Mass Media as an Important Factor in Establishing Inter-ethnic and Inter-religious Tolerance

MASS MEDIA AS AN IMPORTANT FACTOR 
IN ESTABLISHING INTER-ETHNIC AND INTER-RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE, UNDERSTANDING AND COOPERATING IN THE BALKANS

Belgrade, 3 November 2009

The Round Table was held three days after the Fifth ECPD International Conference on National and Inter-ethnic Reconciliation, Inter-religius Tolerance and Human Security in the Balkans, on the Brioni islands, Croatia. The Round Table was based on, and stemmed from the ECPD International Project on Inter-ethnic Reconciliation and Inter-confessional Tolerance or, more precisely, on the proposals given at the Fourth ECPD  International Conference and the Decision made by the ECPD Academic Council that the problems of  reconciliation and tolerance should be considered, as well, at lower levels and breaked into more specified issues.

Following that orientation, the ECPD coordinated its activities with interested individuals and institutions and accepted Belgrade Archbishop Stanislav Hočevar's suggestion to organize a round table which would be devoted to the role of mass media  in inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations. The organization of the Round Table was supported by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Caritas and the Studio Walker.

The basic aims of the Round Table were: a) to identify the key problem areas, specific needs and room for improvement of cooperation between the media on one side, and ethnic and religious communities on the other;  b) to engage in a durable multy disciplinary dialogue on the theme among journalists, academics, experts, officials and representatives of various organizations and communities.

The one-day Round Table was presided by H.E. Prof. Takehiro Togo, President of the ECPD Academic Council. It was attended by 36 active participants (panelists, moderators, commentators), 22 registered observers, and a dozen of students and journalist who reported from the event. The participents came from 14 countries, including all former Yugoslav republics, representing academia and scientific institutions, Churches and religious communities, print and electronic media, governmental  and non-governmental organizations, and foreign diplomatic institutions. Structure of the Rund Table could be seen from the List of Participants

Duly prepared and approved AGENDA was the main guidance of the Round Table work. Following the opening word, delivered by H.E. Takehiro Togo, and welcoming word by Bishop of Budimlje and Nikšić of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Joanikije Mićović, an Opening address was given by Archbishop Hočevar, who underlined the connection within the "triangle media-Balkans-reconciliation", and argued that the Church and the religius communities should work together with the media on reconciliation and tolerance of the Balkan nations because "without forgiving no conflicts could be solved".

The participants, working in four plenary sessions, underlined the damaging impact which some media had during the 1990s in inciting conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and they called for the respect for professional journalism norms, as well as for better interaction among all participants in the reporting process on national and religius issues.

The general assessment of the participants was that the Round Table was very useful, successfully organized and dynamic. A particular quality was noticed in the identification of concrete problems, as a prerequisite for future work, which could bring about concrete proposals and results. The event was well reported by the media, with TV news items, as well as agency news.

All participants have underlined the neccessity of further work and cooperating in this or similar format. Presented papers should be published in separate ECPD Proceedings, while the next international gathering on the role of mass media should be organized and held in the autumn of 2010. The formation of an ECPD International Study Group on these subjects was suggested as well.

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