AMIC 2017: Rethinking communication

In 1971, the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) was established to encourage ethical and social responsibility of the media to support democratic access and participation in  media development and production. The international, non-profit, non-government organization serves as a regional research hub for media and communication issues.

In 2016, AMIC moved  its headquarters to Manila.

Philippine media watchers had their first exposure to AMIC concerns when it sponsored in November that year a national conference on the relevant topic “Deconstruct to Understand: Why  President Duterte Talks His Way.”  The discussion revolved around the president’s use of foul language, or his speaking style as a “medium” in delivering his “message.”

On Sept. 27-28, AMIC is holding its annual conference on the theme “Rethinking Communication in a Resurgent Asia.” The sessions, to be held at Miriam College in Quezon City, will cover such significant topics as “Asian Communication  Paradigms and Theories,” “Asian Philosophy,” “Religion and Communication,” “Freedom of Expression  in a Post-Truth Era,” “Communication and Culture,” “Communication Education and Training,” “Political Communication in Traditional and Online Platforms,” “Media and Information Literacy,”  and  “Children and Gender Issues in Communication.”

“The theme forces us to question the seeming dominance of Western philosophies and paradigms in communication media in the Asia Pacific,” says Crispin Maslog,  AMIC  board of directors chairperson. “The event hopes to provide a platform for reasserting the pioneering contributions of Asians in communication as well as examine the impact of Asian philosophies and religions on communication paradigms, strategies, and practices.”

Over 400 foreign and local communication scholars, educators, researchers, practitioners and students have registered for the conference to be held at Miriam College in Quezon City.

At the conference two Asian communication icons – a theorist and a practitioner – will be given one of the highest honors in the field of communication in Asia on Sept. 27.

Shelton Dhavalasri Gunaratne, a former Sri Lankan journalist who is now professor emeritus of Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM), will receive the AMIC Asia Communication Award for 2016 in recognition of his “ground-breaking scholarship and intellectual contribution to Asian media and communication research.”

Wijayananda Jayaweera, a Sri Lankan broadcaster, spent a lifetime developing broadcasting in Asia up to the end of his distinguished career as UNESCO director of communication and the International Program for the Development of Communication (IPDC). He will be given the AMIC Asia Communication Award for 2017 in  the field of institution building.

 Some “legends” and experts in communication and journalism education in Asia Pacific will lend their expertise in the high-level conference. Among them  are John Lent, Shelton Gunaratne, Ronny Adhikarya, Ang Peng Hwa, Cherian George, Arun Mahizhnan, and Peixin Cao.  Filipino participants include AMIC chair Crispin Maslog and Florangel Rosario-Braid.

About Shelton Gunaratne, he  started his distinguished career as a journalist in Sri Lanka and went on to conquer new journalistic worlds in Malaysia, Australia and the United States. Go West, young man, he was told. He did, like many other Asian communication scholars of his generation, and eventually became the first Sri Lankan to receive a doctorate in mass communication from the United States in 1972.

After 2000, Gunaratne focused his academic energies on globalizing communication/journalism studies with his attempt to merge Eastern philosophies – particularly Buddhist and Daoist phenomenology–in his seminal book, The Dao of  the Press,  published in 2005.

Gunaratne argues in this book that the classic Four Theories of the Press, articulated by Fred Siebert, Theodore Peterson and Wilbur Schramm since 1956, and which had become standard textbook in communication and society courses in Asia as in the rest of the Western world since then, was based on Eurocentric history, theory and practice.

About Jayaweera, in his career of about 50 years in the communication field, he has either initiated or introduced “revolutionary” programs that are redefining communication policies, standards and programs.

In 1984,  Jayaweera  established  Mahaweli Community Radio, a pioneering Asian community radio project. This facilitated the relocation of nearly 60,000 families under one of the most ambitious resettlement projects implemented by the government of Sri Lanka. Throughout his career, he has played various significant roles in institutionalizing community radio in many other countries including Bhutan, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. These initiatives were under the aegis of UNESCO and the Asia-Pacific Institute of Broadcasting Development (AIBD), among others.

He was also instrumental in bringing safety of journalists and the issue of impunity to the Intergovernmental Council of the Press in Developing Countries (IPDC), and in making the Council a global oversight body on the issue by obliging UNESCO member-states to report on the judicial follow up of the killing of journalists in their respective territories.

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