Use of fake news and false pretexts has led to disastrous consequences for the world peace, culminating in the death of around a million Muslims across the world.

This was underscored by the speakers at the inaugural session of the 5th International Forum of Muslim Journalists and Bloggers on Thursday.

Being held at a beautifully located 5-star hotel here, the moot is being represented by delegates drawn from 40 Muslim countries. A large number of Russian Government officials, intellectuals and media personalities are also attending the event.

The speakers noted that media in the West has been misleading not just the world but also their own citizens to wage devastating wars for economic interests and other ulterior motives.

For example, fake news paved the way to launch a war against Iraq on the false claims of Saddam Hussein having developed weapons of mass destruction, noted the speakers.

Their lies were exposed only after thousands of inhabitants of that country were either killed or maimed. Millions of Iraqis continue to suffer because of the destruction of infrastructure and disruption of their social and political system.

Through deceit and half-truths, similar wars were then imposed on Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, while several other African countries also suffered because of unjustified interference into the internal affairs of those states.

The participants of the conference also expressed deep concern over Israeli brutalities against innocent and unarmed people of Palestine, and Tel Aviv’s blatant violation of the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and provisions of Human Rights Geneva Convention.

They strongly criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for claiming his government to be democratic while it continues to violate the basic human rights of the Palestinian people.

Many of the speakers also accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of following in the footsteps of fascist Nazi leader Hitler by not only depriving the innocent Kashmiri people of their right to self determination but also ruthlessly killing unarmed innocent Kashmiris and blinding the youth with pellet-guns.

Veniamin Popov, Chief Advisor of Russia-Islamic World in his inaugural address said Russia was against militarisation of the Middle East.

His statement was in an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s announcement indicating that the US could send troops to the Middle East on the pretext of teaching Iran a lesson, in the aftermath of attacks on Saudi oil installations that Washington has blamed on Tehran.

Syrian delegate, Ahmad Dawa, Deputy Minister for Information said his country was fighting terrorism and extremism for the past nine years.

This war was a result of spreading fake news and nefarious propaganda that Bashar Al-Asad had used chemical weapons against rebels, he said, adding that through such tactics, aspersions were being cast on Russian support and their “brave resistance against enemies of humanity”.

Ahmad Dawa said positive developments like President Bashar Al-Asad passing legislation to grant amnesty to those who fled the county believing Western propaganda were also rendered useless through spreading lies.

These refugee living in camps were asked by the Syrian Government to return to their motherland, but fake news stopped them from leaving the refugee camps and join their families, he added.

The Syrian minister said a lot of fake reports and poisonous material is loaded on social media. There was a dire need to develop an effective tool to counter such negative tactics, he added.

The Russian delegates spoke with one voice that Moscow wanted Middle East and Gulf region to be free of nuclear weapons. In their opinion, policies of the Western countries particularly the United States were adding to existing tensions and promoting terrorism in an already troubled region.

They said that despite provocations of all kinds, Russia has not sent its troops to Middle East because it believed that it was the prerogative of the regional states to decide if they need any foreign assistance or not. “We want Islam (to) control” in that part of the world, “and not gun-control”, they said.

Kozhin Artyom, Deputy Director of Information and Press Department of Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in his address said using fake news as a tool to achieve nefarious goals was an old practice but the scale at which it was being used in the modern world was alarming.

“The use as well as spread of fake news is fast becoming a dangerous phenomenon. The spread of fake news is a real big challenge and need a close monitoring to save the world from new armed conflicts and stop dictatorial powers from suppressing innocent people.”

Highlighting the role of social media, he said that experts believe that social media would soon claim 75 percent space in the global media.

Ahmad Moslemany, an Egyptian delegate said fake news can lead to bloody wars. Western media used false premise of weapons of mass destruction to topple the Saddam regime, killing hundreds of thousands of people in the process.

He said Facebook and other such social media platforms have tremendous influence in formulating international public opinion.

Shuprova Tasneem, a delegate from Bangladesh spoke at length about the use of fake news and false pretexts that lead to human miseries. She cited the glaring example of Maynamar government’s genocide of Rohingya Muslims who had been forced to leave their homeland and were suffering in the camps and under the open sky.

Tasneem cited another example of fake news claiming that a Buddhist temple was attacked in some area of Bangladesh that led to rioting.

Veniamin Popov in his concluding remarks of the inaugural session said Russian relationship with Islam dates back to over 1,000 years and President Vladimir Putin wanted to further develop these historic ties. It was for this purpose that Journalist Forum was founded and plans were at hand to expand the existing cooperation to the benefit of Muslims across the world, he added.