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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

02 June 2021

ESCAP

Excellencies, Ministers, AIBD President, AIBD Vice-President,

AIBD Director,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to join you today at this timely event on “Redefining the Role of Media in the New Norm.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a once-in-a-century catastrophe, widening development fault lines through its disastrous impact on the most vulnerable groups of our societies.

Coupled with the worsening threat of climate change, these twin crises are reason enough why  we need to place the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the heart of the recovery efforts as we transition to a more inclusive, resilient, low-carbon economies.

To achieve this, the media can be our partner in helping us to report on COVID-19 recovery packages that tackle the climate crisis and address the root causes of poverty, inequality and hunger.  

May I take this opportunity to offer three principles for how the media can help us build back better.

First, we need to report the news accurately and honestly.

Upholding independent, fact-based reporting is an essential global public good critical to building a safer, healthier and more sustainable recovery.

COVID-19 is not just a major public health emergency – it is also a communication crisis. We have seen how misinformation spreading across digital channels can hamper the public health response.

Media outlets must provide effective and accurate reporting as the public turns to digital platforms for credible news, particularly on governmental plans to tackle the pandemic and treatment strategies for example, on the vaccination plan or programme across the  community.

As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has rightly said, we need to “flood the Internet with facts and science, while countering the growing scourge of misinformation — a poison that is putting even more lives at risk.”

Second, we must ensure that citizens have access to information.

To do this, we need to accelerate digital transformation in Asia and the Pacific. It is hard to imagine life during the pandemic without access to the digital world. But sadly, this is a reality for over 2 billion people in our region, among whom are some of the most vulnerable.

For example, some 20 per cent of students in East Asia and the Pacific and almost 40 per cent of students in South and West Asia could not access remote learning this past year. This will have lasting effects that perpetuate inter-generational inequality and poverty.

To address the digital divide, our Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative focuses on four pillars: infrastructure connectivity, efficient Internet traffic and network management, e-resilience, and affordable broadband access for all.

But Internet access alone is not enough. There is a persistent and still expanding digital skills gap in our region. In response, our Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development is working with policymakers and women and youth to equip them with digital skills needed through demand-driven training programmes.

This brings me to my third point: We must promote good governance.

Social media is a powerful communication platform used in many areas - from public administration to environmental protection to disaster management.

But to reap the full benefits, we need to better understand the implications of social media on national policy and program formulation and how it can be leveraged to create an enabling policy environment for digital transformation.

At ESCAP, we are working to build this technical capacity, particularly in the least developed countries. For example, last month, we brought together policymakers and media officers across ministries in Bhutan to share best practices at a virtual briefing on “Social Media and Emerging Technologies for the Post Pandemic World.”

Excellencies, Colleagues,  Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, the media provides enormous potential to share knowledge, promote good governance and provide access to information for all.

As a regional platform, AIBD can encourage dialogue and cooperation in our region's media, highlighting important and emerging global, regional and national issues.

AIBD members can amplify the messages contained in ESCAP’s research and analysis, policy advisory services, and capacity building to support the development ambitions of our 53 member States.

From the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation in the Pacific to Radio Television Malaysia in South East Asia,  the media has a critical role to play in modern public life, especially as we move towards a more digital, more mobile, and more platform-dominated media environment.

But as we live in this rapidly changing world, we need to ensure that the digital transformation happening around us does not become another facet of the deep inequalities in Asia and the Pacific.

This is one of the greatest challenges we face as countries start to rebuild.

That is why inclusion must be at the heart of digital transformation if we are to leave no one behind.

I am very much encouraged to see the engagement of leaders from governments, the media industry, health experts and technology gathered at this summit to discuss these critical issues to ensure a sustainable recovery for our region.

I wish you well in your deliberations.

Thank you very much.

 

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