Saturday, November 12, 2005

SIGNIS launches a Declaration for Media for a Culture of Peace

"Media for a Culture of Peace"
SIGNIS Declaration of Lyon

“A fundamental change in the way we communicate through the media”, was called for by the members of SIGNIS, (the World Catholic Association for Communication) meeting at their world congress on Media for a Culture of Peace in Lyon, from November 4-11th 2005.

The 190 participants, media professionals from 5 continents, launched the appeal in their Declaration of Lyon.

“Communication through the media”,
they affirmed, must be “centred anew in our capacity to live with each other as we contribute to a world of peace, respect and solidarity.”

In the Declaration, all the participants committed themselves to building a Culture of Peace. They agreed to help develop the capacity of the media to put individuals, groups and peoples in communication with each other, especially the poorest, and to support the independence of the media in conflict situations. They also gave priority to media education.

They also stressed the importance of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. In a keynote address, Oliver McTernan, an expert in media and religion, warned of the potential destructive power of religion. He asserted that in order to understand today’s crises, and to bring about a culture of peace, we must dare to “dialogue with people we consider beyond diplomacy”.

Created in November 2001, SIGNIS is the inheritor of two international Catholic associations for communication, which date back to 1928. It brings together in more than 140 countries, professionals in the fields of radio, television, cinema, video, media education, Internet and new technologies.


Declaration of Lyon

We, media professionals and citizens,
Christians and members of the World Catholic Association for Communication (SIGNIS)meeting together in Lyon,

Call for a fundamental change in the way we communicate through the media centred anew in our capacity to live with each other as we contribute to a world of peace, respect and solidarity.

At the beginning of the 21st century, there is an urgency to develop a culture of peace in order to respond to the hopes for peace expressed by people across the world. They are confronted by violence arising from a lack of respect for the dignity of each human person. Such a lack of respect stems from so many causes: in particular, hunger and structural injustices, nationalism, ethnic and religious conflicts, terrorism and wars.

We recall
that peace is not the absence of conflicts. Conflict can often be the path towards a world of greater solidarity and justice. Peace is a way of resolving conflicts, not according to the force of might, but by respecting internationally accepted norms, the rule of law and negotiation, with the aim of achieving a fullness of life for each and every one.

We are convinced
that in each human being, there is a profound desire for peace. For us, peace is a gift of God that we have to welcome. “Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called children of God”. We have the capacity to realize peace. Across the world, people of every country, of every condition, of every faith and none, are working, suffering and giving their lives for peace.

We declare and emphasise
that peace today necessarily involves the media. The information media and the popular and entertainment media have the capacity to be mediators. As means of communication, their fundamental purpose is to contribute to mutual understanding and solidarity. We live more and more in pluralistic and multi-cultural societies. This situation can generate misunderstandings and fears. The media can help us to live together in peace, by enabling us to accept and embrace the diversity of identities, bringing social recognition to different groups and communities. Or, the media can fail in their responsibilities, by favouring violence through reinforcing sectarian identities, sensationalizing, stereotyping or stirring up hatred.

That is why
joining with others who are contributing to the culture of peace, we commit ourselves to realise the following objectives:

1. To work to help develop the capacity of the media to put individuals, groups and peoples into communication with each other
a. To help develop the capacity of the public, and in particular young people, to acquire an active attitude, a critical distance, and a freedom to make informed judgments about the media. This should be a top priority.
b. To promote just and truthful portrayals of different groups in society and to open the possibility for all to participate fully in the communication process, especially the poorest people and countries.
c. To provide a space for inter-religious and intercultural dialogue and democratic debate.
d. To uphold an ethical standard that consistently affirms the dignity of each person in the way in which they are portrayed.
e. To be attentive to the emotional force of sounds, and especially of images: depending on the way in which they are created and disseminated they can lead to anxiety as well as sympathy, to voyeurism as well as solidarity.

2. To support the independence of the media in conflict situations
a. To be in solidarity with those who are working to build freedom of expression and human rights
b. To encourage media to respect the public by giving serious and in-depth information, without giving in to different forms of political and economic censorship and other pressures.

3. To be alert to the role of the media in conflicts
a. To seek to know and understand the causes and roots of events
b. To expose structural or other injustices
c. To be aware of the way in which violent events are covered, to the impact on public opinion; and to encourage an approach that avoids implying that violence is a normal way of resolving conflict.

As media professionals and Christians, contributing to a culture of peace, we commit ourselves to be the voice of the voiceless and the face of the faceless. This will require courage and taking risks in order to render a prophetic service, as have numerous media professionals who continue to suffer opposition and violence. Many of them have lost their lives. Promoting the culture of peace is one way of honouring the memory of their sacrifice.

November 6th 2005