Friday, August 08, 2008

Happy Birthday ASEAN ...

As we celebrate the 41st anniversary of ASEAN today, I recalled meeting ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan at a media forum in Bangkok in March.
In his keynote address, he cited the ASEAN Charter and underlined the crucial importance of a sense of ownership of and belonging to ASEAN of all its peoples.
“ASEAN is not an organization of leaders of the nations, but of all their peoples.
“The media as popular communication channel can help ASEAN to reach out to the 567 million people of ASEAN…The media can serve as a platform for social dialogue to create just and equitable society,” he said.
“How do we bring the sense of care and compassion and concern to the people of ASEAN?, if the media, if the journalists, if the people in the profession of the Fourth Estate are not inducted into this process of community building.
I remember him saying that the media can help “by paying attention to what ASEAN is doing, by being more critical to what ASEAN is doing, by being more proactive in advising, in giving us your ideas, your fears, your doubts, and your hopes about ASEAN”.
“How many columnists, how many journalists, how many TV broadcasters, who are really prepared to dialogue, to discuss, to exchange on the issues of the wider community of ASEAN?
Dr Surin went on to quote novelist Arthur Miller who once said “the newspaper is a nation talking to itself”.
“Think about that “the newspaper is a nation talking to itself”. Meaning if you are really free as a newspaper then all the problems of your society must be registered on the page of your newspaper because you bring all the problems on the page, because you have the right to question “what’s going on in society?”, because you have the right to contribute for the betterment of the society, of yours. A newspaper is a nation talking to itself.”

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