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Asia Pacific Journalists Discuss Media’s Role at ILC2020

Asia Pacific—The International Media Association for Peace (IMAP) hosted Session Seven of the ILC2020—Asia Pacific program, held on September 12, 2020, with the theme “Opportunity and Hope at a Time of Global Crisis: Role of Media.” Eight speakers from eight countries representing eight major media outlets presented.

Without being aware of it, they highlighted various attributes of a good leader in describing the social role of the media. They said the media needs to be the watchdog, educator and peace-builder, that is, to act in the role of a good parent. One speaker said that the role of the media is to inform, educate and enlighten, that is, to be a good teacher. The presenters also spoke about the qualities of responsible media: building trust, creating connectivity and advocating freedom. A vivid example of the importance of an independent and responsible media was recently referred to in an article published in an April issue of the international scientific journal “Nature” which reportedly said that if the dangers of COVID-19 were conveyed honestly and in a timely manner, then global losses could have been reduced by as much as 95 percent. Indeed, an independent media is essential for a healthy, free and safe society.

The International Media Association for Peace (IMAP), an initiative of UPF, represents a worldwide professional network of journalists who support a socially responsible and moral media to convey accurate content, address the challenges of our time based on the highest principles of ethical journalism, and understanding that universal values are key elements of a world of peace.

Abbreviated remarks of speakers:

Mrs. Shova Gyawali, director of the Nepal Republic Pvt. Ltd. (publisher of the Republica daily newspaper in association with the International New York Times): To begin with, I would like to talk briefly about the role of the media during any crisis. The media plays the role to bridge the gap between people from different walks of life. It helps provide people hope and gives them the belief that a positive future will surely come along.

During any pandemic or difficulty, it is easy to lose sight of the future and become discouraged.

This is where the media plays a critical role. It needs to assure people that there will be better times ahead. It should uplift and inspire people with stories of optimism from around the globe. It needs to reach out to people at the most desperate times and give them a sense of unity and belonging.

They are mothers leading their family and they make up the majority of first responders. The important role of women in society is the belief that UPF co-founder, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, has held so dearly all her life.

Nevertheless, COVID-19 is a global issue that demands a common response in which all countries express solidarity for and support of one another in alleviating the devastating impact the crisis has had on their people. It is only with a sense of shared responsibility and common destiny that a final victory against this malicious foe will be achieved.

Let me conclude this short address by expressing my warm regards to Dr. Moon and the Universal Peace Federation.

Mr. Hee Taeg Jung, president of The Segye Times, Korea: Since the novel coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, China last December, more than 27 million people have been infected with and 880,000 people have died from it. National borders have closed. We are experiencing hardships resulting from the economy grinding to a halt and job layoffs. Worse yet, nobody knows when the COVID-19 pandemic will come to an end.

What is essential for overcoming this global crisis is leadership that promotes interdependence, mutual prosperity and universal values, which, at the inaugural ceremony of the IMAP at the World Summit 2020, the association pledged it will do. The media’s role is paramount in pooling the wisdom necessary for surmounting this global crisis. Already, nationalism is rearing its head in the struggle to secure COVID-19 vaccines. Cooperation and solidarity among nations are eroding. The media must encourage and lead discussions so that religious and spiritual leaders along with political leaders may find a solution based on interdependence, mutual prosperity and universal values.

According to the World Meteorological Organization’s recent regular briefing, temperatures in the North Pole are rising twice as fast as the global average.

For the sake of future generations, I believe it is up to the media to ask the fundamental questions and reflect on the answers to these questions.

The Segye Times has been reporting on climate change and environmental problems every year since 2014. It is also focused on providing in-depth coverage of COVID-19.

A major concern during this emergency is that social conflict and distrust are growing.

Opinions have become polarized according to differences in political beliefs, generations, gender, or even location. Blame is shifted, and accusations run amok. Conflict is stirred up and proliferated through “fake news,” generated through social media.

The media must step in and take charge. During a crisis, such as this pandemic, trust, as the preeminent social capital, is a proverbial vaccine. To this end, The Segye Times is doing all it can to provide accurate and unbiased news coverage. It is committed to social responsibility and following ethics, consistent with the IMAP Resolution.

In order for the era of a Heavenly Unified Korea and a one-family community centered around our Heavenly Parent to be brought about, our journalists must aim to create a free, responsible and moral press, and lead the way in creating world peace through active cross-border interchange and solidarity.

Mr. Masahiro Kuroki, president of The Sekai Nippo, Japan: The world is now facing a global scale crisis, which is a focus of the main theme of this conference. Needless to say, this crisis has brought confusion to all areas of society, including politics, the economy, medical care and transportation. At the same time, the pandemic has brought to light the problems that human beings have in common.

This crisis can be said to be a global warning to all mankind.

One of the most notable issues that have developed during the COVID-19 crisis is the intensifying confrontation between the United States and China. This is not just a balance-of-power struggle between the world's first and second greatest powers, but it is also a clash of values for humanity, between liberal democracy and communism. The question is how can the suppression of ideology, religion, freedom and human rights by communism, represented by the Chinese Communist Party, be stopped? What is important is how we can overcome this battle of thought and values.

