The 20th National Convention of Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) and the conclusion of its Golden Jubilee took place at Thozhamai Illam Jesuit Retreat Centre, Kanyakumari, close to the Sunrise and Sunset Points, on 24-25th October 2014.
ISAAC HAROLD GOMES, Kolkata
Member – ICPA
The programme began with the lighting of lamps and a warm welcome address by Fr. Alfonso Elengikal, President.
After Fr Alfonso, Justice Cyriac Joseph addressed the gathering on the theme “Prophetic Challenges Before Media Today”. Hesaid he was very reluctant to call journalists friends because of some bitter experiences. On 1st June 2000, during a jubilee function, he said in Malayalam that Jubilee Celebrations were alright but these should reflect in our lives as Christians. This calls for a lot of sacrifice in personal life including giving up on legitimate pleasures. Next day, The Hindu reported that Justice Cyriac had exhorted the congregation to be ready for martyrdom. Vishwa Hindu Parishad immediately moved a resolution with the Law Department and demanded his dismissal. The second instance was during a Syro-Malabar Laity Gathering. On being introduced as a Supreme Court Judge, he said that he had gone there not as a judge but as an ordinary church member. He said he was loyal to the church and was proud to be a Christian. News reports came out that Justice Cyriac instead of declaring allegiance to the Indian Constitution, had expressed his loyalty to the Church! There was no report on his 45 minute talk on Indian Christians’ role in a secular society and the need to respect others’ religion.For one week there was heated discussion on Malayalam TV channels on the matter. He said Media was one of the most corrupt institutions in India. Corruption in media was dishonest reporting by taking money and also not reporting.
He acknowledged Media’s significant contribution in promotion of justice, scientific temperament, sports and culture,exposing corruption, transmitting information, supplementing formal education and giving value education. The biggest challenge before the media is to uphold, protect and be Human Rights Defendants. He said neutrality is not a virtue and journalists will have to take a stand for truth and justice. The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in a moral crisis. He ended his address by quoting Martin Luther who said: “The day we see the truth, but cease to speak the truth, we begin to die.”
Bishop Salvadore Lobo, Chairman of the Gathering of Bishops’ Office for Social Communicationsaid journalists have a very important role as communicators of the Good News.He lamented that journalism is no longer a vocation but has become a profession, catering to the rich, the famous and the powerful. A very good paper like the Statesman was dying because it is not bowing to any business house or political party; that Christian reporters should be in search of truth and report only the full truth. They have a challenge today which must be taken up in its veracity without adding other spices to it. He stressed that we need not be martyred but need to stand by the truth.
Fr Cedric Prakash emphasized that Christian journalists must take an unequivocal stand for truth and justice.If we do not, we cannot call ourselves journalists and Catholics.
He said the Prophetic Challenges before the Indian Media today are the five Cs:
· Corporatisation of the Media (Big corporate players have taken over the print and electronic media. The Statesman has refused this and is dying a dignified death.
· Commercialisation of the media(full-page advertisements and propaganda of political parties. These advertisements which cost a lot of money (black money) result in loss of news space and the very heart &soul of the print media.
· Co-option of the mediadue to Corporatisation and Commercialization. Co-option basically meanslosing one's ability to think for oneself. Example: In a parish council co-option of members who would toea given line.
· Compromising of the Media because of fear, sting operation and blackmail. Paid media indulges in a lot of compromise. This is also done by many Catholic publications in spite of their espousing the cause of Gospel values!
· Communalisation of the media
Fr Cedric said that as ICPA and others in the media, we are challenged to reflect urgently on:
· Have we as Church taken Social Communications (specially the Print Media) seriously?Do we have aSocial Communications Commission?The Commission should necessarily constitute people from all walks of life especially lay professionals.
· Do we engage the Church vocally (writing) and visibly in confronting injustice that plague our society like discrimination, displacement, corruption, communalism and casteism?We lack vision, concrete and vocal church leadership. We are afraid of our land, our buildings, our prestige and our power. This can no longer be the bane of the Catholic Church. 15 days ago when his office was broken open and his records were destroyed, not one Christian journalist came to see him but 80 non-Christian journalists came up. This is the Church today.
· Have we prophetically denounced the grave ills in our society in order to boldly proclaim the "Good News"?
· Do we engage in social media on important issues concerning Constitutional Rights and Freedom for all?
On the way ahead Fr Cedric said:
· One should never compromise on Gospel values especially on truth, human dignity and justice
· Every effort should be made to enter mainstream print media (both vernacular and English)and more Catholic youth trained in journalism/media.
· They should be encouraged to create their own social media/ group blogs and even tweet which our Pope does.
· Church newspapers, magazines and bulletins urgently need to REINVENT themselves.The tragedy is that Church media instead of expounding on Vatican II documents, Pope Francis’reforms and his exhortation on Smelling the Sheep, was only busy highlightinginauguration and garlanding by Bishops and priests. This was a mortal sin.
· A sense of majoritariasm (rule by majority) was being created in the country. But the majority of our countrymen are for peace, human rights and justice. So Catholic journalists need to network and collaborate with people of other faith.
· ICPA will be true to its name if it demonstrates unbridled courage to be visible and vocal (through the written word) given the context and challenges that India faces today.
The other speakers were Prof. Dr. John Vergis, former VC of Kerala University, Mrs K.C. Rosakutty, Chairperson, Kerala State Women’s Commission, S.P. Udhaykumar, Founder, People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy, Fr George Plothottam – Secretary CBCI Social Communications Delhi and Fr M.J. Edwin.
Cash awards of Rs 10,000/- each were given away by India’s youngest Bishop (of Thuckalay)Most Rev. George Rajendran, sdbto:
1. Reji Joseph, Bureau Chief, Deepika, Kottayam - ICPA-Louis Carreno Award
2. Richard Joseph, Deepika, Trivandrum - ICPA-CBCI SC/BC Commission Award
3. BulundPrajatantra, Delhi - ICPA- Best Hindi Writer / Periodical Award