NetOne: Sowing unity through media
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2006-05-01
The Philippines recently had an important visitor in the person of Italian Michele Zanzucchi who met with members of the Focolare Movement here as well as Filipino media practitioners, most of whom have attended the NetOne International Media Congresses of 2000 and 2004 at the Pope’s summer residence of Castelgandolfo, near Rome.
Aside from being a member of the central secretariat of NetOne, an international network of media professionals, Michele Zanzucchi is a journalist, scriptwriter and author of TV and radio programs.

He became an expert in social problems after studying and working for 10 years in Paris. He has degrees in Economics (Rome), Theology and Philosophy (Paris) and Communications (Rome). He is presently deputy editor for the biweekly magazine "Città Nuova" of the Focolare Movement which is circulated worldwide and has published 23 books on various subjects, including a novel. He travels extensively for interviews, congresses, and conventions.

His latest book “L’islam che non fa paura” (The Unfrightening Islam) is currently being translated into English. For this book, Michele Zanzucchi has interviewed over 70 well-known Muslim leaders of tolerant tendency: top-level figures such as the Iranian Ayatollah Muhammad Khamenei (brother of the supreme guide Ali), Sheikh Tantawi of Cairo (Egypt), former Indonesian President Wahid, Jordanian Prince Hassan, Iraqi Shiite leader Imam Jamal al-Din, and others.

Zanzucchi’s Manila visit (April 17 to 23) was intended to be a continuing dialogue with Philippine NetOne members and an exploration of how all international NetOne groups can complement each other in the expansion of the NetOne media fraternity (NetOne is open to all media practitioners who believe in its vision and mission) and the promotion of unity and universal values through mass media.

During the 2004 NetOne International Media Congress, the Philippines sent the second biggest delegation, a total of 30 delegates which included one Filipino Bishop in the person of Bishop Deogracias Yniguez. I was privileged to be one of the panel speakers of the 2004 NetOne Congress. John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, who also happens to be the CNN Vatican correspondent, was among those in the panel where I spoke.

Among the NetOne Philippine members are Conrad de Quiros and Nestor Torre of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Rizza de los Angeles and Vic Vianzon of ABC-5, Cencio de la Cruz of RPN-9, Radio talent Jovie Barretto, Macie Imperial, Miranda de Quiros, Ten Mariano and Mike Carrion of ABS-CBN, Jing Magsaysay, formerly of ABS-CBN, Iris Cruz of GMA Network, Carlo Gentile of Focolare’s New City magazine, Susan Yumul of Unilab, Boots Anson Roa (who needs no introduction), Rey Hidalgo, a regular newspaper commentator on politics and history, Miranda Jansen, SerJ de los Angeles, Jan and Eddy Co Chua of Focolare’s Communications Group and yours truly of INQ7.

During the dialogue with Zanzucchi, we were updated on the activities and accomplishments of other NetOne groups all over the world. To our surprise, we learned from Michele that the original Big Brother TV format was the creation of a NetOne member from Belgium. The format however was commercialized when it was used by other groups who deviated from its original mission to provide valuable and meaningful insights and perspectives to important personal issues in life.

In the Philippines, the agreement was reached that NetOne will attempt to promote unity, universal values and bridge the information gap. One of the basic problems of the Philippines—why there is such a difficulty to attain national consensus and why so many Filipinos are easily exploited—is because of the wide information gap. Many only see the obvious wealth gap, the less than 3% who control over 85% of the national wealth, but most Filipinos are not aware that this wealth gap is created by more basic gaps like the information gap, education gap and the opportunity gap.

The IT age is now threatening to widen that information gap. Audio-visual media have expanded to the so-called four screens of the cinema, television, the internet and the cellular phone. Yet for most Filipinos, the third and fourth screens, which now account for the bulk of the information explosion in the world, remain inaccessible.

Among the projects that the Philippine NetOne will undertake is the planned venture into the second, third and fourth screens. The NetOne multi-media project will concentrate on being content providers for television, the internet and the cellular phone. With the assistance of the worldwide Focolare network of companies (that subscribe to the new business philosophy called the Economy of Communion) and the other NetOne groups, foreign as well as local capital will be raised to finance the multi-media venture.

The main objectives of the multi-media venture will be to provide role models for society, propagate values and to bridge the information gap. While promoting moral and ethical standards for guiding social behavior, the venture will avoid donning any specific religious tag—placing greater emphasis on unity among different faiths, classes, races and so forth.

Prof. Taja Basman (a UNESCO Commissioner), who represents the moderate Muslims in the Philippines, expressed solidarity with the NetOne multi-media project. Basman is actively involved with the Focolare Movement in promoting inter-faith dialogue, and cooperation.

The April 21 meeting held at the Club Filipino Centennial Room opened to very spontaneous exchanges of views on how values can be promoted on multi-media and how the Philippine information gap can be addressed. I opened the discussion on the information gap by defining it and how it relates to the wealth gap. I also announced the multi-media project as a means of addressing the information gap.

Conrad de Quiros expressed his concern that if unaddressed—the information gap will make it more difficult for the country to get on track. Conrad also espoused the reinforcement of a sense of country, a major ingredient for attaining national unity. The BusinessWorld’s Tess Abesamis, who attended a NetOne meeting for the first time, connected the major problems we have to the information gap and how this gap is making national elections a farcical democratic exercise.

Retired broadcast news manager Jing Magsaysay provided insights on the problem of seeking the truth when preparing the news. Jing said that lawyers are to justice as journalists are to truth—both professionals do not necessarily deliver justice and the truth.

Rey Hidalgo shared insights on how street sweepers in Beijing in the early 1980s displayed awareness of the national issues in China not far from what the members of the Politburo know and talk about, indicating a strong national information unity in China. ABC-5’s Rizza de los Angeles shared her own experiences in attempting to remain within the good and narrow path amidst the many temptations that the world of media offered.

Professor and UNESCO Commissioner Taja Basman narrated the biases that the moderate Muslims have to live with because of extremist Islamic militants who misrepresent the mainstream Muslims, a misimpression that’s created largely by faulty media reporting. Michele supported this discussion by sharing insights from his recent book, The Unfrightening Islam. Truly, the Muslim extremists do not represent mainstream Islam no more than the Ku Klux Klan represents mainstream Christianity.

There was a lively discussion on whether media should be more positive. There was the school of thought that believed that progress cannot be attained under a very negative climate. The anti-thesis of that school of thought countered that being in denial that one has a serious problem like cancer offers no salvation and can only be fatal.

Michele Zanzucchi placed the thorny issue in its proper perspective. He said that the truth must be the paramount consideration in the communications process. Even if it is bad news, if it is the truth, then it must be communicated. But the ventilation of the truth must be accompanied by love and compassion for all parties concerned.

Indeed, the truth may hurt other parties. But with compassion and love, there can be understanding and unity. There can be resolution of issues without the dangers of bitter discord and conflict. The late Pope John Paul II was a great model of this ideal way of communications. While he inspired the world to fear not in espousing the truth, he did not promote discord and conflict. Instead, he broke down age old barriers between faiths, ideologies and races.

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