Philippines: OPAPP concludes workshops on peace journalism

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Written by Anna Dinglasan

CLARK, PAMPANGA, DEC. 16 - The last of three series workshops on Communications for Peace Building was held Hotel Stotsenberg here last Saturday with 16 journalists based in Central Luzon as participants.

The workshop is part of a project conceptualized and implemented by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Media and Public Affairs Services (OPAPP/MPAS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under a project called Conflict Prevention and Peace Building Programme.

Earlier, two similar workshops were held on the island of Panglao, Bohol and Bacolod City.

The project aims to develop an effective communication strategy and mechanism for advocacy and promotion of the National Peace Agenda and the government's peace-building efforts emphasizing the important role that media plays in fostering and promoting peace.

"As journalists, the only role we have is to find the truth and bring it out. The only role that journalists have in peace-building is to tell the truth," said Jose Pavia, Executive Director of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI).

Retired Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia, former member of the government peace panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said that while media's primary role is to gather and disseminate information, it must also be able to transcend its role towards educating the public.

Ms. Paulyn Sicam, a member of the government negotiating panel with the communist rebels, gave an update on the status of the peace talks.

The other speakers were Romy Halabaso, executive director of OPAPP, talked on the comprehensive peace process; and Dr. Divine Pasumbal, director of the Public Affairs Office of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, gave a lengthy lecture on communications education and peace journalism.

During the open form, the participants expressed their concerns, particularly on their safety in the wake of the Maguindanao massacre where 57 people, including 30 journalists were killed.