Kuala Lumpur, March 17th, 2017 (Sumit Dhanraj). SIGNIS Asia, in collaboration with SIGNIS Malaysia organized a “Journalists’ Meet” for Asian Catholic journalists and writers on 10th and 11th March 2017. During two days, 20 journalists from 13 Asian countries gathered in Kuala Lumpur for roundtables discussions and conferences.

The special guests of the event were Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino, Apostolic Nuncio and Archbishop Julian Leow, Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur. They met the participants and encouraged them “to be journalists with difference”. Archbishop Julian Leow in his address said, “Are you a Catholic that happens to be a journalist or a journalist that happens to be a Catholic?” The stress was laid on responsibly fulfilling journalistic duties and communicating stories of hope and trust.

Mr. Lawrence John, SIGNIS Vice-president introduced the participants to SIGNIS. Dr. Jim McDonnell, from the SIGNIS Journalism Desk, explained that the desk was a support for journalists at the international level. They both talked about the aims of SIGNIS: to promote ethical professional journalism, to build a global network, to strengthen solidarity and to support freedom of expression.

The conference highlighted two important aspects; the message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 51st World Communication Day in May and the journalists’ insight on their opportunities, expectations and challenges in their career.

The theme for the World Communication Day is “Communicating Hope and Trust in our Times” – ‘Fear not, for I am with you (Is 43:5)’ this year. Centering focus on the theme “to encourage everyone to engage in constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice towards others and foster a culture of encounter, helping all to view the world around with realism and trust”, participants discussed the issue of how Pope’s conferences are received in Asia and their respective countries. Dr. Jim McDonnell facilitated the session full of energy and gusto.

He said that Pope Francis is a ‘God’s gift to the journalists’. As for him, Pope Francis stressed in his message “to contribute to the search for an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glamorize evil but instead to concentrate on solution and to inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipient”. Dr. McDonnell highlighted the key points of the Pope’s message: spreading “fake news” is a sin, condemning “fake misinformation”, stop focusing on “bad news” and offering the people of our time storylines that are at heart “good news”. The participants were boosted to fulfill their duties and responsibilities honestly.

In another session, all participants shared their journalistic insight. They also talked about the opportunities and challenges from their perspective. The session was facilitated by Mr. Augustine Anthuvan, from SIGNIS Singapore. The challenges of “Fake News” and “Post Truth” were elaborately explained and discussed by the journalists under the guidance of Mr. Alan John, Director, Asia Journalism Fellowship, in Singapore.

The issue of being relevant in our times and beyond fake news and post truth was highlighted by Terence Fernandez, Consultant, Communications and Perception Management, Malaysia. Dr. Magimai Pragasam, from SIGNIS Asia, conducted various innovative communication activities for the participants. This kept the participants active and vibrant. These activities and exercises taught participants to become good communicators as journalists.