The Words of the Fernando Family

Working For A Responsible Media

Oscar E. V. Fernando
March 30, 2007
Ambassador for Peace
Sri Lanka

Media, with its access to the vast realm of information technology, should take on a responsible role in expressing opinions in a fair, ethical and responsible manner; concise and compact versions of opinions expressed by journalists contribute to the formation of public opinion, since people are generally too busy for copious reading. Opinions so formed influence social, national and international decisions. Such is the importance of the media and journalists that the media has now been dubbed the Fourth Estate coming after the legislature, executive and the judiciary.

On researching various subjects, journalists express opinions; aren’t opinions only views held as probable? A mutual understanding of this concept by both readers and writers would immensely contribute to the well-being of society in defusing tense situations that often arise due to histories opined by contending factions.

The important role of the media in conflict situations has led to the establishment of various institutions to protect media personnel. The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) of the UK that arbitrates disputes between writers and aggrieved readers is one such institution: codes of conduct have been laid down by the PCC covering deficiencies in the law regarding the rights and duties of journalists and readers. The establishment of such independent institutions in as many countries as possible is a matter that deserves the close attention of the UPF.

Some journalists pursue only sensationalism in reporting; there is much more to journalism than mere sensation and outright news reporting: there should be an attempt to inculcate civic consciousness amongst people often plagued with divisive forces that inflame passions and cause estrangement in families, societies and nations. Journalists would do well to douse such passions with their expressive skills.

Research by journalists could become a springboard for dialogue in public forums to make way for peace and solidarity among people who could stem the tide of terrorism, warfare and hatred that has taken front stage in society today.

With the dizzying heights of advanced technology, media empires that are not properly managed and coordinated run the risk of manipulating and conditioning, rather than serving, society with irresponsible journalism; this can become a destructive weapon that fosters injustice and conflicts. Would that media barons give heed to exacting truthful and dispassionate reports from journalists, while keeping a strict eye on profit margins -- for their own survival even if not for the sake of humanity’s peaceful existence!

Conflicts experienced today are communicative conflicts more than factual problems. Communicative conflicts if neglected can lead to armed conflicts; this could be prevented by journalists using their skills of expression. Research available to journalists with advanced information technologies in the fields of economics, politics, culture, human rights and duties, including promotion of obligations towards others and safeguarding the dignity of persons and families, could help reconcile contending communities.

There is an obvious clash of civilizations due to religious and ethnic conflicts originating from dogmatically opined histories; could this not be a clash of ignorance where journalists could play an important role as communicators? Such contentious views within a country without genuine discussions facilitated by an independent monitor can only lead to warfare within nations.

Imminent clashes of civilizations are so prevalent in the world today that a well represented unit set up at the United Nations could serve as an independent summit-level third party to monitor such historical controversies so potent with terrorism. This could be a proposition made by the UPF to the United Nations.

Most people today loath public discussion on the subject of God and spirituality; that the mass media abhors this subject is a foregone conclusion. It would almost seem a satanic device to continue with the fashionable splash of materialism that the world is engulfed in -- a course of action that has done no good to the universe when observed in retrospect. Rev. Dr. Moon, a very successful business magnate of universal repute, through his lay projects such as the UPF, is taking the world by storm in discussing and propagating the subject of God and spirituality in open forums throughout the world.

It is well for media personnel to study the ethical tenets emphasized by the UPF so that these could be reflected in their writings with no inhibitions related to spirituality. The UPF speaks of God as the common Father of humankind: its projects encourage complete freedom for all participants in conferences and workshops to maintain their respective religious beliefs; what is expected is a dialogue to get to the core values of all religions in the joint pursuit of world peace. Such values are put to pragmatic use in doing service projects that are often commenced with the participants’ own religious rituals and inspirational messages.

This writer’s further views on this subject covering a workshop held in Sri Lanka with the participation of a Buddhist monk leading a group of Buddhists together with several other religionists, is reflected in a separate article entitled ‘Interracial Harmony through Service, Sports and Music’ that has been carried in the UPF publications and in the local press.

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