Southeast Asian journalists have been entrusted with the herculean task of helping ASEAN nations get better prepared ahead of the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, an international discussion was told.
Speakers at the Confederation of ASEAN Journalists (CAJ) workshop in Palembang, South Sumatra, agreed that media outlets in the region were “crucial agents” in ensuring the smooth passage of the AEC.
“ASEAN is expediting community building through its three pillars: the political-security community, the economic community and the social-cultural community. It is therefore essential for the CAJ to emphasize its focus on the implementation of the three blueprints for the AEC. The aspirations of ASEAN aspiration are also the aspirations of the CAJ in the materialization of a politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible ASEAN,” Coordinating Minister of Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto said in his keynote speech on Tuesday.
The minister said that he had witnessed numerous events in the region that demonstrated the powerful role of the media in influencing policymakers in the region in determining policy, both in domestic and foreign affairs.
“Journalists have a responsibility to provide correct and proper information by taking into consideration the cultural and socio-political backgrounds of various nations and peoples,” Djoko said, adding that the media also played a huge role because it directly addressed society. “The media shapes the picture, image and perception of its various audiences. The media creates reactions that are often faster than those predicted or anticipated by governments,” he said.
Some 70 journalists from Southeast Asian nations attended the event which was CAJ’s first workshop since it had been established in 1975. The CAJ’s general assembly in Manila in November last year, also mandated the CAJ to play a more active role in the AEC in 2015 and beyond.
CAJ president Benny Antiporda of the Philippines, meanwhile, highlighted the importance of not abusing press freedom. He suggested that “sensationalism” could hinder the media in fulfilling its responsibility to disseminate the information required by the people of ASEAN to prepare themselves ahead of the AEC in 2015.
“We, the CAJ, fight for absolute freedom. But I want to set the record straight. Absolute freedom and abuse of freedom are two different concepts,” he said.
The CAJ’s members comprise the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI), the National Union of Journalists of Malaysia (NUJM), the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC), the Singapore National Union of Journalists (SNUJ), the Confederation of Thai Journalists (CTJ), the Vietnam Journalists Association (VJA) and the Laos Journalists Association (LJA).
Media people from non-ASEAN member nations, such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, also attended the event as observers, said Martha Silalahi, an aide to the CAJ permanent secretary.
Senior Indonesian journalist Sabam Siagian, one of the speakers, addressed the importance of the media in helping settle territorial conflicts in the region with China, which claims almost the entire South China Sea.
“Some ASEAN nations are claimants in the South China Sea dispute. The media through the CAJ should address this issue very seriously. We have to look for a solution. We cannot live forever with these prolonged conflicting claims,” he told the forum.