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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Fake news and the politics of the swamp have no place here, minister tells Emirati Media Forum

Sheikh Saif tells event there is 'good or evil, the river or the swamp'

Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, gives the keynote speech in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at the Emirates Media Forum in Dubai. Navin Khianey for The National
Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, gives the keynote speech in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at the Emirates Media Forum in Dubai. Navin Khianey for The National

Young people need a positive and credible message from news organisations today - not the fake news and negativity seen in some parts of the Middle East - a senior UAE minister said on Monday.

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, made reference to Qatar and Iran, pointing out that some states were mired in the "swamps" of the past.

He was speaking at the Emirati Media Forum in Dubai, at which government officials and the heads of news organisations discussed the vital role the media in the UAE plays in countering fake news over the past year.

“Our effort will always be to collaborate and spread correct information that is positive and not information that is negative,” said Sheikh Saif.

“There are two options we can choose in life, good or evil, the river or the swamp. We will never hesitate to follow the flowing river instead of the swamp."

He made reference to Qatar’s approach as one in which a snake attempted to camouflage its intentions by blending with an olive tree.

“Look for the positive in the future, not on negatives, like diseases from a swamp, like the Iranian system, or a neighbour who turns out to be a snake. To those that follow this snake, it thinks that if it sticks to the olive tree, people will see it as an olive, but we still see it as a snake.”

Emphasising that it was often difficult for readers and viewers to differentiate between fake and real news, he urged the media to continue to face future challenges by refusing to spread misleading news.

“People may accept false news as true and believe misleading stories that become widespread on the phone and online,” Sheikh Saif said.

“But the responsibility of the media is great and the UAE media has been honest, credible and does not know hatred. It does not spread lies or conspiracies,” he said.

Earlier, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, visited the venue at the World Trade Centre.

Media organisations including The National received awards for the quality of their news gathering.

Investment in youth and education was a priority, Sheikh Saif said pointing out that more than a trillion dollars had been lost over the past five years due to the “polluted chapter” of revolutions in the Arab world.

“If that money was spent on education of youth, we would have four million graduates from the best universities of the world like Harvard or Oxford,” he said.

Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, warned against rumours spread on social media.

“Content whether positive or negative can reach anywhere in the world,” she said.

“Principles and values are being taught in our schools and this foundation being set in schools will also have an influence later on content in the world.

"Rumours and grudges against a country spread on Twitter, Google or Facebook can control and influence elections of a country. But the real message to convey is that the media can concentrate on the positive, while also looking at and understanding the negative.”

Sultan Ahmed Al Jabar, Minister of State and chairman of the board of the National Media Council, appreciated the coverage in the UAE media of the slain soldiers in the Yemen conflict and the respect shown to their families.

Calling on the media to encourage the youth who could be influencers in the future, he urged an integration of traditional media with new digital technology to promote the country’s image abroad.

“We need an organised system to motivate the youth. We should not restrict them but let them be innovative and creative. This creativity must be included in media organisations because the young have national spirit,” the minister said.

“Tradition is important but our goals can be achieved if traditional media also concentrates on digitalisation. The world has become closer due to technology and we can work towards spreading awareness of our principles, values and humanity in the local media and also in the international media to reach different languages and cultures.”