‘Reliability Is the Passion of Journalism.’ The Role of Professional Media in an Era of Fake News Discussed at SPIEF-2019

On June 6, experts of the Valdai Club attended a panel discussion, titled “Is the media a participant or an observer in global conflicts?” held as part of the SPIEF-2019.

The discussion was focused on the media’s responsibility for reliability and trustworthiness of information. The only way to keep an audience is to provide it with true information, top managers of the leading news agencies stressed. Combatting fake news must be priority for all mass media.

According to Gary Pruitt, President and CEO of the Associated Press (AP), the main role of the media is to cover events on the basis of facts, and to be as objective as possible. “Facts serve as the foundation of information,” he said. “It is impossible to invent them. 90 percent of the population wants to receive unbiased news.” Of course, not all the media can afford to be objective. First of all, these include media that are forced to support certain political candidates, be the mouthpiece of some revolution, and so on. Our role as news agencies, he said, is not to succumb to the temptation to take any side, and if we take sides, then we can no longer be objective.

Continuing the discussion at the session, Fabrice Fries, Chairman and CEO of AFP, said that journalists and the media have always played a key role in world conflicts, while the truth has always been the first victim of war. In an era of mass disinformation and fake news we have to advocate the truth, because the lies spread very quickly, he said. In order to fight fake news, a special team of 40 people was created at France Press Agency; they were tasked with verifying incoming information from around the world on a daily basis, Fries said.

José Manuel Sanz, Director of International Relations at EFE, agreed with the opinion of his colleagues that the success of journalism depends on the quality and timeliness of information. In journalism, the main thing is not just to look at events with your own eyes, but to help readers understand them and navigate an endless stream of information, while remaining objective and not taking anyone’s side in the conflict, and continue to search for truth in any matter. “Reliability is the passion of journalism,” he said.

In his turn, Sergey Mikhailov, Director General of TASS News Agency, noted that news agencies serve as guardians of the truth. The world always develops through conflicts; this is an inevitable law of civilisation’s development, he said. “One word can kill, but can also save. We see that when the world’s attention to conflicts is attracted on time thanks to the media, this helps to resolve them from the very beginning,” he stressed.