Moderator: Peter Zoehrer
Executive Director, FOREF-Europe, Austria
Peter Zoehrer is the Founder and Executive Director of Forum for Religious Freedom – Europe (FOREF Europe), which was registered as an official association in 2005. He initiated the FOREF website in 1998 after the Austrian government introduced new laws, severely curtailing the rights of religious minority groups. It has since become a respected religious freedom monitor and medium-forum for members of religious minority groups, their opponents, public media, legislators, government agencies and Human rights defenders. Peter remains the driving force behind FOREF, which has scored numerous victories in helping victims of religious intolerance to regain their rights and be vindicated from injustice, discrimination or persecution.
Speaker: Mr. Thomas McDevitt
Chairman, The Washington Times, USA
Mr. Thomas McDevitt is Chairman of the Washington Times; He has served in a number of leadership roles since joining the Times in 1994, including Business Director the TWT National Weekly, General Manager of TWT’s Magazine Division, Marketing Director, Vice President and President/CEO; former Senior VP of Marketing and Communication, Points of Light Foundation founded by President Georges H. W. Bush. Mr. McDevitt also serves as Chairman of UPF-USA and as President of UPF International.
Dr. McDevitt expressed that the media represent a critical area of work and asked the audience to consider what they can contribute to form a new media culture leading to world peace based upon the core pillars of interdependence, co-prosperity and universal values. The core values of The Washington Times are faith, family, freedom, service and citizenship, he said: these principles guide the company and are embedded in its DNA. According to Dr. McDevitt, The Times is read by all the power elites in Washington; both sides of the aisle [in Congress] read The Times because of its trustworthiness. The Times recently was declared the No. 5 most trustworthy news outlet in a poll in the United States. Dr. McDevitt showed a photo of U.S. President Donald Trump on board Air Force One sitting at a desk with his arm on a stack of newspapers, and The Washington Times was the top newspaper.
The International Media Association for Peace is a non-profit media association that will cover the entire world. There will be a conference in Seoul next February for 500 media professionals. He asked the audience to imagine a global network of media professionals who share a common value perspective, driving toward peace. He said he believed there is a time coming soon when we can create a new tipping point and look at the big questions. We will see what other people don’t see, hear what other people don’t hear. Media professionals can be the leading professionals to change the behavior of the world.
Speaker: H.E. Dr. May Chidiac
Minister of Administrative Reform, Lebanon
For more than 25 years as a journalist, May Chidiac fought for the freedom of the Lebanese people when few dared to speak up against the prevailing state of tyranny, and that, through her show, “Nharkom Saiid” (1998 - 2005). Six months after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, she was attacked by a car bomb causing her to lose her left leg and arm. After ten months of numerous surgeries and rehabilitation, she returned to the TV screen in a primetime political talk show called “Bi Kol Joraa”, or “With Audacity”. She has also continued her teaching career as Professor of Radio/ TV at Notre Dame University-Louaizeh till the present. Throughout her career, Dr. Chidiac has received numerous international awards and prizes. In January 2019, H. E. Dr. May Chidiac was designated Minister of State for Administrative Reform in the government of H.E. the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Saad Hariri.
H.E. May Chidiac expressed that we are witnessing the burgeoning of freedom around the world. Nevertheless, freedom of the press is deteriorating in unexpected places, such as Europe and North America. Every step toward justice requires sacrifice and suffering. She explained that fourteen years ago, she paid a high price for exposing the dirt and she is still receiving insults and threats on social media for speaking freely. Every year she awards journalists for audacity in reporting. “Freedom never dies”, she said, “and it will never die for me”.
Dr. Chidiac expressed that she thought that non-violent protests could exist only in books, but 100,000 people are now protesting Lebanon. For the first time people are not afraid to speak out. She also mentioned incidents of violence against journalists in Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia, including murder. Journalists in Europe have also been killed or attacked.
Speaker: Prof. Predrag Vujovic
Founder and President, Public Relations Business School, Serbia
Professor Vujović is a leading expert in communication in the ex-Yugoslavia region. He holds degrees in Marketing, Journalism and Communication, and a Ph.D. in Public Relations. Specialized in Italy and the Netherlands, he ran large PR projects such as the Winter Olympic Games, as well as communication and PR projects for several governments and leading international and domestic companies and media. For the last three years he has been the EU Key communication expert in Serbia. He lectures at the universities of Belgrade, Podgorica, Zagreb, Sarajevo and Milano. Founder and President of the Public Relations Business School, with more than 2.500 PR specialists, he won two highly recognized Golden World Awards for Excellence from the International Public Relations Association. His campaign for Traffic Safety was proclaimed as the best Non-profit Campaign in Serbia 2008-2017.
Dr. Predrag Vujović began by expressing that many changes are taking place in the media. The Internet, online media, and social media have a large influence on public opinion. Millennials and Generation Z are not influenced by the mass media. Nowadays, there is only one newspaper in Serbia judged to be neutral and free. The media world depends on those who have power.
Dr. Predrag Vujović explained that UPF has a number of potential strong points, including family values, character education, living for the sake of others, interculturalism and multiculturalism. All the principles of UPF are principles of communication. UPF is a communication centered organization and UPF’s principles are the main principles for everyone.
Speaker: Mr. Lutfi Dervishi
Host, Talk Show “Perballe”, Public Television, Albania
Mr. Lutfi Dervishi is the host of the political talk show “Perballe” on public television. He is also a lecturer at the University of Tirana, teaching investigative journalism to master students in the Journalism Department and trainer in the Albanian Media Institute. His training activities include journalism, communication, public speaking, transparency, and media ethics. He is well known for debunking fake news on social media in Albania. He worked previously as a news director on public television and “Vision +” and RTSH. Mr Dervishi was Executive Director of Transparency International Albania from 2008 to 2013. He is well known as a public speaker and has delivered keynote addresses to many conferences and universities in Albania and abroad. He is also very experienced in journalism as a political commentator of the main TV stations in Albania. With 25 years of experience in the media, he also has extensive practice in print, broadcast and social media. Mr. Dervishi is also a contributing editor to the Tirana Times Newspaper.
Mr. Lutfi Dervishi referred to the Japanese film Rashomon, in which four persons recount different versions of a murder. He went to explain that all of the news on television is about political conflict and asked the question, “Is this the way the media should operate in the future”? If you ask about the situation of the media in Albania in one word, the answer is “good”, he said, whereas if you ask about the situation of the media in two words, the answer is “not good.”
Why is this? It is because Albania has 25 newspapers, 56 TV channels, 67 radio stations and 200 cable portals. In terms of quantity, we are good. In terms of quality, we are not good. TV shows a lot of information, but not much news. It is good, because we have a very good code of ethics, but it is not good, because it’s only on paper; it’s not practiced.
The best days of journalism were in the early 1990s. If we do not analyze the changes in the media, we risk not understanding the future. Some things that were unthinkable 10 or 15 years ago are now unavoidable. Who thought that we could not separate the message and the messenger? In social media, more important than the content are the “clicks” or how many “likes” one receives. The audience has changed its behavior. The media have gone from a watchdog role to a lapdog role. In the 21st century, we need to make a paradigm shift from problem-oriented to solution-oriented. We need more fact-checking. Agencies check the quality of our food, but we need someone to check the spiritual quality of the media. Will journalism serve the power or will it serve the truth? The truth will set everyone free.