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News Agencies in Asia and the Pacific invigorate Journalistic Ethics

22.12.2011

The release of a new ‘Declaration on Ethical Guidelines for Journalists’ marked the recent 50th Anniversary of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies OANA. The commemorative event, followed by round-table discussions was attended by 40 journalists from 15 countries in Asia and the Pacific. 

Sura Gaintanasilp, Interim President of MCOT Public Company Limited, was the first to take a look back into 50 years OANA history. All had started in December 1961 with a conference at the newly established UNESCO Bangkok office of news agency directors and media experts from 14 Asian countries and observers from the world’s leading media organizations. Upon the closure of that meeting, OANA was founded as “a new independent regional association of news agencies, …, in response of the lack of information facilities in the region in which nearly two-thirds of the world’s population are living and in recognition of the need to develop a ‘more just and efficient information order’ to narrow the existing gap in the flow of international news”, said Mr Gaintanasilp.

Beginning with the inception conference at UNESCO Bangkok in 1961 “UNESCO and OANA have a long history of working together”, said UNESCO Bangkok’s Deputy Director Etienne Clement, with OANA’s role in line with UNESCO’s mission to “promote professional contacts and technical co-operation between the news agencies of Asia through such means as the exchange of news services, features and photographs.” Article 1 of UNESCO’s Constitution mandates the organization to “collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples through all means of mass communication, …, and to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image”.

“UNESCO strongly believes that well informed citizens lead to a more democratic society”, said Mr. Clement, which has recently been backed up by the ASEAN Summit in Indonesia with a clear statement to support ASEAN media to enhance cooperation. 

Significant achievements were made in the area of freedom of information and freedom of expression since 1961, in the private but also the public domain, improving transparency, access to information, and accountability and public participation in policy and decision-making. 

“Through its fifty years of work, OANA has facilitated a better understanding among member countries in the Asia-Pacific and has also participated in reducing the imbalance in the information exchange between developed and developing countries” closed Mr. Clement.

Kemal Öztürk, President of OANA and Director-General of Anadolu Agency, described OANA’s current mission as “to increase and facilitate a freer flow of news and information in Asia and the Pacific and to encourage the removal of discriminatory actions and unnecessary restrictions by governments affecting news agencies engaged in news transmission or distribution so as to promote the availability of news information to people of the world.” Being the largest regional news agency alliance in the world, Mr Öztürk underlined OANA’s commitment to peace and understanding among nations and its opposition to all forms of racism, colonialism and neo-colonialism. 

“As the world and our region move towards more tumultuous times, as humanity faces growing financial and social problems, as we witness more wars, conflicts, terror attacks, natural disasters, earthquakes, floods and tsunamis, we as news agencies and together as OANA have to act more responsibly”, said Mr. Öztürk.

Facing many challenges in media and business development, particularly through Internet, and social media platforms, news agencies today strive to maintain responsible and reliable reporting. More and more is the violation of ethical boundaries of journalism visible in the exploding world of open Internet-based social media networks. UNESCO has constantly fostered debate on media accountability and professional and ethical standards, which provide journalists with guiding principles on how to best exercise their profession. While media should serve the public interest, the borders of privacy and intimacy should not be crossed, and professional journalists and editors should stay alert about ethics of media. 
 In essence, ethical journalists serve the public’s right to know. They are professional also in the sense that they seek the truth and resist the pressure to convey distortions, be they from media owners, business interests or political forces. These are the ethics which should be promoted. 

For this reason OANA, on this important gathering to celebrate 50 years of history, released the 50th Anniversary Ethical Guidelines Declaration.

For this noble endeavour since 50 years, OANA was congratulated by Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, in his opening speech.

“Access to information is crucial if our peoples are to adapt to all the changes taking place and remain competitive as our countries become increasingly integrated. At the same time, access to information is also key for our peoples' involvement in the formulation of policies and the governance of our countries, allowing our democracies to be truly participatory”, said Mr. Tovichakchaikul.

More information on UNESCO Bangkok’s media activities: 
  www.unescobkk.org/communication-and-information/

OANA 50th Anniversary Ethical Guidelines Declaration: 
  www.oananews.org/content/info/oana-50th-anniversary-ethical-guidelines-declaration