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L.B. Lee: Address to Peace Summit 2023, Session VII-A

Address to Peace Summit 2023
May 2-5, 2023


Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. When I first received an invitation to speak on this topic, I thought I am supposed to speak on the role of the media [in fostering a culture of peace]. I am not a professional in the media field, but I am humbled and honored for the opportunity to share the stage with my esteemed fellow panelists. Jim Rogers, you are my idol. Anyway, I am going to speak on the role of the media from the outside in.

I do not know how many of you have heard of Malcolm X, the American Black Muslim human rights activist. He once said that the media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have a power to make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent. And that is power because they control the mind of the masses. Yes, the media has a vital role in shaping public opinion, influencing attitudes and disseminating information about current events, issues and trends.

A century ago, media was basically confined to print, radio and television. But over the last 30 years, the media landscape has evolved and expanded to even more widespread and influential forms such as social media, websites and mobile applications. This digital technology has made it possible for people to get more information in real time. And social media has been used to alter and change relationships globally. The world is now a cosmopolitan society with different cultures and people virtually connected through the Internet.

The media, in particular, has a significant impact on the way people perceive the world around them. As someone who has traveled and observed different cultures, I have seen how media can create stereotypes and reinforce negative perceptions about certain cultures and communities. On the other hand, it can also be a powerful tool for promoting understanding of and respect for diverse cultures and promoting peace. It is indeed a double-edged sword.

As a child growing up in a small town in Malaysia, I was exposed to a lot of Hollywood movies, especially Wild West movies in which cowboys, played by such actors as John Wayne, were portrayed as good guys and the indigenous people, known as Indians then, were portrayed as savage and bad. Each time an Indian was shot, the crowd would cheer and applaud. That is how our minds were conditioned by the influence of the entertainment media and [formed] stereotypes. This illustrates the power of the media, which can act as a tool for peace or conflict. I hope Hollywood and the entertainment media industry will stop production of movies that stereotype and negatively undermine the public perception of any culture or community.

On the other hand, the media can play a crucial role in promoting a culture of peace by highlighting the positive aspects of different cultures and communities. Promoting dialogue and understanding is one of the main roles the media can play towards embarking on a peace mission. Through the dissemination of accurate information, media can help to break down stereotypes and misconceptions that can lead to conflict and divisions. Moreover, the media can help to promote peace by highlighting positive examples of conflict resolution and peaceful coexistence.

By showcasing the efforts of individuals and organizations, such as UPF, who are working towards peace, the media can inspire others to get involved and make a difference and give voice to marginalized and underrepresented groups, which can help to reduce discrimination and inequality. The other key role that the media can play is educating people about the complexities of global issues and promoting awareness of the consequences of conflicts and the benefits of peace. It can also provide a forum for international dialogue and diplomacy. Through platforms such as social media and video conferencing, individuals and organizations from different countries can exchange ideas and perspectives, fostering greater understanding and cooperation. We have to recognize that social media is becoming more and more ingrained in our life and that we [can] adopt these tools in a good way.

Social media can be an effective way to connect people [across cultures] and can even give voice to people who might be silenced or marginalized by conventional media. But we have to be mindful of the downside of these platforms, especially unverified information and harmful and hateful content. The reality is that social media spreads information much faster than the traditional media nowadays. We need to ensure our legislatures and regulators keep up with the pace, and social media companies need to build a culture of inclusivity, respectfulness and protection of privacy into their platforms. Indeed, media can also serve as a tool to raise awareness and mobilize public opinion in support of peace initiatives and diplomacy efforts.

Economic media can highlight the economic benefits of peace. Trade and investment and economic cooperation can motivate nations to work toward the peaceful resolution of conflicts. The role of the economy in promoting world peace is multifaceted. A stable and growing economy can contribute to social stability and reduce the likelihood of conflict.

One of the primary ways the economy can promote peace is through trade and investment. By engaging and increasing trade with other countries, nations can become more interdependent and less likely to be involved in conflict.

Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that trade can promote economic growth and development, which can lead to increased social and political stability. It is proven that economic partnerships, trade agreements and investment initiatives, as long as they are mutually beneficial, fair and equitable, foster stability. They can reduce conflict over resources and create incentives for peaceful relations between nations, as evidenced by the success of the European Economic Community (EEC), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), formerly known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to name a few.

Another way the economy can promote peace is through foreign direct investment (FDI). When I was in Malaysia, I witnessed how FDI can help build an economy by creating jobs, by stimulating growth and through the true transfer of technology and knowledge. FDI can also create opportunities for cultural exchange and learning, which can foster mutual understanding and respect between nations. Gross domestic product (GDP) alone is not enough to bring peace and prosperity to a country. To ensure a sustainable economy and long-lasting peace, policymakers must endeavor to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots, between the people and between countries.

As members of the International Media Association for Peace, I think we have the responsibility to use our influence and resources to promote peace and harmony. Yes, we cherish freedom of the press, but it is not free in the absolute sense. It comes with responsibility for honesty, truth, fairness and respect, without which peace to the world would be an elusive dream.

Thank you.



To go to the Peace Summit 2023 Schedule page, click here.