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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Are the media afraid of the church?

In covering women’s health: Are the media afraid of the church?
by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
July 19, 2004; posted at www.thefreeman.com

IN a multimedia discussion on women, religion and reproductive health initiated by Women’s Feature Service, an international wire agency reporting on women’s issues and concerns with support from the Ford Foundation, one concern of women-media practitioners became selected topic: “In covering women’s health, are the media afraid of the church?”

It has been said that "in the media, the medium is language—words (written and spoken)”. These words cause conflict because of misinterpretation, misunderstanding and miscommunication. Today, we ask the church and the media to try to see these words from the eyes of girls, ladies, women, and the world in which they live in.
Titus Brandsma Research Center, a participant to the forum, noted that “to understand the Filipino, it is important to appreciate the powerful undertones of the so-called popular religiosity. These take more and more shape recently in a great variety of non-mainstream Christian movements—a phenomenon that is especially significant because of the often-aggressive presence of sects in the media landscape”.

“The church figures often as high profile in the setting of the national agenda, and thus in the media, on certain politically sensitive issues, like in elections; in the charter change, or in the public debate on death penalty,” so goes the research.

Media practitioners are being challenged by the problems of “neutrality," that media should not go against the right of the audience to information by making the media the instrument to promote certain financial or political interests without the knowledge of the audience.

The commitment to this “neutrality” puts pressure on media practitioners. This pressure is connected with many factors, such as economic dependence, the need to make a career, time pressure (and therefore, often lack of study and research), and confusion on basic standards of decency and justice.

Domini Torrevillas, columnist of The Philippine Star, wrote that “there are many issues in which the clergy and the laity — media practitioners specifically—do not see eye to eye. But two areas which are inextricably linked that continuously stir up passionate and emotional debate are reproductive health and women’s rights.”

The term reproductive health is considered by the Catholic church as abortion, sterilization and contraception. No matter how painstakingly reproductive health advocates explain reproductive health as being neither of the three—but covering a spectrum of concerns—from maternal and child health to reproductive tract infections: HIV/AIDS; to adolescent reproductive health, abortion, men’s reproductive health, prevention of cancers and sexuality education – the church turns a deaf ear to their arguments.

Most media practitioners are Roman Catholic, but many of them feel that the church is unrealistic in its position on family planning, Torrevillas noted.

Can church and the media ever be friends? While media are expected to be fair and accurate in the reporting of events, media should also take on an adversarial role in fighting elements that refuse to accept and respect gender equality and the reproductive rights of women.

But while the choice is between the devil and the deep blue sea, it is interesting to note that Pope John Paul II spoke on this concern in the 35th World Communications Day.

The Pope said that the “Church cannot fail to be ever more deeply involved in the burgeoning world of communications because the media are having an increasing visible effect on culture and its transmission.
“The world of the media can sometimes seem indifferent and even hostile to Christian faith and morality. This is partly because media culture is so deeply imbued with a typically postmodern sense that the only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths,” the Pope adds.

“Or that, if there were, they would be inaccessible to human reasons and therefore irrelevant. Yet as much as the world of the media may at times seem at odds with the Christian message, it also offers unique opportunities for proclaiming the saving truth of Christ to the whole human family.

Consider, for instance, satellite telecast of religious ceremonies which often reach a global audience, or the positive capacities of the Internet to carry religious information and teaching beyond all barriers and frontiers.”
To sum up the inputs of the forum: “churches" should develop a pastoral presence in the media world, rather than build a counter force.©

7/21/2006 07:10:00 PM | Anonymous PceKW4ajWq said....   

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