(CMR-Nepal vice-president Bhuwan KC participated in Asia Media Forum 2013 in Incheon, Korea. Here are his thoughts on the issues that was discussed in the Forum.)
The discourse about the need to shift from Western communication model, considered not befitting Asia, has been widely debated by scholars. Asian perspectives in communication have been sought in the academic circle, media practitioners and scholarly discussion over time. Taking into consideration the incompatibility of Western communication theories in the Asian context has become a driving force, where such need was further boosted with the economic success, cultural reassurance, and political independence of Asian countries. And still the discourse of the need to collaborate between the Asian countries in the sharing of information has been widely sought even today, but little progress towards application of such task is a challenge, which has been revived by conference, held in 30 October, 2013.
Scholars and journalists who participated in Asia Media Forum 2013, organized by Incheon International Relation Foundation (IIRF) in South Korea, argued that responsible journalism, sharing of knowledge and experience, exchange of opportunities and resource, mutual understanding and cooperation among Asian journalists help to minimize dispute and problems of Asia and support sustainable economic growth, political stability, social harmony and cultural respect. They have agreed upon establishment of strong Asian media network befitting Asian identity and image in Asia and the world. They have outlined the need to collectively work together in media sector for peaceful and better Asia. However, framing of information have affected the image of representation of Asian countries.
At the conference Jun Youngwoo, president of IIRF said Asian countries have been facing many bilateral and multilateral problems. “When it comes to religions, territorial disputes, different views on history and other issues, each nation puts its own opinion first and hardly listen to others.” These conflicts are reflected in different media differently. In addition that, Asia still falls under the negative media portrayal when it comes to the sector of human rights, democracy and poverty basically in the Western media.
So, establishing Asia Media Network could be an alternative towards representation of Asia issues. However, the question is to what extent it can function and how is it possible to make it global. It is because media in Asia, functions in different conditions. With diversity of Asia, the political, social, economic conditions of media in Asia are different.
On the one hand, professional media is booming in Asia. On the other, government media has equally influence role in many countries. Role and responsibility and ethical standard of media are also debatable due to vastness and different philosophical understandings, cultures, religions and political system of different countries.
“Local and national media in Asia countries have varying degrees of political, economic and social constraints that make it difficult to promote a healthy exchange of information across . This also adds to the confusion among foreign audiences as to how they should view certain Asian countries”, argued JM Naulla, journalist of GMA Network Inc. Philippines.
It is also time to take into consideration multimedia rather than opting to traditional media to share information. Social media has great influence in China, Korea, India, Nepal, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia.
Sheng Fang, Journalist of Shenzhen Special Zone Daily China said that “Weibo influence on traditional media at least in wording time of reporting, balancing journalism, value judging and ‘who has the right to speak’. And newspapers can make use of social media at least in branding, events organizing, newsgathering, information filtering and agenda setting,”
Still western media and content dominate in Asia. Many Asian media rely on Associate Press (AP), Agence of France Presse (AFP) and Reuter, three largest news agencies of the world. These agencies are considered to have prepared news on their perspective and set the agenda and provided the image of the other countries and what is happening in them, including Asia. “Often, these reports have western slants or biases which affect relations between countries in Asia. This situation eventually contributes to further misunderstanding among Asian countries and, to an extent serves only the interests of developed western countries,” Naulla criticizes to the western media. Cable news network (CNN) and British Broadcaster Corporation (BBC) also have important role to shape western perspective in the world.
Taking into the imbalance in international flow of information, MacBride Commission showed the huge gap between developed and developing countries in 1980s and suggested elimination of the imbalance and inequalities. This commission stated elimination of the negative effects of certain monopolists, public or private, and excessive concentrations.
After MacBride Commission, Organization of Asia Pacific News Agency encouraged journalists in developing countries to think in terms of regional issues but it failed to make differences to the global. Similarly, The Non-aligned News Agencies Pool, an international exchange designed to promote news among Non- aligned countries, was another international contributor to promoting alternative communication, though as a collection of government-sponsored news agency.
Asia News Network (ANN), a large international media organization with participation of 16 newspapers from 14 regional countries, was established in 1999.
Quatar based Al Jazeera and Singapore based Channel News Asia also try to spread Asian Voice in Asia and world as well. These efforts bring change in international communication but they are not sufficient for Asian collaboration and contraflow to west.
Asian media have been facing lack of coordination, reliability, mutual understanding, effective content, exchange of resource problem. “The story tellers on media in the race for the so called selling stories are forgetting to cover positive stories : stories of courage, stories of change. It is the management and the owners of the many media houses which force the journalists to take up stories for higher readership and rating,” K.Padmakumar, Associate professor of Manipal University of India, showed the trend of Media.
“The need for Asian media organizations to interact more with each other is therefore key to encouraging exchange of news and information and later, to gradually reduce the reliance to western media for news about Asia,” JM stated that. It will also help promote better understanding and communication among Asian nations and bridge the existing cultural and political divide. He suggested to establish a global recognized Asian News agency.
No doubt, China and Japan are trying to extend access and influence in the the world. Xinhua, government news agency of China and Kyodo, nonprofit news agency of Japan have own journalists in different countries of the world and produce content in different languages. But, they have also problem because they produce news regarding own countries rather than interest of Asia.
In Asia, many countries news agencies which are funded and run by government. They try to develop mutual understanding and share news and photo. But, these efforts are not sufficient to the private media of Asia. Therefore it seems necessary to develop Asian news agency. Asian media can use news of this agency.
It can be reliable to global media as the major sources of Asia. The structure of such agency needs to be clarified. Government or private sector can invest on this agency. Beyond that public and private partnership (PPP) model can be adopted.
Fact and fair reporting with Asian perspective will bring different taste not only Asia but also in the world. Asia News Agency will be useful to the West because Western media is cutting bureaus and staffs of different part of the world.
Journalists should be trained properly and have well equips because quality, fact and fairness and responsible journalism are more important. Common forum of journalists creates tremendous opportunity about issues.
In conclusion, we can say that Strong Asian Network in Media can increase flow of information across Asia and towards world. Such initiative helps in respecting culture and values of each nation, minimize conflict and try to create mutual understanding and setting Asian Agenda in global arena. However, it is necessary to understand the challenges, of how such initiatives could be materialized and most important the structure and functioning of such organization gaining editorial freedom needs to guaranteed. In this foundation- peace, economic growth, development and cultural prosperity of Asia need to be envisioned, where freedom should always be the cornerstone behind such prosperity.
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