Thursday, September 13, 2007

Conflict-Sensitive Reporting aims to rethink journalist's role

BACOLOD, Negros Occidental (Mike Baños / Sep 13) - The Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (PECOJON) recently completed its first ever trainer's training in a bid to multiply its advocacy to revisit the journalist's role especially in the reportage of conflict stories.

PECOJON International Coordinator Antonia Koop lectures PECOJON trainers during the first PECOJON trainor's training held in Bacolod City recently.

"PECOJON is the only network of journalists worldwide that links theory and practice in conflict-sensitive journalism as defined by German journalist Nadine Bielke, based on peace journalism tools and techniques developed by British journalists Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick, who in turn started their ground breaking work from the works of peace scholar Johann Galtung" said Antonia Koop, international coordinator for PECOJON based in this city.

"We are an international network of journalists who work in, with, and about conflict," said Jeanette C. Patindol, national coordinator. "The members are print, radio and broadcast journalists, journalism teachers and students as well as writers and filmmakers who have committed themselves to solidarity and networking for a constructive conflict reporting."

"The network is a platform for investigation and practical support but also acts as a base for common projects, trainings and discussion," said Ledrolen Manriquez, chief of operations of the PECOJON national secretariat, who together with Ms. Koop and Ms. Patindol, co-founded PECOJON in 2004.

Ms. Koop clarifies that conflict-sensitive journalism is not peace advocacy but rather seeks to create space for peaceful resolution, instead of escalation, as many news stories are now researched, written and presented.

"This new reporting 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 its nature, who are involved in it, and the information they need to resolve it themselves," Ms. Koop said.

The "round-table" approach to reportage gives voice to the goals of the various stakeholders involved in a conflict, thereby opening up space for creative solutions to the conflict, she added.
"I got years of extensive experience in the profession but learning has always been a continuing process for me. I have dedicated my career on achieving excellence in journalism," said Dennis Jay Santos, Davao correspondent of a national broadsheet, following the first trainer's training.

"PECOJON gives me a fresh understanding on how journalism takes an important role in the modern world and insights on how to best meet the challenges that confronts us as journalists."
PECOJON started as a Philippine-German partnership and now has some 350 members in Australia, Austria, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, Japan, Kosovo, Nigeria, Somalia, Thailand, Togo, United Kingdom, United States and the Philippines.

Currently better known as a training institution, PECOJON has been running a series of trainings on conflict-sensitive reporting with assistance from the International Institute for Journalism (IIJ) of InWent, Berlin. However, Ms. Koop feels its time for members to take their learnings to the next step and use it in their profession.

"Our network is member-driven," she said. "Everything comes from the members, everything is for the members. Transforming the world, all ideas come from members. How the world covers conflict is how members want it."

At present, PECOJON has six chapters in the Philippines : Manila, Luzon, Visayas, Western Mindanao, Northern Mindanao and Davao.

"We have no "top-down" culture," said Ms. Patindol. "We are on track with our own vision which is "member-driven." Members present ideas on how they can grow better, we just support."
For now, all chapter coordinators all volunteers, but in the future each chapter is envisioned to nominate three coordinator candidates with the National Secretariat making the final choice.

"The National Secretariat's criteria on who is best suited to coordinate the chapter would depend on its current development and needs," said Ms. Manriquez. "We need coordinators who have the ability, time and most important, commitment to lead their chapters."

German journalist Antonia Koop tours visiting journalists at the PECONON Headquarters in Bacolod City.

The National Secretariat is composed of all chapter coordinators and acts as the body that would shape the network, and choose a national coordinator from among themselves. It will be the center of the national network and its main channel of communications, Ms. Patindol said.

"The international coordinating committee consists of a representative each from each national network and we envision this to be organized in five to seven years," Ms. Koop said.

Like in the Philippines, all international chapters will be manned by volunteers with each country given the leeway to choose its own legal personality, given the peculiarities inherent of the law in each country.

As of now, PECOJON will focus on its trainings and coming out with the PECOJON Handbook before the end of the year, Ms. Patindol said.

From the Philippines, PECOJON will eventually conduct its trainings in East Timor and Indonesia by 2008; adding one training each for Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Cambodia by 2009 and two trainings in these same countries by 2010.

In the long run, PECOJON visualizes itself as one international network with which journalists can work together. Other projects online include media consultancy to invite media leaders to ask their opinion on how they can improve journalism and exchange programs to strengthen international ties starting with Togo, West Africa.

Eventually, the network aims to establish a PECOJON Palm Academy which aims to close the gap between theoretical background and practical application of conflict-sensitive journalism based on a training needs analysis which shall identify the gap between academe and PECOJON members in the field.

"The idea is to run a complete program for conflict-sensitive journalism perspective on quality management on air TV, radio stations from a united newsroom," Ms. Koop said. "The core idea is to have resources shared by all media organizations and grow the young ones together for better reporting."


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