KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Journalists from 13 different countries in Asia have gathered in a roundtable discussion to talk about the effect of spreading hoaxes and fake news online.

The SIGNIS or also known as the World Catholic Association for Communication has convened 20 journalists and media practitioners from 13 different countries in Asia for the roundtable organized by SIGNIS Malaysia at the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) in Petaling Jaya, Selangor on March 10 to 11, 2017.

With the theme “Communicating Trust and Hope in our Time,” the SIGNIS Asia Journalists’ Roundtable aims to explore ways of how Christian communicators can address the spread of fake news online and discuss how the Church communicates hope, love and peace in the world in this day and age.

THE CHURCH vs FAKE NEWS

The roundtable discussion highlighted the spread of hoaxes and fake news across digital platforms (e.g. websites, social media, among others) and how to fight the continuous effect of misleading consumers of news and media content around the world.

‘BE THE MESSAGE YOURSELF.’ Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim encouraged all the journalists, media practitioners and guests to be the person of honesty and credibility in writing and telling stories.

Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur challenged everyone to be truthful and honest in writing news and telling stories. 

“I know it’s difficult to be journalist. It’s an oxymoron sometimes to be an honest politician or to be a journalist that writes the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,”said Leow who also delivered his input during the meet. 

He said that truth has different shapes depending on who a journalist is writing for.

But by the end of the day, I think, just to say that, you be the message. You be the message yourself – your lifestyle, your values, the person that you are. I think that speaks volumes. You can write anything your bosses ask you to write or you can resign because you don’t want to write what your bosses ask you to write. The decision is yours to be a person of integrity and believe if you are an honest, if you put the truth, if you put your faith before you – opportunities will be there,”he added.

“Are you a Catholic who happens to be a journalist? Or are you a journalist who happens to be a Catholic?” the archbishop said, challenging the participants.

JOURNALISTS TELL THEIR STORIES

Communication experts from all over Asia were also invited to discuss different perspectives and challenges. 

Augustive Anthuvan, a senior TV journalist, trainer and media literacy facilitator, discussed the power of collaboration. 

He shared some of his work and best practices as a journalist as he also encouraged fellow journalists and media practitioners to collaborate with other news agencies, media outlets and other groups/organizations around the world to produce multi-media content.

Allan John, former deputy editor of The Strait Times and now a consulting editor at the Institute of Policy Studies – National University of Singapore (NUS), discussed the challenges of 
fake news and post truth.

Terence Fernandez, a media and perception management consultant discussed about investigative reporting – the threats, challenges and difficulties experienced by the journalists and media practitioners in Asia.

START SMALL, AIM BIG

According to Dr. Jim McDonnell who serves as the head of department for representation in SIGNIS, the newly formed journalism desk in Brussels, Belgium aims to promote ethical professional journalism. Journalism Desk will support and coordinate different programs and projects of Church journalists and media practitioners at the international level.

“When we were planning the meet, we really were not sure how many lay Catholic secular journalist will attend. Our target was clear – to reach out to individuals (like you) who are in the thick and thin of creating tomorrow’s headlines in small and big ways in your community,”said Lawrence “Eljay” John, the vice president of SIGNIS.

“Our goal in SIGNIS is simple – as a Catholic, bring together a small like-minded media practitioners to serve for the common good,” he added.

The two-day roundtable helped in gathering thoughts, ideas and concerns from journalists and communications from different regions in Asia how to find meaning in representing the media profession given the current fluidity in the media landscape.

Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino also graced the said event. 

SIGNIS Asia Journalists Roundtable in Kuala Lumpur is the first meeting organized by the Catholic Media organization producing the first batch of SIGNIS Journalism Desk Program in Asia.

Published by Perry Paul Lamanilao

Perry Paul Lamanilao is a professional digital media strategist, as well as an advocate for media literacy and education, and local peace engagement and climate change awareness. Follow @perrylamanilao online for more.