By M. Antoinette Jerom, November 27, 2021
Jacqueline Fernandez ICRC Myanmar’s Communications Manager, Shay Cullen, Founder and President of Preda Foundation, Philippines, and independent journalist, columnist and author Kalpana Sharma, were all primed to answer candid questions fielded by participants from 14 countries at the Humanitarian Journalism panel discussion during SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk’s webinar Journalism in a Fragmented World.
Are advocacy and activism part of the journalism mandate? Very much so; the speakers were unanimous on this, on the grounds of humanity. Journalists are the preferred choice to report stories of suffering as media has the power to grab attention, question authorities, call for action and raise awareness about ground-level activities. But journalists should feel privileged when individuals or communities share their stories; Jacqueline emphasized that these stories should be respected and dealt with responsibly.
Shay mentioned journalists’ moral and legal obligation to report the truth. While grappling with misinformation spread in social media and personally exposed to life-threatening danger, a journalist of integrity is to be valued and revered. Humanitarian reporting should be concerned about the welfare of the people while upholding ethics of doing good and speaking and writing the truth. Journalists equipped with words and with ethical reporting and broadcasting, have the power to change the course of history, arouse emotions, and influence people to think and inspire good.
During a crisis, it is the job of a journalist to intervene proactively and become an advocate for better relief. Kalpana remarked that beyond reporting facts, it requires professional journalistic skills to “excavate” the layers of a story such as gender, class or caste, and report holistically. She decried ‘Breaking News’ as responsible for destroying news reporting and abusing the hard-earned freedom of the press.
On the pretext of having a news flash and achieving first place in the race, media has lost its plot in understanding the context of a story. The upcoming generation that is breaking-news savvy, will be misinformed and lack full knowledge of the real issues. It is also important to be truthful and address the shortcomings of institutions working with good intentions, so that they are not repeated.
Advocacy and activism are intrinsically entwined with journalism, and collaborate to bring the truth to light. A comprehensive understanding of social, political, and economic realities, and the ability to read between the lines are prerequisites to Humanitarian Journalism, and reporting with empathy, respect and dignity.
SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk and LICAS News Asia are the organisers of the SIGNIS Asia Journalism Fellowship Programme on the theme “Journalism in a Fragmented World,” a seven-week programme for lay Catholic and like-minded journalists working in the secular media. Offered virtually, the seven-week webinar brings together 25 selected participants from 14 countries to build capacity and promote exchange among media professionals and journalists who want to use their platform for social change. Programme details: https://www.signisasia.net/journalism-in-a-fragmented-world-webinar-2021/