By Mirwais Jalalzai
A free press is essential to democratic discourse in the world, but the media generally is still in its infancy and lacks basic journalism skills even in developed countries.
Press freedom faces challenges everywhere in the world — in both open and closed societies, wealthy and developing nations, traditional media and virtual newsrooms.
Longstanding challenges such as government interference and economic pressures are complicated by new media’s impact on gathering information, verifying facts and maintaining financial stability. But technology also presents creative ways of tackling old problems.
‘‘it is a long way to have a free and responsible media in the region spicily in Myanmar’’, deputy information Minister U Ye Htut said in Yangon international media conference..
That three-day international media conference organized by the US-based East-West Center. The conference, on the theme ‘Challenges to a free press in emerging democracies has attracted more than 400 participants.
The 2014 conference was gathered distinguished keynote speakers and panels of journalists from the Asia Pacific region and the United States to share insights into the challenges they face and strategies they use for newsgathering.
The conference had also include on-the-ground updates on news and media issues in the region, a wide range of practical skill-building workshops, and unique opportunities to network with hundreds of international media professionals.
‘’Everybody on the planet who uses the Internet needs to worry,” said Alan Pearce, a British journalist who specializes in cyber security. “If a cyber-criminal or an intelligence agent wanted to target anyone in this room, all they need is your email address.”
“They can read your emails, see all of your photographs,” he said. “They can even turn on your camera and your microphone and follow you around.”
In international media conference organized by the US-based East-West Center, Najiba Aiobi an afghan media activist also had a speech to the participants, and she point out the challenges and the gains of afghan media after the fall of Taliban in Afghanistan.
Mrs. Aiobi said that for the first time in last 30 years afghan government was committed to developing a free and independent press.
“This is a responsibility that we take seriously because it is the media that helps citizens to make informed decisions,” she said.
she said challenges remained in building relationships between government ministries and the media. This was because some ministries were reluctant to share information or were distrustful of the media.
She said a new media law could help to establish higher standards of conduct in journalism, adding that training courses being established by international groups like East- West Center, ICFJ, AJF,IWPR help to develop skills in the media sector in Afghanistan.
“I think the case of the Unity Journal is a matter of national security,” U Ye Htut said. “I think the United States government would even react with the same action if it was concerning national security,” he said
In a speech given in conjunction with the East-West Center’s International Media Conference on “Challenges of a Free Press” this week in Yangon, Myanmar, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi today addressed press freedom issues in both emerging and developed democracies.
‘’Without a free press to check those who are in power, she said, “we will not be able to defend the rights and freedoms of the people. But at the same time, this press has to be aware not just of its great power and influence, but of the great responsibility that it bears for the building of a new nation that is centered on the will of the people.
She cautioned that the press has an inherent obligation to its citizens and should not shirk its duties to the public. “Greater freedom demands greater responsibility,” she said. “It is one of my greatest concerns that people not look upon democracy as a system that gives unlimited rights to them but does not demand equal responsibility back.”
Suu Kyi said that increased levels of training and educational support can bolster the standard of a free press in any country, and that she hoped similar methods would come to fruition in Myanmar.
Randall Smith, business journalism professor from the Missouri School of Journalism, moderated the discussion.
“What the media has to do these days, in my opinion, is go back to business school,” Smith said. He said media organizations should align their content with what their customers want. In the U.S., niche markets are key to successful media businesses. The danger lies in those businesses with only one or two revenue streams, Smith said.
“The good news is the world still is flat,” Smith said. “It will always be flat, and good ideas are coming from every where.
The conference ended with much optimism that the momentum for media reform can be sustained and even accelerated with more stakeholders involved, especially at the national and international level.