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Catholic communicators vow to build healthier communities

NEW DELHI (UCAN): Catholic communicators in Asia have taken up the challenge to help expose the hidden agendas of mainstream media and build healthier communities away from “toxic messages.”
Such messages in both mass and social media need to be replaced with “positive and futuristic content” to build healthy communities, said a statement issued after the August 4 to 8 assembly of SIGNIS Asia, the regional wing of the global forum of Catholic audio-visual communicators, in the Indian capital, New Delhi.
Some 120 people from 19 countries attended.
The media has the power “to inform, empower and build communities” but can also “divide communities through toxic messages by vested interests and business-centered media owners,” the statement said.
The gathering resolved “to initiate a series of reflections” among its members and Catholics in general through training programmes, video and radio productions, publications, film discussions and digital media.
These activities aim “to identify the negative messages that divide people and to replace them with positive and futuristic messages with a focus on building communities,” the statement said.
The members should also “move beyond the conventional paradigm of tolerance and begin to celebrate diversity” and become “wise and brave to counter fear with facts and truth.”
The statement comes against the backdrop of an atmosphere of intolerance in India against religious and ethnic minorities as Hindu groups push to make India a Hindu-only nation.
The assembly urged members to work for “solution-oriented journalism and enable people to come out of echo chambers where they keep listening only to their voices and not of others.”
They also wanted to help the younger generation understand the positive use of social media in building communities.
Senior journalist, Seema Mustafa, who delivered a keynote address, said the editors of present-day media in India have “virtually no voice” as news organisations are controlled by industrialists and corporates.
K.G. Suresh, former director of the All India Institute of Mass Communication, said the editorial sections of news bureaus have been taken over by marketing and commercial departments.
“We have perceived news reporting due to an inbuilt prejudice,” he said while deliberating on how media platforms have been used deliberately to create hostilities between communities. However, the bright side is that social media has democratised news, he noted.
SIGNIS global president, Helen Osman, who conducted a workshop on crisis communication management, said that “it was fascinating to see people of great hope in the most challenging circumstances continue to work passionately for the gospel.”
Besides the global leaders of the group, its Asian president Father Joseph Anucha; secretary, Bernadetta Widiandajani; and board member, Magimai Pragasam, also attended the assembly.
SIGNIS India bearers hosted the assembly under the leadership of its president, Father Stanley Kozhichira; vice-president Father Norbert Herman; and secretary, Father Vijay Victor Lobo.

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