UPF co-founder, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, has repeatedly stressed that "human wisdom and power cannot solve the problem." Foreign politicians and we, journalists, must listen seriously to the providence.

The direction for the region is indicated by the Asia-Pacific Union initiative, which Dr. Moon declared in Nagoya, Japan last October. Gross domestic product (GDP) in the region is remarkable and is expected to account for about 60 percent of the world's growth in 2030. It is hoped that Pacific Rim countries, led by South Korea, Japan and the United States, will take the lead based on the providence.

Otto von Bismarck, a 19th-century Prussian politician, said: "A statesman cannot create anything himself. He must wait and listen until he hears the steps of God sounding through events, then leap up and grasp the hem of His garment." I think journalists need to have the attitude of catching "the hem of His garment."

Ms. Naziah Ali, publisher and editor-in-chief of Fiji Time Magazine, Fiji: The need for our leaders to come together, exchange ideas and experiences and find a way forward has become more important today than ever before.

While Fiji has had to close its borders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, this has inevitably led to economic suffering. The collapse of the global tourism industry has hit our small economy hard, and there is no real forecast of when we can go back to how things were. We are bracing for a new normal, and this new normal brings with it doubts and fears.

In times of crisis when there is a threat to public health on the scale like that of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments take more restrictive measures than they would in normal times. Fiji shut down cities to contain the spread of the virus and imposed a 14-day quarantine for citizens returning to the island.  It also imposed a curfew and limited the size of public gatherings.

Amid the pandemic, the free flow of news and information is essential, ensuring open dialogue and the exchange of vital information.

The local media in Fiji is fully committed to its responsibility as a watchdog, educator and peace builder during this crisis, despite setbacks that occurred earlier when the first coronavirus case was found in Fiji.

During those early days, the media was accused of scaremongering and inciting online hostility. From the start, the media published information to inform people about the coronavirus. There was a flood of information and the public was struggling to sieve through what was credible and what was not.

Social media, in particular Facebook, has become the hub of virtual conversation sometimes rife with misinformation. The World Health Organization (WHO) introduced its COVID-19 information center which works with fact checkers around the world to handle misinformation on Facebook. Most media companies are finding that social media has transformed itself into a key channel for reading perspectives that it might not get otherwise. However, there are concerning signs of stigma of and misinformation about the virus.

Local media can provide more reliable information because they actually have reporters on the ground in communities and therefore have more factual data and information. The media is finding itself in a paradox of sorts. With audiences reaching record numbers and revenue shrinking, media companies are finding it difficult to stay afloat. But one thing that is clear is that COVID-19 is reawakening people to the vital role of independent media in society. This time is an opportunity for the media to rebuild bridges of trust with the community to become a reliable source of information.

Mr. Zhu Xing Qing, former chief correspondent in Hong Kong of Radio Free Asia (USA) and former deputy editor of the World Economic Herald, Shanghai, China: Over the past year or so, there have been social disputes over the extradition laws, then COVID-19, and finally, more recently, fierce battles over national security laws. Many Hong Kong residents say they are no longer familiar with and are even afraid of the city where they were born and grew up. Some young people want to flee abroad, while more people in general are eager to emigrate.

Data from international banks indicate that the number of rich immigrants in 2018 increased by 50 percent over the previous year, and ranked the number one in the world.

As for COVID-19, we can learn more details from the social media posts of Chinese mainlanders. According to an issue of the international scientific journal, “Nature,” published in April of this year, if COVID-19 had been reported in a timely way, losses could have been reduced by 95 percent. In other words, if there was an independent media that could report on the coronavirus when it first emerged, hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved.

However, since the middle of this year, the global media has been paying more attention to the border conflict between China and India. Following the deaths of dozens of soldiers, this week, both countries exchanged the first gunshot in 45 years. I believe that mankind is facing a crucial crossroads today. And making a wise choice is unprecedentedly important.

The international community should learn lessons and formulate new regulations that are more rigorous, operable and verifiable. The media of all countries, big or small, should strive to report the truth as quickly as possible. Let the belief that human health is most important spread all over the world.

The theme of our conference tries to give us the answer on how these dilemmas and crises can be addressed: interdependence. mutual prosperity and universal values. We must re-emphasize the traditional values of freedom, democracy, equality and fraternity

In Chinese, crisis 危机 means danger plus opportunity. I believe that we still have reasons to be optimistic about the rest of this century and the destiny of mankind.

Mr. Alok Mehta, former president of the Editors Guild of India: UPF has been working in the more than past decade with a great vision of world peace and the welfare of human society. UPF co-founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon also inspired the media world to work for peace and prosperity for human beings. I still remember when the World Media Association held conferences in 1997 and 1998 in Washington, D.C. with blessings of Rev. Moon to promote peace, prosperity and universal values for global family. Now, during the COVID-19 crisis, we have to work more for that mission to save the world.

