Vienna Youth Forum: The role of media in a pluralistic world

By Eivina Ziziunaite, UPF-Austria Youth Committee 
Tuesday, 11th December 2012, Seidengasse

In preparation for the UN Alliance of Civilizations Youth Forum in February 2013, UPF “Youth” hosted the second of the three events by addressing one of the conference’s topics: Media pluralism and diversity of media content and their contribution to fostering public debate, democracy and awareness of diverse opinions.

The three main topics discussed:

Is there a global media society?

• Should opinions, which disturb the public order, be restricted?

• Is social media a waste of time, or a tool for democracy?

Our first speaker Madge Gill Bukasa, member of “The Global Player” team gave a thoughtful and inspiring speech. She highlighted the importance of media pluralism, its content, the democracy within it and the idea of raising awareness on diverse positions, approaches and languages. What is more, she emphasized that media can be influenced by historical factors such as the way how democracy through the revolutions and wars was reached, western and eastern Europeans, the different approaches to the ideology of school, arts and the intellectual property. Concerning the diversity of media in Austria, Madge mentioned that Austrians want to be informed about everything- which region, opposition or conflicts the information is going on. Obviously, the exclusive information has customers and the latter one has to be interesting enough, special and not common at all. Moreover, Madge said that it is very crucial to have a clear focus on something, and whether this perspective concerns youth crime, immigration, school problems, gender issues- that are exactly what tends to stand for status quo. She emphasised three main points, which need to be worked on: an empty space concerning the African realities, quality journalism and especially different approaches.

The second guest of the event, Stefan Gindl, researcher at the MODUL University Vienna led the audience through the main aspects of the sentiment analysis and approached the issue of a global media society referring to the question, whether social media is a waste of time or a tool for democracy? Therefore, he pointed out the advantages of it, such as voice to everyone, enlargement of the audience and making new connections. However, there are threats of social media concerned as well and in this respect
the attitude of society and government could be considered as such ones. Stefan Gindl definitely agrees that social media is a tool for democracy, which provides freedom for all people to voice out through the world. Furthermore Stefan Gindl mentioned that the global media society has been growing every day and is an essential step to point out.

The third speaker of the evening was Fernando Romero, TV journalist and activist, shared his extraordinary experiences from Syria. Fernando addressed the importance of social media in Syria where it is greatly important. The actions are led by ordinary people who are most of the times already prepared with necessary equipment like cameras and the main idea behind is to make it public and become famous for it, so the videos are always put on YouTube in order to reach a wider audience.

’’However, they are very careful of what they are spreading to the world- censorship plays a relative role as well’’’– mentioned Fernando. This is confirmed by the example in Jordan, where a guy due to the controversial song about religion was put in jail for up to three days. Fernando has already conducted workshops on social media, such as in Nicaragua- its main idea was to educate people how to let a special message go wider and faster, how to create and edit videos, showing the necessity of communication and better understanding between people and different societies.

The last speaker of the event was Magda Schluckhuber, a journalist student, who shared her point of view that social media without a doubt is useful for every person and ’’it is not just being a fan on Facebook or waste of time since you have to know how to use it. ’’  Magda introduced us to the different ways of using social media and the benefit of it. For instance the White House Blog– where participants can express their interest in politics; or Austrian politicians, who use Twitter and Facebook to keep in contact with citizens and engage in a dialog.

After an engaging panel discussion, the audience could ask questions, which resulted as a very vibrant discussion. Talking about the relationship between online and offline communication was also discussed in the matter of its respect to social media and the way where and how the information is published. As a result, it needs to be filtered before reaching the public. Some of the points mentioned by the panellists:

’’Responsible leadership in media can be reached through the qualitative education and diversity of lifestyles ’’– said Madge Bukasa.

’’It can be used by responsible leader, by building cooperation by the leaders and the ones who lead. ’’ Stefan Gindl

’’It is important to have different points of view. ’’ Magda Schluckhuber

The evening ended with a networking buffet, where everyone had the chance to ask more questions to the speakers or socialize with the other audience. To conclude with, we would like to thank our panellists for their contribution and our great audience, who kept our event and discussion lively and engaging.

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