Speech by OANA President Kemal Öztürk at 50th anniversary celebrations in Bangkok
Prime Minister of Thailand, Her Excellency Yingluck Shinawatra,
Interim President of MCOT, Mr. Sura Gaintanasilp,
UNESCO Vice-Representative in Bangkok, Mr. Etienne Clément,
Colleagues from member agencies of OANA
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to start my speech by expressing my thanks to our hosts, the Thailand News Agency for not giving up on the organising of the 50th anniversary celebrations despite the devastating floods that caused an immense human suffering and a big setback to economy.
Golden Jubilee is an important milestone in the life of any organisation. I extend my gratitude to our Thai colleagues who worked very hard to enable us to mark this significant moment here in Bangkok where OANA was founded 50 years ago. I am also grateful to our colleagues representing OANA member agencies who travelled here from near and far points of Asia-Pacific.
The picture we have today of this region and OANA compared to 50 years ago is very different.
OANA has grown to become the largest regional new agency alliance in the world with 44 national news agencies in it. They share their top stories, pictures and video as well as knowledge and experience and deepen their cooperation.
The main objectives of the Organization were defined 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.”
OANA has always functioned as a common platform for this vast area of the world where diverse political systems, colours, races, cultures and religions co-exist.
OANA also strived, in line with its charter, “to commit itself to peace and understanding among nations and to oppose all forms of racism, colonialism and neo-colonialism”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At a time when Europe and America are trying to cope with growing economic and social problems, Asia stands out with its dynamism and vibrancy.
The economies on this continent are growing faster than those on Europe or America. Asia has a more dynamic and younger population. Almost two thirds of the world population live here.
Analysts around the world agree that balance of power in the world is shifting towards Asia.
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.
On the one hand we are trying to cope with the rapid and radical changes in the media industry and new phenomena like social media by devising new business models. On the other hand we strive to maintain our responsible and reliable reporting.
The big shift in the media industry does not mean the end for news agencies. Although social media is a great tool to gather and disseminate news, it has some innate problems. It’s a minefield where there are a lot of hoaxes, fake identities, false stories, slanders, disinformation, unethical and graphic pictures of indecency. People hardly stick to media ethics and guidelines on social platforms.
As you are aware, undignified pictures and videos of ex-Libyan Leader Muammar Gadhafi in his last moments were first captured by cell phones and uploaded to social media and internet and then they were televised over international media networks for days, shocking people all over the world.
Soon after the incident I sent letters to members of OANA, as well as to members of European Alliance of news agencies EANA and Federation of Arab News Agencies FANA drawing attention to the violation of ethical boundaries in these repeated broadcasts. We as Anadolu Agency refused to carry grisly pictures and video of Gadhafi being shot, lynched and his bloodied body dragged along and paraded. Our intention was never to encourage a news blackout or censorship.
We have pointed out that every human being, even a tyrant or a dictator, deserves a private death and the published and broadcast images are of a nature that go beyond the red lines and carrying them do not serve the public interest to be informed.
We also felt that broadcasting these visuals was culturally offensive and insensitive.
Even though the renowned icons of Western news media have chosen to spread distressing and graphic pictures of gore, and to shock people across the world, it will be a significant message to the world media if the call to uphold media ethics should come from us, news agencies of this region.
As news agencies we still have a lot of influence and guiding power on the media in general.
It is very important for the peace in Asia-Pacific and the world that we should keep our editors alert against news and images which can shock people and lead them to feelings of hatred, hostility and discrimination against one another.
On this important day in OANA’s history, we would like to send out a message to the world media by issuing the 50th Anniversary Declaration that underlines the media ethics.
In this declaration, we both promise to fulfil the public right to accurate and reliable information and also declare our will to uphold the media ethical guidelines. I appreciate your support to this declaration personally.
I hope that with more dynamic and pro-active attitude and stronger and deeper cooperation, our agencies and OANA will remain relevant and thrive for many decades to come.
Congratulations to all member agencies on our 50th anniversary and thank you all for enabling OANA to remain a vibrant and successful hub of information flow.