AMIC 2017: Rethinking communication

FROM THE STANDS By Domini M. Torrevillas

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.  

Among his other significant initiatives is Media and Information Literacy (MIL), now a major pillar of UNESCO Media Development Programs. In this age of post-truth, hate speech, and fake news, MIL has evolved as a potent tool in empowering media users to be discerning media consumers and responsible and ethical content producers. 

A word about one of my personal friends communication specialist John Lent. He taught journalism and mass communication from 1960 to 2011, including stints in the Philippines as a Fulbright scholar; Malaysia, where he started the country’s first mass communication program; Canada, as a Rogers Distinguished professor; China, as visiting professor at four universities, and the U.S.,  where he was head of Communication & Theatre at  Temple University in Philadelphia.  Dr. Lent pioneered in the study of mass communication and popular culture, comic art, and animation in Asia (since 1964) and Caribbean (since 1968). He has authored or edited 82 books published and edited International Journal of Comic Art (1999-),  Asian Cinema (1994-2012), and Berita (1975-2001).

Dr.Crispin Maslog, one of the conference speakers, is a well-published writer and editor and has authored or edited 35 books on media and communication He pioneered in research and extension work in  community journalism in the Philippines and Asia. He won the Outstanding Filipino in Journalism and Literature Award (TOFIL) in 1995.

Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid is a well-known Filipino nationalist and communications expert. She was  a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission and chaired the communication committee of the UNESCo National Commission of the Philippines. She writes a column for the Manila Bulletin.

Dr. Francisco Benitez  is president of Philippine Women’s University. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  His research interests include multiple and often conflicting formations of modern subjectivity and the nation-state in the literature and film of insular Southeast Asia in the late nineteenth and twentieth Email:



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