Will Truth Set Mindanao Free?

Peace Reporting:

Zamboanga City – THE mainstreaming of peace reporting among Mindanao’s journalists has still a long way to go, but experts are noting the practice has been gaining ground in recent years.

Thanks to the intervention of foreign universities and institutions, more than 50 journalists based in the Southern Philippines have been taught skills in peace reporting in recent years.

“At least these trained journalists can already spread the good news and the new technique on how to handle conflict sensitive story,” said the editor of chief of a local daily paper here.

Capacitating the media on conflict journalism is one strategy to level up the quality of journalism in the Philippines, according to Jake Lynch, a veteran journalist, who authored with his wife Annabel Mcgoldrick the blue-colored book “Peace Journalism.”

With its powerful role to influence the mind and opinion of the public on certain issue, the media, Lynch said, should be always reminded of their responsibilities to their readers, viewers, and listeners. And the approach is the new theory on Peace Journalism, which is a form of journalism that frames stories in a way that encourages conflict analysis and a non-violent response.

“Peace journalism should be integrated in the whole spectrum of journalism,” Lynch told PeaceWorks in a previous interview.

He and his wife have been training Mindanao-based journalists, who normally faced armed-conflict stories in the field.

Too, conflict-sensitive media outfits have emerged in recent years, such as the online news agency Mindanews. In its vision statement, the people behind Mindanews said: “We also believe that Mindanao is not all bad news and that our responsibility as journalists and information providers is to ensure a mixed balance of reports beyond the usual fare published in national newspapers or aired on radio and TV.”

However, trained conflict-sensitive journalists have yet to get the support of theirt communities, especially of their editors, who are most of the time hunting for conflict and highly sensationalized news stories.

“Sometimes, my stories gets twisted, despite my effort to integrate the principles of peace journalism on my stories,” a correspondent of a national daily told PeaceWorks.

According to Antonia Koop, international coordinator for Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (PECOJON) based in Bacolod City, most people tend to equate peace journalism to peace advocacy.

“It’s not peace advocacy but rather seeks to create space for a peaceful resolution, instead of escalating it further as many news stories are now researched, written and presented,” she had said.

“Conflict-sensitive journalism as a new paradigm seeks to re-establish the journalist’s role in reporting conflict by using peace journalism tools and techniques such as conflict analysis, to help the stakeholders involved in a conflict to understand the nature of the conflict, who are involved in it, and the information they need to resolve it themselves,” she added.

At present, PECOJON has six chapters in the Philippines: Manila, Luzon, Visayas, Western Mindanao, Northern Mindanao and Davao. Membership has reached more than 200 journalists.

“The journalist community can’t just move this battle for better news coverage; it should get the nod of the entire society in its taste towards news,” another local editor here said.

The good side of it, the anonymous editor said, people or the news audience are now getting sensitive over what the media are feeding them.

“People gradually understand the good story, which is balanced, analytical, in depth, and represents the underlying factor of the problem that eventually lead to the audiences’ thinking of what possible solutions could address a certain problem or conflict,” Koop said.

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