Exchanging on Conflict Sensitive Journalism and Conflict Transformation in the Philippines

Horizontal Exchange of forumZFD in the Philippines on Conflict Sensitive Journalism and Conflict Transformation


Our two project coordinators, Wiebke Warkentin and Tobias Pietsch, participated in a Horizontal Exchange of forumZFD in the Philippines, together with Iuna Vieira from the Forum Civil Peace Service (forumZFD) Jerusalem team. This format of exchange aims for mutual learning and the sharing of best practice approaches in the different areas in which forumZFD is active. The exchange program took place in the Mindanao Region in the South of the island state, from February 8th to the 19th. Mindanao faces multiple intertwined conflicts that derive from struggles over land and natural resources as well as cultural and ideological divisions. The situation in Mindanao is characterized by the struggle of multiple Muslim rebel groups for the creation of an autonomous Region on the one hand, and by the armed insurgency of the Maoist New People’s Army, which has persevered for almost 50 years, on the other. Caught in the crossfire, diverse groups of Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao struggle for a recognition of their rights.

The exchange began with the International Academic Conference “On Conflict-Sensitive Journalism”, that took place at the Ataneo de Davao University. 300 participants, consisting predominantly of students from the Philippines, but also including experts and practitioners from South East Asia, Europe and the Middle East, discussed their experience and ideas regarding conflict-sensitive journalism (CSJ). This approach strives for a media coverage that gives voice to all sides of the story, particularly in situations of conflict: Journalists need to critically reflect on their own roles as well as on dominant narratives in society, which may be prejudiced. By using the CSJ toolbox, the media can help mitigate tensions, instead of deepening social division through one-sided or sensationalized reporting.

During the exchange, the participants met the staff of forumZFD Philippines and their local partner organizations in Davao City and Cotabato City. In both offices, the work focusses on media as a tool for conflict transformation. The Media Educators Mindanao network (MEM), based in Davao City, developed curricula on conflict-sensitive journalism that are used in eight universities and colleges throughout Mindanao. In Cotabato City, which is part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the participants visited the Forum-team and their office, while their main focus was on exchanging ideas and experiences with activists of the Kutawato Multimedia Network (KuMuNet). Since 2013, and with the support of forumZFD, the Kutawato Multimedia Network produces a weekly one-hour radio program that reaches remote rural areas in the region. The program reports on the latest developments of the peace process and provides a platform for discussing listeners’ concerns. Hence, the network’s diverse and nuanced coverage contributes to the de-escalation of the conflict, and facilitates a constructive dialogue. To go live on the radio program “The Voice of Peace” and to see how the show is produced was a very impressive experience!

Back in Jerusalem, the participants presented the outcomes of the exchange to the entire team of the Willy Brandt Center and froumZFD Jerusalem. Many of the tools and ideas that were gained in the Philippines could be applied in our internal and external communications, as well as in different projects in Israel and Palestine. The team is now brainstorming ideas for implementation in the local context, and planning for a reciprocal exchange.