Prejudice and Pride: The Role of Media; (Part 3)

Article excerpt

Byline: Florangel Rosario Braid

GIVEN the present media system which has yet to demonstrate that it can be a potent force in nurturing tolerance, what agenda can we propose for future policy and action?

1. One is a comprehensive framework for research which will analyze prejudice from a multi-disciplinary framework. This would go beyond earlier focus on historical research and content analysis of perceptions and attitudes. The latter had provided needed understanding of the roots of prejudice and how media had indeed reinforced stereotypes. Future research must however, move beyond manifest content into the domain of attitudes. The latter, shown in latent content is characterized by omissions, distortions, and trivialization. These latent prejudices may also explain lack of openness to new knowledge.

2. Examine dynamics in the media environment -- the nature of media ownership, codes of ethics and editorial policies, commercialism, and entertainment orientation which could guide the formulation of programs aimed at upgrading standards of ethics and search for alternative channels for expression.

3. Search for alternative forms of media ownership -- community radio and newspapers, public broadcasting, Internet blogging and podcasting, or similar channels which provide access to diverse cultural groups. Policies such as those which encourage affirmative action; facilitate ownership of media enterprises by Muslims, open up space on Muslim affairs in commercial media, and encourage entry of young Muslim writers in mainstream media are recommended.

4. Focus on agenda-setting programs which (1) enable media to become a forum for discussion of issues that are of critical importance to the Muslims - e.g., the Bangsamoro and sovereignty issues; (b) effect a more balanced media coverage of the positive contribution of Islam to society. Media can rectify earlier "sins of omission" of contributions of Islam in science, language, and religion; (c) emphasize not merely the exotic and externalities of culture (dance and music), but also the values, beliefs, and traditions; (d) emphasize commonalities rather than differences; and (e) provide a more balanced coverage of war and peace, and especially to peace and conflict resolution. .

5. Investigative and process reporting on the roots of conflict, the invisible effects of trauma, hatred and desire for revenge; the effect of war on women and children require social and cultural sensitivity. This also calls for a re-structuring of editorial guidelines and training curricula for journalists

6. Media as an effective catalyst of global trends such as (a) the Unesco Convention on Cultural Diversity and its principle of openness and balance, (b) "rights-based approach to development," (c) debate on "clash of civilizations," (d) growth of "Islamaphobia," (e) growing number of Christians converted to Islam due to perception that the latter has a "clearer moral map," (f) terrorism being associated with Islam, (g) worldwide protests against cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad in a negative light; and (h) Pope Benedict XVI's controversial statement which had aroused outrage. …