Greetings of peace and blessing from URI- Africa.
I took part in the conference organized by the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) and hosted by the Institute of African Studies of Ghana University under the theme of “Journalism and Religion in Africa” held in Accra, Ghana on July 28-29, 2016. The conference was primarily designed for African journalists who are covering religion issues.
The conference which brought together religion journalists and scholars across Africa also reflected on the theme of “Reporting on Religion and Spirituality in Africa.”
The conference was aimed at facilitating fruitful encounters between religion journalists from various countries in Africa. The meeting was designed to allow participants to share resources, build relationships, and share practical tools necessary to meet the highest standards of reporting on issues of religion and spirituality in Africa. The Conference also explored such topics as inter-religious dialogue; covering extremism and conflict; and how religious information sources deal with media outlets and journalists and religious minorities in Africa. The participants of the conference also got the chance to reflect and discuss on religion issues that need to be told and shared from African journalists.
This is the first time such a conference was organized in the African continent. Since IARJ’s founding in 2012, similar conferences have been held in Bellagio (Italy), Belo Horizonte (Brazil), London, Boston (Massachusetts), Brisbane (Australia), and Buenos Aires (Argentina).
I was one of the panelists for the conference, and during my presentation on interfaith peacebuilding work in Africa, I highlighted the need to enhance working partnerships among journalists, faith-based and interfaith organizations, and African policymakers in order to promote interfaith harmony, building trust and understanding. These steps are necessary to collectively secure peace and addressing the issue of countering violent extremism and radicalization.
After two days of reflection, deep discussions, deliberations, sharing experiences, and recognizing the role of media in promoting inter- and intra-faith dialogue for peaceful coexistence, harmony and understanding and the role of journalists in addressing the issue of violent extremism and radicalization in Africa, the participants agreed:
- To promote and build better standards for religion coverage in Africa
- To develop ethical conduct for Journalists who are covering religious issues
- To share accurate information and to pay due attention while writing religious news and to do their best to promote mutual respect
- Acknowledge the role of journalists to promote religious harmony, peace and the dignity of all individuals as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- To strengthen excellent reporting on religion issues to avert religious conflict and misunderstanding
- To refrain from writing reports and articles which provoke tension and conflict among followers of different religions.
- To prevent and combat violent extremism and hate speech in Africa
- To promote partnership with faith base, interfaith organizations and policy makers
IARJ is a global network of journalists promoting excellence in the coverage of religion and spirituality. It provides services and resources to strengthen and support the work of its members. It engages media leaders, educational institutions and communities on the importance of accurate, balanced, and ethical religion coverage to foster understanding.
The goals and objectives of IARJ are:
- To encourage religion reporting and expand the global network of journalists who report on religion.
- To foster cross-border reporting and the establishment of local and regional cooperation.
- To enhance the skills involved in covering religion news stories through the development of religion data resources, industry training, ethical guidelines, meetings and dialogues and through partnerships with related organizations.
- To support journalists who are persecuted in the line of covering religion.
- To promote excellence, education and innovation through scholarships, fellowships, grants and prizes.