EDEN NATURE PARK, CALINAN DISTRICT, DAVAO CITY (October 25, 2018) — It was a heart-to-heart conversation between one journalist to another.

For about two hours, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza listened, laughed, and exchanged views with members of media coming from various parts of Mindanao on a range of issues and concerns.

It was a candid dialogue as the government’s top peace negotiator shared his experiences as a neophyte reporter of a local daily and then moving up as editor-in-chief and finally as publisher of the paper.

But Dureza’s message to his media colleagues was strong and clear: Serve as beacons of free speech and champions of truth and justice.

“You must help create an enabling environment that is conducive to free speech,” he told the more than 50 journalists attending the Mindanao Media Safety and Security Summit organized by the Mindanao Independent Press Council (MIPC).

Dureza recognized the many challenges confronting the profession, particularly those who are working in conflict-affected areas in the country.

“A lot of you operate in critical areas. But you have to make sure that the environment (for free speech) is there,” he said.

Dureza said being the Fourth Estate, the media should not cower in fear and be easily intimidated by the forces that threaten them.

He narrated an incident which tested his commitment as a journalist and advocate of truthful and accurate reportage.

But the unfortunate event did not deter him from filing his story and instead inspired him to stand by his principles as a journalist.

“Should we be threatened? As journalists, we need to uphold our principles at all times,” Dureza said.

In this age of fake news, he stressed that media should be more circumspect and not to easily accept information “hook, line and sinker.”

“You always need to look after the truth,” Dureza said, adding that journalists need “to go beyond” the information their sources provide them and validate their veracity.

The Peace Adviser, however, advised media to take the necessary steps to ensure their safety, especially if their lives are in danger.

“You have to find a way to protect yourself. If not, you will be constrained in telling the truth,” he said.

Dureza also challenged members of the media to use their pens and microphones as instruments to amplify the concepts of understanding, unity, and peace among the Filipino people.

In particular, he asked journalists to help the national government in addressing the “larger peace table,” which is the general public.

“You are the ones addressing the larger peace table 24/7. Your audience number in the thousands,” he said.

Dureza said the media can play a crucial role in helping to bridge the social, religious, and cultural divide among the people and heal the social fabric that had been torn in situations of conflict.

Citing Marawi as an example, Dureza admitted that restoring relationships in the community is more difficult than rebuilding the physical infrastructure that was destroyed during the five-month war.

He said media reports should support multi-stakeholder efforts that would allow just and lasting peace to firmly take root, especially in communities situated in areas of conflict.

“Your messages should help create that conducive environment,” Dureza said.