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Organization: SIGNIS (World Catholic Association for Communication)
The following information may be cited or quoted as long as the source is accurately mentioned and the words are not taken out of context.
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PROGRESS: Has your organization seen progress toward a culture of peace and nonviolence in your domain of action and in your constituency during the first half of the Decade?

We have seen progress at a global level as the media have raised awareness of the need for humanity to act in solidarity. There is less illusion about the horrors of war and its aftermath and more understanding of the ned to strive for peace sulotions to conflict. By showing the realities of war and the human cost the media contribute to a greater scepticism about the use and efficacy of miltary action. The media have also contributed to showing the underlying causes of war and terrorism, bringing home to audiences the unjust structures that hamper the cause of peace. We have also seen the growth of many new independent media outlets, for example, community radio stations, which offer new and alternative perspectives. They contribute to a culture of peace by often being the voice of the voiceless and have a great impact on encouraging solidarity not only locally but also worldwide via the internet.

OBSTACLES: What are the most important obstacles that have prevented progress?

The obstacles remain as ever the reluctance or inability of much of the media to challenge the dominant ways of perceiving and interpreting the world. As they filter out unpleasant news or, in the worst cases, pander to the prejudices of their audiences, the media can exacerbate existing tensions and conflicts. The media coverage of the war on terror has often been in direct opposition to building a culture of peace.  Over dependence on the market, or on governments have hampered the media in their role as guardians of the public interest. Public broadcasting is under continuous pressure and in many countries alternative media are forbidden or actively discouraged.

ACTIONS: What actions have been undertaken by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the first half of the Decade?

The Media in the Service of a Culture of Peace

We live in a world of violence, hatred, racism, and terrorism.  The big media companies designate some their journalists to perform the specialized role of  “war correspondents”.  

Is it utopian to imagine that the media can contribute to peace; to develop in the human conscience a culture of peace?  To give certain journalists a specialized role as “peace correspondents?”  

In November 2003 SIGNIS decided to ask its members, who work in many communication activities (from radio to internet, TV to cinema) in over 140 countries to make the promotion of  a culture of peace through the media  a priority over the next two years.

In early 2004 an issue of the organization’s magazine, SIGNIS Media (2/2004), was devoted to this topic prepared by a special working group.  This group has now prepared a reflection document on the role of the media in the promotion of peace, entitled Media for a Culture of Peace. This document will be discussed at a Public Conference on the theme Media at the Service of a Culture of Peace, taking place in the Valpré centre near Lyon, France from November 5-6, 2005. Prior to the Lyon conference SIGNIS is also collaborating in the organization of a conference on the same theme in Beirut, Lebanon on October 6th to 7th.  The report of the Lebanon conference will provide one of the key inputs into the Lyon meeting.

We are also contributing with other NGOs to the discussions in the Council of Europe and in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) with the objective of strengthening communications rights.  We see the promotion of communication rights in the information society as essential to the promotion of a culture of peace.

During 2004 SIGNIS members took many initiatives to support a culture of peace through the media. Here are some examples:

In December 2003, members in Sri Lanka, during a special ceremony called "Salutation" celebrated the media produced in their country, stressing their contribution to peace.

The film, Zaman, the Man from the Reeds, by the Iraqi director Amer Alwan, received a SIGNIS award at the festival of San Sebastian (September 2003).   The film was then presented by SIGNIS to the UNESCO NGO Assembly in Paris, in December 2003.  In April 2004, it was screened again at the NGO meeting of the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg and also shown by SIGNIS-Luxembourg in October 2004.  This film contributes to the promotion of peace by showing another face of Iraq than that usually conveyed by screens across the world.

In August 2004, SIGNIS members in the Democratic Republic of Congo came together in Kinshasa to discuss how to build peace through the media.  Those in charge of Catholic radio stations located in war zones testified to their efforts to reconcile communities.

In September 2004 SIGNIS brought together a group of eight young peace correspondents to take part in the Universal Forum of Cultures, held in Barcelona.   Their mission was to evaluate the event from two aspects, that of respect for cultural diversity, and promotion of a culture of peace.  The young peace correspondents provided live coverage (via written, video and audio reports on the internet) of two forum dialogues: “New Ignorances, New Illiteracies: Learning to live together in a globalized world” and “Promoting co-existence and security in the information society”.

SIGNIS Asia held its continental assembly in an inter-religious context in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) in October 2004, devoting the study days to the construction of peace in Asia.  A concert for peace was one of the highlights of this meeting, illustrating how much music could also play a significant role in bringing various communities together.

ADVICE: What advice would you like to give to the Secretary-General and the General Assembly to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the second half of the Decade?


PARTNERSHIPS: What partnerships and networks does your organization participate in, thus strengthening the global movement for a culture of peace?

Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS)

PLANS: What new engagements are planned by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence in the second half of the Decade (2005-2010)?


Postal address of organization

SIGNIS, Rue du Saphir 15, 1030 Brussels, BELGIUM

E-mail address of organization

sg@signis.net

Website address of organization

http://www.signis.net

Highest priority action domain of a culture of peace

human rights

Second priority action domain of a culture of peace

sustainable development

Highest priority country of action (or international)

International

Second priority country of action (or international)

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Organization: SIGNIS (World Catholic Association for Communication)

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