It is an undisputed fact that journalism, in today’s world, is challenging and requires concerted efforts from a journalist to succeed. Journalism is the fourth estate of government.

The core purpose of journalism is to inform, educate and enlighten the masses on various issues.

The media has to maintain the principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability. Therefore, I feel the media should be more responsible and follow ethics to promote social values, and IMAP can create better understanding among journalists and media professionals of different countries.

India has over 800 million youth and they know that their future will be secured not just by the scale of the country’s economy, but also by the depth of the country’s global engagement.

The coronavirus crisis has created enormous challenges for the world. It has shaken the foundations of the global order, and the future looks less certain. For all the progress we have made, we now live on the edge of uncertainty, with unsettled questions and unresolved disputes; contests and claims; and clashing visions and competing models.

We see growing mutual insecurity and rising military expenditure, internal dislocations turning into external tensions, and new fault lines in trade and competition in the global commons. Above all, we see assertion of power over recourse to international norms. In the midst of all this, there are challenges that touch us all, including the continuous threat of terrorism and extremism. This is a world of interdependent fortunes and failures. And, no nation can shape and secure it on its own.

Connectivity is vital. It does more than enhance trade and prosperity; it unites a region. India has been at the crossroads for centuries. We understand the benefits of connectivity. There are many connectivity initiatives in the region, and if these are to succeed, we must not only build infrastructure, but also bridges of trust.

So, each nation must ask itself: Are its choices building a more united world, or creating new divisions? It is a responsibility that both existing and rising powers have. Competition is normal, but contests must not turn into conflict and differences must not be allowed to become disputes. We choose the side of principles and values, of peace and progress—not one side of a divide or the other.

Mr. Vasilii Fokin, founder of the Eurasia News Group, Kyrgyzstan: There is no easy route through the crisis. Today, I would like to speak on what we may have learned from the pandemic, in order to usher in the post-COVID era, especially in the Asia Pacific region.

There is a popular English proverb that says “cometh the hour, cometh the man.” The idea is that the right leaders will come to the fore during times of crisis.

South Korea’s rapid response to the coronavirus may be an exemplary demonstration of the principles of effective crisis management.

Civil trust in the government of a nation is crucial to overcoming such calamities. A wrong move could erode trust and unleash unrest that exacerbates existing threats. But, it remains to be seen whether our leaders will rise to the occasion with the appropriate response. Without that openness, the public can quickly sense deception, reducing the credibility of the government and trust in their policies.

When it comes to taking action, a leader needs to evaluate exactly how much they can rely on individual cooperation through persuasion, and when they need to cross over into more rigid “command and control,” a choice that can quickly backfire if it is not taken with suitable caution. All of this will determine how a leader limits the damage of an emergency.

Ladies and gentleman, effective crisis leadership cannot be brought about by simply doing the right thing on the ground. Instead, leaders need to craft a good narrative that helps clarify the problem and unite the population if they are to attain the permissive consensus that is essential to make decisions and formulate policies.

The narrative would offer a credible explanation of what happened and guidance, instill hope, show empathy and suggest that leaders are in control. If you fail on any one of those, you will begin to lose the public’s confidence.

Dr. Thomas P. McDevitt, chairman of The Washington Times and global coordinator of IMAP: It does seem that our era is overcome with multidimensional critical challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc and suffering throughout the world. Social norms have been disrupted. As you all know, there are numerous other significant challenges facing every nation. There are big changes occurring in the shift from the dominant Atlantic-centered civilization to the Asia Pacific civilization.

How we view these challenges is so important. As journalists it is vital that we seek information that is most essential in order to report the news with accuracy, fairness and relevance.

And we should seek to understand the grand currents that are driving our time, this changing era.

In 2016, before 80 members of the U.S. Congress attending the launch of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) on Capitol Hill, UPF co-founder, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, said: “We look at this world and see unspeakable, inarticulate misery happening all around the globe. This is impossible to solve with mere human power. What should we do from here on forward? We should start a movement that once again attends God as the original owner of the universe in our families, countries and world. However, the reality is that, although our hearts are eager to attend God, it’s hard to practice in real life.”

As the evangelical historian philosopher, Os Guiness, likes to say, “Contrast is the mother of clarity.” When the world seems so dark, the emerging light of a new view of life—centered on the highest ideals of true love that transcend the barriers of race, religion, culture and national boundaries—is now becoming more evident with each passing day.

The media must be free. And, a free press must also be a responsible press, and a responsible press is a moral press. What do I mean by a moral media? A moral media is society’s conscience.

The IMAP will encourage the development of a responsible global media industry that is highly trusted, independent and prosperous, and accessible to all people. And, as the “peace” in IMAP's name suggests, there is also a strong desire to encourage news media to shine a light on dialogue, collaboration, conflict resolution and most of all, solutions—as a way to promote human development, God-given human rights, social well-being, freedom and prosperity.

To go back to the executive summary for the Asia Pacific ILC, click here.

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