The Southeast Asian Press Alliance is inviting journalists from Southeast Asia to send applications for the 2006 SEAPA Journalism Fellowship Programme on the theme ‘Religion in Southeast Asia’.
The Fellowship will allow for limited travel to a second Southeast Asian country where the journalists will spend up to four weeks to research on a story of their choice. Prior to that, they will undergo a three-day orientation seminar in Bangkok. After the month-long research, the fellows will return to Bangkok for a two to three-day discussion of their stories.
Applications can be sent by email to [email protected] or faxed to (662) 2448749.
In the 11 countries that comprise Southeast Asia (ASEAN plus East Timor), people take pride in their differences. With more than 500 million people inhabiting tens of thousands of islands and speaking hundreds of native languages, ethnic and religious diversity have always been sources of strength and cultural wealth.
As with any other corner of the world, however, intolerance, misunderstanding, and even pressures of rapid development and globalization can also harm and upset the very diversity that makes Southeast Asia a rich region. Ethnic and religious diversity can be a source of stability as well as instability, a teacher of tolerance or intolerance, a provider of security or insecurity. As with any other region, after all, in Southeast Asia there are majorities and there are minorities. There are stereotypes and there are realities.
In Thailand, religious diversity is suddenly at the forefront of national discussions as violence in its isolated southern provinces worsen. With more than 1,000 people killed in violence that has flared since last year, Thai Muslims are crying persecution in the Buddhist-dominated kingdom—but so are angry and frightened Buddhists succumbing to the dangerous conclusion that the violence is driven by religious fervor.
The Thais would perhaps be interested to learn more about the Philippine experience with Islamic insurgencies. About three decades ago, a separatist Islamic movement began to take root in the archipelago. The movement grew, and grew more violent, claiming tens of thousands of lives on either side of a very real war. But more than 30 years later, Filipinos are genuinely optimistic about finally achieving peace in the Philippine south. With peace, they hope, will come a more stable and harmonious appreciation of the religious diversity that continues to challenge the nation.
In every nation of Southeast Asia, in fact, there have been episodes of religious strife from which each nation can learn. The East Timorese—predominantly Catholics—felt persecuted by the Indonesians in great part because of their religion. Christian minorities in Burma feel the same way—ironically sharing the sentiments of Muslims in Thailand and the Philippines.
For all the challenges they are already facing, Southeast Asia is further burdened now by the issue of international terrorism. The motivation for entire States to profile citizens and foreigners based on religion is very real, and that reality is reopening, worsening, or creating wounds that further complicate the prospects for genuine harmony.
Of course, the topic of religion is not all about strife or violence or sadness and hurt.
In Southeast Asia, religions represent political forces. Religious entities are agents of change. They spur or limit development, just as powerfully as they influence the political realm. Religion affects the population growth rate in the Philippines, education in Malaysia, the resilience of populations in every community.
For that matter, religion, and religious diversity, still and also primarily bring up stories of inspiration, tolerance, and the best attributes of humanity. Religion continues to be one of the most powerful forces for positive change in Southeast Asia.
For all its obvious influence and potentials, Religion is at the center of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance’s Journalism Fellowship Program for 2006.
The 2006 SEAPA Journalism Fellowship will provide the venue for Southeast Asian journalists to investigate and analyze issues concerning religion in their region.
It will also provide journalist-fellows the opportunity to write more in-depth, contextualised stories of communities and people affected by the diverse faiths that rule their lives.
How has religion shaped communities? How does it pull them apart? What breeds tolerance, intolerance, or harmony? How are the realities of the 21st century—the drive for development and the concern for cross-border security, for example—putting pressure on religion? In an age where information is the main fuel and engine for development, where the Internet brings foreign ideas as easily as it recruits foreign volunteers to long-cloistered communities, where does religion’s pragmatism lie?
These are but some sample topics and questions that the region’s journalists will be invited to tackle and discuss.
With discussion will come an open-ventilation of issues and ideas, and a deeper understanding among Southeast Asian journalists about how religion continues to shape their region.
SEAPA will invite journalists from around Southeast Asia to apply for 12 slots in the Programme, which will run from May 1 to June 10. Applicants will be asked to submit story proposals on the theme, Religion in Southeast Asia.
The Fellowship will allow for limited travel to a second Southeast Asian country where the journalists will spend up to four weeks to research on a story of their choice.
Before that, they will undergo a three-day orientation seminar in Bangkok where resource persons will be invited to talk on topics related to their story proposals.
After the research-travel phase, the Fellows will return to Bangkok for a two to three-day synthesis workshop during which they should be able to present an outline and first complete draft of their stories.
During the course of their stay in a second country, the journalists will be in regular discussion with editor/coordinators who would provide direction and guidance as they develop and write their stories.
SEAPA will make available translators for Fellows who are more at home using their native languages.
The Fellows are required to publish stories produced under the Programme in their own publications and may be asked to share these with other interested news organisations outside their own countries.
Criteria for admission
Applicants from print and broadcast media should have at least five years experience in journalism, either as staff of a new organisation or freelancer.
They should have some background or experience in writing on social issues in their countries and interest in writing in-depth human interest stories or investigative pieces.
Applicants should submit an essay of not more than 500 words, briefly introducing themselves and explaining their story proposal, along with their resume and two samples of their work.
They should submit two letters of reference, one of which should come from their editors, which would also include permission that they can take part in the Fellowship.
Application Announcement: February 1, 2006
Closing Date: March 10, 2006
Announcement of Acceptance: March 25, 2006
The Southeast Asian Press Alliance
SEAPA is a non-profit, non-governmental organization with a mandate to promote and expand press freedom and access to information in Southeast Asia. Its goal is to provi
de a forum for the defence of press freedom, giving protection to journalists and nurturing an environment where free expression, transparency, pluralism and a responsible media culture can flourish.
SEAPA was formed in November 1998 as an alliance of established press advocacy organizations from the three countries in the region that have a free press – Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand. They are: the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (Philippines), the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the Thai Journalists Association, the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (Indonesia) and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Indonesia).
SEAPA supports independent media initiatives in Cambodia, Malaysia and East Timor and works with exiled Burmese journalists.
SEAPA headquarters are in Bangkok. The organization issues regular alerts on press-freedom violations in the region and holds seminars and conferences that bring together journalists from Southeast Asia to discuss issues of common concern. It runs an annual Journalism Fellowship. Its website (http://www.seapabkk.org) is a source of information and analysis on the Southeast Asian media.
538/1 Samsen Rd.
Dusit Bangkok 10300
Tel: (66-2) 2435579
Fax: (66-2) 2448749
Email: [email protected]