More than 70 journalists from 14 Asian countries will attend a conference in Indonesia Oct. 17-19 in a bid to improve coverage of stories involving often-sensitive religious issues. There will be an emphasis on the need for objectivity and accuracy, particularly double-checking unsubstantiated information or claims. The conference is being jointly organized by the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) and the Jakarta-based Association of Journalists for Diversity. Speakers from Indonesia's Multimedia Nusantara University as well as other universities will be involved. Endy M. Bayuni, IARJ's executive director, said it would be the first conference of its type in Asia.
Indonesia was chosen as the host because it is a large multi-religious and multi-ethnic country. Bayuni said the conference would help make regional media
"part of the solution" rather than exacerbating religious intolerance. "In Indonesia, journalists, consciously or unconsciously, can contribute to the spread of hatred against a certain religion," Bayuni said. He called for development of journalists' knowledge of religion
to be given a higher priority along with stressing a need for fairness and the setting aside of any personal prejudices. Organizers plan to produce a book containing guidelines on the reporting of stories involving religion. They cite past cases in which false reports about religious minorities, including some small Muslim sects in Indonesia, fueled violent attacks.
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