Monday, January 16, 2012

Media and the Quest for Peace

By Marvin Salazar

In your perspective, what are the best ways to support and promote the Philippine peace process?

The quest for peace in the Philippines is probably one of the most challenging tasks to any given administration. A lot initiatives have been formulated over the years in addressing various conflicts such as formal dialogues and peace negotiations to name a few. However, it is very surprising that despite the apparent and vigorous social actions of various sectors, the road to achieving peace in the country seems very tortuous and remains to be elusive. What could be the reason for such delays? Well, we can always enumerate a plethora of reasons or perhaps blame specific people. However, I would like to direct my thoughts on media and how they impede the peace process in the land.

As a journalism graduate, I am a bit ashamed to admit that media have been somehow contributing to delays in the peace process in as much as they fast tract it. Sadly, media have their own individual prejudices and bias evident in the results of their reporting. Many reporters, editors and producers today have been tuning to sensationalism in the spirit of high ratings and more advertisers for their networks. F. Rosario-Braid once wrote “there were a lot of informal surveys and content analysis of print and broadcast media reporting in the past indicating that the media tended to deal with contentious issues like stories that pitted protagonists against each other rather than on areas of mutual agreement, articles highlighting conflict and personalities and one-sided presentations.”

I am personally saddened with the reality that oftentimes, the public media have neglected the more sensible angles of the news, which are far more interesting, like laymen or civilian perspective and efforts to bring assistance to the victims. The citizen and NGO peace efforts also receive so meager attention despite the high importance of this viewpoint. In my observation, I think media has developed this hostile relationship with civil society groups. It has now become a Philippine media practice to treat civil society groups as unimportant so they rarely consult them for news stories related to endeavours for social development since their opinions are not newsworthy.

However, despite these alarming truths, I still have high regards to media practitioners. I know some personal friends in the industry who continue to uplift the quality of the Philippine media and uphold the highest standards of journalism. In my opinion, one practical and concrete action to do to support and promote the Philippine peace process is through responsible practice of the Philippine media. Time and time again, it is proven that media play a crucial part in the peace process of the country. Guiam (1999) said “media set the agenda for public debate. It may not participate directly in negotiations, but its intermediary role as facilitator and vehicle for information about the process can make or break the peace.”

Media practitioners, especially those on the top level positions like editors and producers, must realize that power entrusted in their hands. Media should direct their attention on facilitating free and open discussion, disseminating information on agreements on vital issues, creating an ambiance of cooperation, promoting hope and congeniality rather than despair (F. Rosario-Braid). Peace is a collective effort requiring the participation of all sectors in the society. And I think, the responsible practice of media will definitely lay a development framework in ending the quest for peace in the Philippines.

*NOTE: First posted by Marvin Salazar on his Facebook wall as an entry to OPAPP's peace planner giveaway promo.

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