(HN, April 18, 2012) - Today, Information Ministers of the member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) started the 9th Islamic Conference of Information Ministers (ICIM); a three-day meeting in the capital of Gabon, Libreville hosted by President Ali Bongo Ondimba.
The group is focusing its attention on "Information Technologies in the service of peace and development” at the Conference Palace in Democracy City and is being attended by a group of ministers and delegates representing 57 member countries.
Morocco who is Chair of the 9th session, and other member representatives, made speeches in which they stressed the importance of the meeting being held during a time characterized by "a multitude of challenges in the world in general, and in the Muslim Ummah world in particular.
Speakers urged broadcasters to counter stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in the Western media and asked that the adoption by the Seventh Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers held in Algeria in December of a resolution to create a new Islam media channel, be implemented as soon as possible.
Already the organization has been working on a comprehensive plan to combat prejudice against Islam and Muslim communities with a view to developing campaigns to foster respect for cultural and religious pluralism and diversity, while raising awareness of the positive contributions of Muslims to promote tolerance and understanding.
The OIC Secretary General Ekmelddin Ihsanoglu said, "We are keen to have an OIC outlet to present to the world the true picture of both the Islamic civilization and religion."
The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) is also taking part in the conference and Dr. El Mahjoub Bensaid, presented how the organization can support the new OIC media efforts by offering training to journalists.
Concern by the Ministers centered on information programs which would support, in particular, the Palestinian cause and the issues of the sovereignty of Jerusalem, (Jerusalem is known in Arabic as Al-Quds) and Al Aqsa mosque, as well as highlighting the role of the African continent in Islam. A high priority for the group is in restructuring the process of the International Islamic News Agency (IINA) and the Islamic Broadcasting Union (IBU), opening of OIC media offices in member countries and activating cooperation between the OIC and the Global Digital Solidarity Fund. The group is entertaining proposals for the establishment of an OIC Muslim journalists union, and the launching of an Islamic TV satellite channel to be called "OIC".
Malaysia is among 10 countries which have been selected to study the proposed establishment of an Islamic television station that will act as an important platform for highlighting Islamic issues and which will discuss Muslim issues globally, countering coverage that discredits Islam.
The first meeting of the committee is scheduled to take place at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the middle of June.
The Gabon resolution says negative news in some Western media has resulted in stigmatized stereotyping, racial discrimination and victimization directed against Muslims. Stressing that the Islamic faith is based on the core values of peace, tolerance, moderation and peaceful co-habitation with all other religions and beliefs, the OIC labeled the emergence of Islamophobia as a “contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred of Muslims and Islam which manifests itself through intolerance and hostility in adverse public discourse.”
“As such, Islamophobia is an affront to the human rights and dignity of Muslims,” the resolution claimed.
The Gabon conference has short, medium and long term goals for putting in place an action plan to fight Islamophobia it said. It is asking member states to create funding for media campaigns, and discourage using expressions such as “Islamic” fascists or “Islamic” extremists for criminal terrorists. The OIC underlines the importance of developing Muslim's own narrative on daily issues such as the environment, climate change, social justice, development, poverty, etc.
For the medium term, the resolution asks member states to implement media literacy programs in schools to combat misperceptions, prejudices and hate speech. It aims to utilize success stories in the Muslim world “as a means to show that the interests of Muslims are similar to the rest of the world when it comes to democracy, good governance and human rights.” The resolution even plans to create awards for excellence in unbiased journalism, reporting, photography and publishing.
According to the long term goals of the OIC media resolution, professional media people in member states are called to “develop, articulate and implement voluntary codes of conduct.” It sets up scholarship programs for Westerners to study in the Muslim world and encourage reporter-exchange programs between the Muslim world and the West in order to disseminate this information throughout media outlets.