George Negus was one of many journalists calling for improved relations between Muslims and the media, at the weekend. Luke Henriques-Gomes reports.
Negus, who gave the keynote speech at the Media and Young Muslims conference on Friday, told the audience he was proud to say he had many Muslim friends.
The weekend conference at the Melbourne Town Hall joined young Muslims and journalists for a range of debates and activities.
Friday’s discussion panel included journalists, Nasya Bahfen and Sarah Malik, writer Eugenia Flynn and comedian Nazeem Hussain.
The Q&A style discussion examined the relationship between Muslims and the media.
Negus, who moderated the discussion, said he was involved because he wanted to reduce the level of ignorance in the non-muslim community.
“When I started thinking about this issue, I knew nothing about it,” Negus said.
“But now I’ve travelled a lot, seen a lot, met a lot of Islamic people, written about it,” he said.
Negus said some journalists are inaccurate because “it’s easier than taking the trouble to find out what the real situation is”.
“In all professions there are lazy people, biased people, prejudiced people, and that includes the media,” he said.
Organiser and journalist Agnes Cusack opened the conference by saying the media’s shortcomings were a result of misunderstanding, not malice.
Ms Cusack said she hoped both groups would better understand each other, after the conference.
She said there was a “white bread” culture among journalists and the conference was an attempt to change that.
“We are trying to build a two-way conversation between members of the media and minority groups, such as the Muslim community,” Ms Cusack said.
“As part of that process we are trying to put skills into the community,” she said.
Sarah Malik, a journalist for AAP, said she believed it was important to provide motivation and inspiration to Muslims looking to enter the media.
“As a young Muslim I know what it feels like when you’re growing up and you don’t see (familiar) faces in the media,” Ms Malik said.
“It can be very disheartening and you feel very powerless,” she said.
Ms Malik also echoed the views of Negus and Ms Cusack, saying inaccurate reporting was usually down to lazy journalism.
“There isn’t a conspiracy against Muslims in the media,” she said.
Other journalists at the conference included Melissa Fyfe, Brett McLeod and Jill Singer.