Catholic editors gather for conference on ‘Peace Journalism in a Viral Culture’

Taking time out to visit St John’s Cathedral Kuala Lumpur, and a courtesy call and tea with KL Archbishop Julian Leow at his residence. Photo credit: SIGNIS

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KUALA LUMPUR — SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk under the aegis of SIGNIS World, organised a conference with the theme: Peace Journalism in a Viral Culture, at the Council of Churches (CCM) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 14 – 16 August.

Attending the SIGNIS Asia Catholic News Publication Editors’ Roundtable were 18 Catholic editors and journalists representing 12 countries, with 4 presenters, making it a total gathering of 15 countries.

The list of esteemed speakers included Helen Osman, President – SIGNIS World and Chair of the SIGNIS Journalism Desk. She spoke on the topic: Faith News not Fake News, focusing on setting standards and ethics to equip Catholic journalists with a road map to avoid conflict of interest, ensure freedom of expression, and enabling journalism that is constructive, transparent and responsible. Helen also touched on Crisis Management.

Dr Peter Monthienvichienchai, Executive Director of UCANews talked on: The UCANews Story, which covered challenges faced when trying to be accountable and relevant in presenting social, cultural and religious news in Asia. His news channel is aimed at providing a platform for the voiceless.

Fr Pakkam Michael Harris, Consultant at the Vatican Dicastery of Communication, gave a good insight on his topic: Overview of Dicastery for Communication: Structure, Protocol and Services. He spoke on the purpose and mission of social media, and the channels utilized to create and maintain visibility for the contents of Vatican news.

Fr Paul Samasumo, Vice President of SIGNIS World and Head – English and Swahili Service Africa, Vatican Radio, covered the topic: Overview of Vatican Radio/ News Media: The Pope’s Radio Today. He also stressed on the importance of collaboration and co-operation and the emerging trend of listening to podcasts.

In her welcome address to the participants of the Editors’ Roundtable, Adeline James, Head – SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk, informed that SIGNIS has 6 Desks, and that Journalism is one of them.

Helen Osman, President – SIGNIS then gave an introduction to the Journalism Desk, while Lawrence John, Vice President – SIGNIS said that he would like to bring journalism back to what it used to be, for today, it lacks networking/ partnership.

The floor was then opened to participants to share the religio-cultural, socio-political situations of their respective missions. This was an eye opener to the ground realities of different Asian countries, and challenges faced by the Catholic editors and publishers in their ministry.

The conference raised a few common concerns in terms of declining readership in the context of viral social media, hostile political authority, financial crunch, lack of required skills and training for those involved in Catholic journalism.

Participants unanimously agreed the print media of the Church must stay on even in the midst of adverse climates in the Asian region.

They have compiled the following recommendations:

  1. SIGNIS Asia to organise more hands-on training for existing and budding Catholic journalists.
  2. To network among themselves to share their rich experience, information, expertise and other resources.
  3. To announce the tidings of Good news, for we are baptised and sent by the Lord. To stay away from sensationalism and fake news and to resolve to abide by the Gospel values of truth, honesty and transparency.
  4. To formulate a Code of Ethics for Catholic journalists in Asia.
  5. To strive to promote unity and peace among themselves and the citizens of their countries. Also to work towards promoting ecumenical and inter-faith collaboration within the region.
  6. To strive to stand for, and with, the Church to uphold her greater good, especially in promoting justice and service to the poor. Also to abide by the teachings of the Church on faith and morals.
  7. To offer their services to the local church in disseminating information 24/7, as well as render their expertise to the ordinaries in networking and crisis management.
  8. To establish a platform for Catholic editors/ journalists/ publishers in the Asian region. To institute ‘Catholic Press Association-ASIA’ under the aegis of SIGNIS Asia in collaboration with the Communication department of the FABC.
  9. To give due prominence to the Vatican News in their publications, to inform readers about the Pope, his activities and the Church in the world.

The 2019 SIGNIS Asia Catholic News Publication Editors’ Roundtable has successfully brought together Catholic editors and journalists from Asia, who leave the conference full of hope for co-operation and collaboration in the near future.

Due consideration had been given to participants to spend time to network, interact and bond with each other for the greater good of all.

The SIGNIS World Congress will be held in Korea in 2021.

Q & A sessions with Fr Paul Samasumo from Vatican Radio (facing participants-left) and Fr Pakkam Harris from Vatican Dicastery for Communication (facing participants-right)