a joint but a strong message of peace and peaceful coexistence, acceptance, and harmony not only for Pakistan but also for much-focused South Asian region and the whole world. This is our clear message for everyone; come together to attain a global peace.

Prof. Dr. Noshina Saleem is director of Punjab University’s prestigious School of Communication Studies in Lahore, and also heads the Department of Communication and Media Research; Dr. Amir Mehmood Bajwa is head of Lahore Garrison University’s leading and vibrant Department of Media Studies in Lahore

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