Malaysia has proposed the establishment of an ASEAN news agency comprising media groups from across the region.
Salleh Said Keruak, the country’s communication and multimedia minister, suggested the move in his opening address Tuesday at the first-ever ASEAN Editors Summit Conference, held in Kuala Lumpur this week.
With ASEAN members continuing to face sensitive cross-border issues related to security and national sovereignty despite greater integration through the ASEAN Community, Salleh said problems should be reported on in a cordial and transparent manner so that conflicts are not complicated further.
“It is therefore my belief that the time has come to establish the ASEAN News Agency,” Salleh told more than 100 editors from Southeast Asian countries at the two-day summit, according to The Star.
“The way forward and with the ASEAN Community already a reality, slowly but surely, the ASEAN News Agency that I am proposing here, could play a significant role in strengthening cooperation on many fronts.”
Salleh offered few details about how the new proposal would actually be operationalized, urging editors present to initiate “preliminary discussions” on the proposal. He also said that critical questions – such as which country would host the proposed news agency, its structure and modus operandi, as well as financing – would have to be determined in consultation with the ASEAN Secretariat.
Salleh mentioned that this could be “fast-tracked” by each news agency seconding senior editors and journalists to the new body, which could play the role of a central clearinghouse for news reports generated by the agencies. But he also acknowledged that doing so involving some 1,500 media organizations would initially be quite difficult.
Zulkefli Salleh, the general manager of Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama – one of the organizers of the conference – suggested that by cultivating regional media outlets, coverage of Southeast Asian events might be more attuned to “local sensitivity” instead of relying on international media for stories.
But that vision – as well as the proposal for an ASEAN news agency more generally – is likely to encounter resistance from those who would like to see media in Southeast Asia gradually move toward less control by governments, rather than more.