March 16, 2017: SIGNIS Malaysia organized “Journalists’ Meet” for Christian journalists and writers on 10th and 11th March 2017. Two days SIGNIS Asia Journalists’ Roundtable discussion and conference was attended by more than 20 journalists from 13 Asian countries at CCM Ecumenical Centre, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Kaula Lumpur, Malaysia.

The special Guest of the event were Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino, Apostolic Nuncio and Archbishop Julian Leow, Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur. They met the participants and encouraged them to be journalists with difference. Archbishop Julian Leow in his address said, “Are you a Catholic that happens to be a journalist or a journalist that happens to be a Catholic?” The stress was laid on responsibly fulfilling journalistic duties and communicating stories of hope and trust.

 

 

Mr. Lawrence John, SIGNIS World Vice-president introduced the participants to SIGNIS (the World Catholic Association for Communication). Dr. Jim McDonnell, SIGNIS Journalism Desk official spoke about the ‘Journalism Desk’ and also to coordinate the support for journalists at the international level. They also talked about the aims of SIGNIS: to promote ethical professional journalism, to build a global network, to strengthen solidarity, to support freedom of expression and to support social networking.

The conference highlighted on two important aspects; first, the message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 51st World Communication Day in May and second, the journalists’ insight on their opportunities, expectations and challenges in their career.

The theme for World Communication Day is “Communicating Hope and Trust in our Times” – ‘Fear not, for I am with you (Is 43:5)’ this year. Centering focus on the theme “to encourage everyone to engage in constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice towards others and foster a culture of encounter, helping all to view the world around with realism and trust”, participants discussed the issue of how Pope’s conferences are received in Asia and their respective countries. Dr. Jim McDonnell facilitated the session full of energy and gusto.

 

 

He said that Pope Francis is a ‘God’s gift to the journalists’. As per him, Pope Francis stressed in his message “to contribute to the search for an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glamorize evil but instead to concentrate on solution and to inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipient”.  Dr. Jim highlighted the key points of Pope from the message: spreading “fake news” is a sin, condemning “fake misinformation”, stop focusing on “bad news” and offering the people of our time storylines that are at heart “good news”. The participants were boosted to fulfill their duties and responsibilities honestly.

In an another session, all participants shared their journalistic insight. They also talked about the opportunities and challenges from their perspective. The session was facilitated superbly by Mr. Augustine Anthuvan, SIGNIS Singapore. The challenges of “Fake News” and “Post Truth” were elaborately explained and discussed by the journalists under the guidance of Mr. Alan John, Director, Asia Journalism Fellowship, Singapore.

The issue of being relevant in our times and beyond fake news and post truth was highlighted by Terence Fernandez, Consultant, Communications and Perception Management, Malaysia. Dr. Magimai Pragasam, SIGNIS Asia Desk, India conducted various innovative communication activities for the participants. This kept the participants active and vibrant. These activities and exercises taught participants to become good communicators as journalists.

Karen Laurie and I got this wonderful opportunity to participate and represent India at the Asia level. It was a unique experience to meet various journalists from thirteen Asian countries. SIGNIS Asia provided such a suitable platform for the journalists of Asia to interact and network amongst themselves and also invite others to join in SIGNIS, Journalism Desk. Though, the Round Table Discussion and Conference has ended but true journey of the journalist begins now. Communicating hope and trust stories in our times through our professional work and journalism must lead us onto the road that brings “good news” to humanity at large.

Report by
Sumit Dhanraj
(The writer is a freelance journalist and educationist)

 

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