03/13/2017, 17.28
MALAYSIA – ASIA
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Persecuted for their faith, Christian journalists tell their stories

by Sumon Corraya

Some 20 Christian journalists from 13 Asian countries met on 10-11 March and told their stories. SIGNIS is the World Catholic Association for Communication. One Indonesian editor cannot sign with his Christian name. Fake news is becoming a problem.

Selangor (AsiaNews) – "We cannot sell our magazines in public,” one Pakistan Catholic journalist said. Indeed, “We cannot pin our name to stories of persecution." This case highlights the fact that minority media face obstacles in doing their work.

The Asia Journalists' Roundtable focused on the issue on 10-11 March at the Ecumenical Centre of the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM), Jalan University Selangor.

Organised by SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication, the meeting, titled ‘Communication, hope and trust in our time’, saw the participation of some 20 journalists from 13 countries.

The association’s aim is to promote “ethical professional journalism in the new multimedia era to build a global network for Catholic journalists working across different media in different regions as well as support freedom of expression, and strengthen solidarity among Catholic journalists,” said Jim McDonnell, SIGNIS’s Journalism desk secretary.

For most journalists present, being Christian is a real challenge in the field of communication. The Pakistani journalist noted that it is hard for someone from a religious minority to get into journalism. "We're really a few,” he explained, “so much so that we can be counted on the fingers of a hand."

Yohanes Agus Ismunarno from Indonesia has the same difficulties. "I work in mainstream media as chief news editor but I cannot use my Christian name. I cannot freely practice my confession in my country and express the teachings of Christ in articles."

The roundtable also focused on the proliferation of fake news. Increasingly, the latter have become commonplace in a world where it is difficult to check the reliability of sources. For Alan John, director of the Asia Journalism Fellowship, this makes the journalist's task even more important.

For Perry Paul Lamanilao, from the Philippines, “We need to report first-hand information and always check with extreme accuracy the stories we tell”.

At the same time, "journalists must regain confidence in the profession’s guiding principles,” said Cheng Chomneth, from Cambodia.

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