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MAP organizes Media, Peace and Human Rights Conference under patronage of Ministry of Information and in cooperation with UNIC Beirut

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29 November 2017
MAP organizes Media, Peace and Human Rights Conference under patronage of Ministry of Information and in cooperation with UNIC Beirut
The Media Association for Peace (MAP) organized on 27 November a regional conference on "Media, Peace and Human Rights" that was attended by a notable audience of media professionals, academics and activists from Bahrain, Tunisia, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt. The conference, addressing “the role of media in promoting freedom of opinion and expression for peace building, minority rights and gender equality for peace in the Middle East and North Africa,” was held under the patronage of the Lebanese Ministry of Information, in partnership with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung - Rule of Law Program in the Middle East and North Africa, and in cooperation with the United Nations Information Centre in Beirut (UNIC Beirut).

The conference opened with statements by André Kassas, representing Minister of Information Melhem Riachy, Hanaa Nasser, Representative of the Rule of Law program MENA at Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, and Vanessa Bassil, President & Executive Director of MAP.

Kassass conveyed the keenness of the Minister of Information to protect media freedom and his belief in ‘the sanctity of the free word’ in view of its positive impact on public opinion. He stressed that the Minister holds media freedom, as a renewed concept, in high regard, ‘for if you preserve freedoms, you preserve nations.’ Kassass pointed out that media freedom, in its current sense, did not appear until after World War II, and was since enshrined in international resolutions which stipulated that freedom of information is a fundamental human right. He further added that freedoms of opinion and expression were important because they reflected the reality of the individual. They are even more important now as electronic media has offered the individual more avenues to express his/her views, although some have been using such channels to promote offensive and harmful ideas. Kassass concluded by stressing the need to protect information and media under the law, hence contributing to the dissemination of a democratic culture.

For her part, Nasser briefed participants on Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s efforts in supporting democracies, intercultural dialogue, and conflict prevention among others. She pointed violations of rights of expression despite the multiplicity of instruments to safeguard freedoms, adding that the media, being the fourth authority in Lebanon, has a role in highlighting these violations. She also called for activating the role of the media in advocating human rights and exchanging knowledge among experts in this field.

Along the same lines, Bassil said that with the International Human Rights Day on 10 December coming up, media coverage of humanitarian and human rights issues that directly affect and are affected by conflicts must be reconsidered. “Through this initiative, MAP seeks to establish the basis of the concept of ‘human rights journalism’, which serves human rights issues and contributes to peace-building,” she said. On this occasion, she added, “we raise a big question mark on the reality and destiny of our media’s freedom, our peoples’ rights and our region’s stability.” Bassil hoped that discussions in this conference would activate the role of “peace journalism” in order to overcome “negative peace” which is limited to ending armed conflict, and reach “positive peace” which guarantees social justice, political accountability and human reconciliation. The Conference addressed three main themes: freedom of the press, of opinion and expression; rights of religious and ethnic minorities; and women's rights and gender equality. It aimed to open a media-related debate on human rights issues in the Middle East and North Africa, in light of current political and social transformations in the region.