POVERTY PROJECT: Introducing the Asia Media Poverty Project

AUSTIN SZABO WRITES: In September 2011, a group of young activists occupied Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. The movement, dubbed Occupy Wall Street, became a rallying point for progressives around the world. Subsequent police crackdowns generally failed to disperse the activists, and their tenacity inspired people from all walks of life to join in. What followed was a debate about inequality in the U.S. and abroad unmatched since the years of LBJ.

The Occupy movement argued that the influence of money, particularly corporate cash, in politics has created a culture that puts largesse above people, and the lower classes be damned. The result, they say, has been a worldwide obsession with capitalism that has given the poor no social or economic mobility, while handing the rich all the resources needed to continue amassing the world’s wealth. A recent Oxfam report cites that the 85 wealthiest people are as wealthy as the poorest 3.5 billion. This kind of worldwide wealth disparity is what inspired the Occupy movement’s famous slogan “We are the 99%.”

Since the movement’s rise and remission, income inequality has been debated by politicians around the world. However, despite awareness of the problem, little has been done to combat the rising wealth gap. Politicians, like President Obama, have discussed the problem of rising inequality, but have presided over record income gaps in their own countries. The problem is not unique to any one nation. Inequality is increasing in  wealth disparate China as well as social democratic countries like Sweden and Japan.

Activists found an unlikely but powerful ally in Pope Francis, who began his papacy with a strong anti-poverty message. Francis’ strong stance on social justice is canonically Catholic but goes against the tradition set by recent Popes, who were more likely to discuss doctrine to contraception. The Pope’s activism since the start of his papacy in 2013 has been founded on Jesuit principles, something the Pope shares with Loyola Marymount University and the staff of Asia Media.

Inspired by the activism seen since the beginning of this decade, we wish to contribute to the next round of the 50 year old War on Poverty by discussing poverty in Asia. Our writing will be through the lens of the Press and Media in the region, and whether poverty is being reported as a serious issue. Our research will show which countries and media outlets are positively impacting the movement and which ones are not.

Over the rest of this year, we will encourage journalistic activism by praising those who discuss poverty the most and by exposing those who ignore or censor the issue. At the end of the year, we will award those that have followed Francis’ call.

Please join us as we embark on Asia Media’s first Poverty Project.

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