The 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees was significant to participants of the weekend stay-in journalism programme by SIGNIS Malaysia, as they learned firsthand the plight of those who were forced to leave their homelands to search for safety and security in a foreign land. In addition to a panel discussion with three migrants and refugees, the participants also watched a documentary about human trafficking and engaged in a conversation with Irene Xavier, a prominent human rights activist and co-founder of Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor. These interactions were eye-opening for the participants who saw a “human” side to the migrant and refugee issue that often hogs the news headlines.

This was precisely the topic of the presentation by Dr. Peter Rachada Monthienvichienchai, SIGNIS Secretary-General. Focusing on stories of the marginalised and those on the fringes of society, Dr Peter shared on the importance of humanising their news stories by reporting with empathy and respect. Urging participants to focus on “who is the story?”, rather than “what”, he shared valuable insights into narrative techniques that can evoke emotional responses in readers, hence making an impact on society. It was a powerful reminder to the participants – young journalists, undergraduate students, researchers, activists, and freelance content producers – of the impact storytelling can have on the world.

Thus, it was with this aim of empowering the next generation of young media practitioners that SIGNIS Malaysia embarked on this programme themed ‘Bridging the Divide and Making Connections: A Platform to Seek Solutions Together’. Facilitated by Augustine Anthuvan, a former journalist and executive producer at Singapore’s CNA (Channel NewsAsia), the training focused on equipping the diverse group of participants with the skills and inspiration to humanise stories and bridge societal divides through impactful narratives in their storytelling. It is through the media platform that society can come together and seek solutions to the most pressing issues that affect them.

One way of achieving this is through Solutions Journalism, conducted by Kavita Chandran, a consultant and trainer with Thomson Reuters Foundation. The participants also learned about investigative journalism from Datuk James Sarda, Editor-in-Chief of Daily Express Malaysia in Sabah, and environmental journalism from Soon Li Wei from the national news agency, Bernama. Keeping up with the trend, participants learned about 30-second journalism session by Norman Goh, a journalist with Nikkei Asia and how artificial intelligence has transformed the practice of journalism from Medhi Lebouachera, AFP’s Asia Pacific Editor-in-Chief. Participants were further inspired by Archbishop Julian Leow's presence at the documentary screening and a brief fellowship.

Through programmes like this, SIGNIS Malaysia aims to engage media professionals and support Catholic communicators to help transform cultures in the light of the Gospel and promote a culture of peace and reconciliation.

By Pauline Leong and Melissa Fernando