Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Helpful online materials for journalists

In journalism, it's not enough--and worse, a disservice to the public--to just get the names, places, and events right. "Democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context," said the U.S.-based Committee of Concerned Journalists, explaining that journalism's first obligation is to the truth. "Even in a world of expanding voices, accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built--context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate. " If we journalists barely know the background or context of what we are reporting, then how would we be able to present these issues clearly to the public?

Raging issues at present are the current peace situation in Mindanao and rising oil costs. Below are online articles and materials that could help journalists covering these issues gain better perspective and context to what they are reporting. Of course, non-journalists would also find the materials very useful.

Filipina journalist Raissa Robles of The South China Morning Post writes a comprehensive story on the current Mindanao issue, providing background on and context to the issue.

Gathering storm
Manila's botched attempt at creating a southern Muslim homeland has inflamed religious tensions and raised the spectre of civil war
Raissa Robles
The South China Morning Post
Aug 26, 2008

A serious government miscalculation not only led to the eruption of violence in the southern Philippines, but it might also have raised the long-dormant spectre of civil war with religious overtones.

"I fear a civil war ... I'm scared," said prominent socialite-activist Precy Lopez-Psinakis this weekend.

In Cotabato City, after Friday prayers at the mosque, Nash Pangadapun expressed concern over text messages circulating in this Muslim heartland which revealed that some Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf) commanders intended to attack Christian communities before September 1 - the onset of Ramadan, the Muslim period or fasting - should the military continue to shell their camps.

"It that happens, this could be a precursor to a civil war", Mr Pangadapun, secretary general of the Muslim civil society group Maradeka, told The South China Morning Post.

Last week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's top aide, executive secretary Eduardo Ermita, voiced concern over the rise of armed Christian vigilante groups. "At first glance, you might think we could allow them to fight the Milf. But what if civil war breaks out?" the former general said.

Read more here.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Central Committee, held a press conference last Aug. 23 with other MILF officials. The group's views and claims were presented during the event. “As far as we are concerned, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA – AD) is a final document, a done deal,” the MILF said.
The group said it "cannot allow renegotiation on the MOA–AD, which took both the MILF–GRP Peace Negotiating Panels four years and eight months to discuss and initialed through the superb facilitation of the Malaysian government. "

For details of the conference, please click here. Hat tip to Tita Ellen.

Some local reports on the oil problem have not provided the larger picture, how the current oil problem in the country are intricately connected with issues and problems in the international community.

Journalists and ordinary citizens closely following the oil issue may want to check out a pictorial representation of global consumption of oil using Google Earth. (Oh, while in Google Earth, you may also want to see a worrying animation of the effect of rising sea levels in the planet.)

The prominent education and research think-tank East-West Center has also just released a short analytical piece on several policy options to improve energy security in the Asia-Pacific.

Six steps toward increased energy security in the Asia Pacific region By Kang Wu, Fereidun Fesharaki, Sidney B. Westley and Widhyawan Prawiraatmadja
East-West Center
Aug. 25, 2008

Given the region’s growing populations, expanding transportation needs and rising expectations for a better standard of living, the demand for oil can only go up. The result is a steadily growing dependence on imported oil, largely from the volatile Middle East.

Oil production, consumption, and net surplus or deficit in major regions of the world, 2006 (million barrels per day). Source: BP (2007). Image from: East-West Center

This is no doubt cause for concern, but a number of policy options can help governments improve the security of their oil supplies and, in the long term, bring oil supply and demand into better alignment. The following policy measures could make a significant contribution to energy security in the region:

1. Initiate joint ventures with oil producers.
2. Improve the efficiency of domestic oil markets.
3. Build up strategic oil stocks.
4. Strengthen regional cooperation.
5. Reduce transportation bottlenecks.
6. Establish a regional oil futures market.

For explanation on these measures, as well as more information about the piece and authors, kindly click here.

Proven oil reserves at the end of 2006 (billions of barrels). Source: BP (2007). Note: Measurements of proven reserves are imprecise, because there is no globally accepted system to certify reserves, and reports from individual companies or countries cannot be verified. Image from East-West Center

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