“EU Peace Journalism Awards launch”
Remarks by EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux
09 Oct 2014, Al Nor Hotel, Cotabato City
Secretary Deles, Chairman Iqbal, Mrs. Veronica Pedrosa, Partners from the media, from the academe, and civil society organisations.
I am really delighted to be here today with such a large group of journalists for the launch of the Peace journalism award. Three weeks ago, I was in Brussels during the visit of President Aquino to European Institutions. During their meeting, the President of the European Council, Mr. Van Rompuy congratulated President Aquino on the signature of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the submission a few days before of the Bangasamoro basic law to Congress and Senate. President Aquino in return, thanked the European Union for its support of the Mindanao Peace Process.
We are today at a crucial juncture of the Peace Process. A time when the negotiations have been completed while the agreement cannot yet be implemented because the democratic process implies that this agreement be approved by the Philippine parliament and later by the people of the area concerned through a plebiscite.
During my interviews with Filipino journalists, I have very often been asked why is the European Union interested in promoting Peace in Mindanao?
Europe has been affected by centuries of bloody conflicts culminating with the disaster of the Second World War with around 20 million dead in Europe. Following this, European leaders have put all their energy into building peace in Europe, starting with the European Economic Community in 1957, with 6 countries, leading progressively to the European Union with 28 member States today. Building peace is at the heart of the European project, it is in its DNA. Based on that experience, the European Union has set itself the goal of promoting peace in other parts of the world including in the Philippines.
For many years the European Union concentrated its efforts on the provision of development assistance in order to try to reduce poverty in Mindanao. More recently, we started to make a contribution to the political process by joining the International Monitoring Team, by funding a number of non government organizations such as the Centre of Humanitarian Dialogue, which is with us today, to be part of the International Contact Group and by funding a demining operation in the conflict affected areas.
In January of this year we supported the publication by CHD of a primer explaining the elements of the Framework agreements. This primer was translated into 7 languages and 30.000 copies were distributed in the region.
Today is a time of great promise but also a time when the new governance structure is not yet in place. This is a time which should be used to explain to all the stakeholders the benefit of this agreement for the people of Mindanao and for the people of the Philippines. This is a time when the role of the media is even more important than at other times.
Media and journalism can be of great assistance in conflict management and peace building. Broadcasting news by using community radios can help reach people in different areas, even with different languages, more easily. This way people can be addressed directly and their own personal experiences and lives can be described and better understood by both local and national leaders. The potential benefit of the media in conflict and post-conflict situations remains a net positive, and has been too often underutilized.
A measure of peace-building can be enhanced peace journalism. Peace journalism tries to describe the causes behind a conflict and the true goals of all participants while making sure to humanize all victims of the conflict. The journalists don’t try to exploit the loss and suffering but make sure that the reporting is balanced. Ethical guidelines for this kind of reporting include the identification of people that use peaceful measures and speak out against war and violence, and, documenting the suffering and loss on all sides.
Describing the key aspects of this agreement and trying to prevent further escalation of the conflict are at the Centre of peace journalism as well.
Journalists do not shy away from difficult, sensitive or uncomfortable topics such as human rights abuses. Journalists can be considered the helpers of all human rights defenders for they have committed themselves to ethical and moral standards in reporting.
We know that the media sector is also a business and that sensational news sells well. A bit of investigative journalism will lead to the discovery of amazing stories of reconciliation that will also sell well and enlighten the heart of the reader and listener. This is what is needed to promote Peace.
Tomorrow, we will visit Barangay Pedtad in the Municipality of Kabacan. There, the poverty index is 35% and the EU finances a livelihood project implemented by the WFP. We will witness the harvesting of a fishpond benefiting 140 farmers. The last harvest provided 2000 kilos of fish which represents more than 800 PHP per farmer. This might seem a small amount for the city resident but it means a lot for a rural farmer.
Reporting good news which will be put on the front page is always a challenge and I wish you all good luck in this competition. I am looking forward to seeing the entries in the various categories and will be there for the Award ceremony.
Finally I would like to thank all our partners for the organization of this event: the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology, the Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism, Ateneo de Manila University, the Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines and Philstar.com.
Join the EU Peace Journalism Award.
Submit your entries (written text, broadcast, online, photographs in English, Filipino or Local dialect with English translations) created or published from August 15, 2014 until May 31, 2015.