Upcoming Halifax International Symposium on
Media and Disinformation

By KIM PETERSEN*

HALIFAX (10 June 2004) -- A fountain of disinformation has flowed forth from the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The pretext for aggression proffered was Iraq's possession of forbidden weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD). The Whitehouse administration made wild claims about knowing of WMD in Iraq and even knowing where they were. There was talk of uranium cake from Niger, WMD launchable in 45 minutes, aluminum tubes for producing nuclear bombs, aerial machines designed to disperse lethal biological agents overseas, mobile chemical laboratories, etc. All these claims were untrue. Such a plethora of false declamations points unmistakably to a concerted program of lying. When the false information is deliberately presented it passes from the realm of misinformation to disinformation.

The corporate media hummed the US government line. Instead of acting as a monitor of centers of power, the corporate media became a de facto agent of the US government. The bastion of the US print establishment, a major source of unscrutinized WMD reports, sought to salve its repeatedly banged-up reputation by issuing an apology. Writer Ahmed Amr compellingly made the case that the New York Times is criminally responsible for its propaganda role.

The role of the media in disinformation is important. Tens-of-thousands have been killed in an illegal attack abetted by corporate media complicity. With media coverage of Iraq as a backdrop, an upcoming International Symposium on Media and Disinformation is being held June 30-July in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Halifax event will be the first conference in the world on disinformation, according to symposium co-organizer Tony Seed, editor and publisher of Shunpiking, a Nova Scotian magazine, a former features writer with the Toronto Globe and Mail and a long-time partisan of independent media.

The symposium's program on disinformation touches on 9-11 and the war on terror, Islam and the "clash of civilizations," nation building, Cuba-Venezuela and Latin America, Palestine, First Nations and colonial justice, the environment (from the interational fisheries to depleted uranium), the dignity of labour, and, of course, issues of journalism and communication.

Mr. Seed hopes one outcome of the symposium will be the empowerment of journalists in both the corporate and independent media.

"If we are able to turn from a reactive and defensive posture to develop a unified offensive against disinformation, this will assist all journalists from the path of self-censorship," said Mr. Seed.

Media censorship and disinformation renders authentic journalism apart from society. Mr. Seed warns, "Journalism has been linked with the consciousness of people. It has to have a base in society. Human beings have a basic right to information."

The symposium is international and is attracting participants from Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. The conference is meant to be inclusive. "every view is valid and -- taken together -- represents the level of the movement against disinformation at this time," says Mr. Seed. The symposium also aims to bring to the world the voices of those marginalized by disinformation and validate them.

The event has received the endorsement of many academics, activists, youth, labour and fishermen's collectives and those with backgrounds in journalism and publishing, in radio, print, film, books, and on the Internet. Organizers are providing extensive resource documentation as part of the registration, and all participants have access to workstations and the university radio studios. The event featuring many interesting personalities and informative sessions has a participant list that is growing longer with each day.

*This article was written by Kim Petersen of Halifax for Dissident Voice a US on-line journal. His writing has been published in Asia Times, Press Action and YellowTimes.org

For updated information, visit www.halifaxsymposium.ca

 


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