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Ruth Eglash – WNN Breaking
(WNN/CGN) Jerusalem, ISRAEL: It’s an issue that affects people’s lives across the world everyday yet most media institutions do not dedicate much time, resources or manpower to covering religion.
That was the assessment of some 25 journalists from six continents and 23 countries who gathered last month in Bellagio, Italy to lay down the foundations of an international association aimed not only at boosting the prominence and professionalism of religion reporting but also to emphasise the need for responsible journalism that can unite instead of divide people.
Despite some of the obvious differences – linguistic, nationalistic, religious and political – between those that gathered in Italy from 20-24 March, the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) was officially launched.
“We are living in a global society and our understanding internationally of religion is weak. With this association, journalists now have contacts in various countries and can work together”, commented US journalist David Briggs, a Pulitzer Prize nominee and the main driving force behind the initiative.
Briggs, who was elected as the association’s Executive Director during the meeting’s closing session, has been trying for the better part of the last eight years to establish a global association similar to the Religion Newswriters Association in the United States, which aims to promote high-quality media coverage of religion.
His luck turned recently when he formed an alliance with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) in Washington, DC, an NGO dedicated to promoting quality journalism, and the Association of Religious Data Archives (ARDA), which focuses on creating wider access to information on religion, both of which helped make his dream a reality.
At the meeting, Briggs shared his vision with the journalists present. He hoped that the association would – through an interactive website, conferences and workshops – be able to provide concise and impartial information on world religions, ignite discussions on religious issues and provide access to essential contacts, as well as connect media professionals all over the world who deal with the subject.
Ruth Eglash is Deputy Managing Editor at The Jerusalem Post in Israel. She was invited to be one of the IARJ’s founding members by the International Center for Journalists and was elected to the association’s steering committee. In addition to appearing on WNN – Women News Network and The Jerusalem Post her work can be seen in Common Ground News.
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