Asia News Network: Pushing press freedom across platforms
SEOUL — In 1999, seven editors waiting for a delayed flight after attending a media conference in Manila decided to put together a network of Asian newspapers to cover Asia through Asian eyes.
Twenty years later, the Asia News Network (ANN) has become the region’s biggest alliance of 24 English daily newspapers in 20 countries, with a combined circulation of 12 million, 90 million Facebook followers, 200 million unique visitors and 2.5 billion page views a month.
In a meeting in this city from April 24 to 27 to mark the network’s 20th year, ANN board members adopted a new vision for the group: “Bringing Asia closer.”
To pursue it, the group vows to work across platforms “to deliver news and information, promote free and responsible media, bring Asia closer together and tell the story of the Asian century to the world.”
Asia covered by Asians
As an Asian network, the ANN exchanges news reports, analyses, photos and other information on a daily basis with other members, holds training for journalists and collaborates on other regional projects.
At the gala dinner commemorating the ANN anniversary at the Lotte Hotel, Pana Janviroj, ANN executive director and editor of Thailand’s The Nation, recalled how the network began with seven editors who had just attended the first Asian-German Editors Forum organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Manila in 1999.
Noting how reports about Asia came from foreign wire services, the group decided to form a network of newspapers to improve the coverage of Asian affairs by the Asian media.
Thus was ANN born with seven founding members: India’s The Statesman; Indonesia’s The Jakarta Post; Malaysia’s Sin Chew Daily and The Star Online; the Philippines’ The Manila Times; Singapore’s The Straits Times; Thailand’s The Nation and Vietnam’s Viet Nam News.
Over the years, the ANN family grew to 24 to include the Philippine Daily Inquirer (a member since 1999), Bangladesh’s The Daily Star, Bhutan’s Kuensel, Brunei’s Brunei Press, Cambodia’s The Phnom Penh Post and Rasmei Kampuchea, China’s China Daily, Taiwan’s The China Post, India’s DataLeads and The Statesman, Japan’s The Japan News, Laos’ Vientiane Times, Mongolia’s Gogo Mongolia, Myanmar’s Eleven Media Group, Nepal’s The Kathmandu Post, Pakistan’s Dawn, South Korea’s The Korea Herald and Sri Lanka’s The Island.
In the ANN executive board meeting, chair Chon Shi-yong, chief editorial writer of The Korea Herald, paid tribute to the group’s two decades of shining a light on Asia through reports shared across boundaries and platforms.
Pana agreed. “That we have remained together in unity is unique among self-regulated associations/alliances in Asia. It is down to ‘trust’ as professional journalists who are working with the common goal of keeping our readers/viewers well-informed with credible news coverage and opinion,” he said.
Despite the diversity of its members, the ANN board voted to include promotion of press freedom in its vision, with Pana suggesting that “Maybe we should be more robust in this area in the future.”
Pana also cited the Philippines’ hard-won press freedom after the Marcos dictatorship was toppled.
Investing in press freedom
“The Inquirer has always been an active member [of the ANN] as the Philippines is endowed with freedom of expression—a value that Filipinos worked tirelessly for [though it proved] costly to win,” he added.
Pana also acknowledged the constant support of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), the foundation established in honor of Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, for taking a “neutral and independent view [and] acting like a referee to 24 media organizations.”
Christoph Grabitz, director of ANN lone sponsor, the KAS Media Programme Asia, responded that KAS has been investing in press freedom all over the world “because we live in a global village,” where press freedom is vital for democracy.
“It is not self-evident that a network such as the ANN will survive 20 years” in a region rife with conflict, Grabitz said, adding that he hopes ANN would “carry on surviving for many [more] years to come.”
A highlight of the four-day event was the April 25 courtesy call on South Korea President Moon Jae-in at the Presidential Blue House, Moon’s first meeting with the international media, according to the Presidential Information Office.
The ANN members also cosponsored the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Korea Media Forum on the popular Korean (K-pop) Wave and visited the Samsung Innovation Museum. The gala dinner meanwhile showed a Facebook live event hosted by China Daily’s DJ Clark, which featured Asian street food in six cities.
At the end of the board meeting, the ANN members elected Warren Fernandez, editor in chief of The Straits Times of Singapore to be this year’s ANN chair as the paper celebrates its 175th anniversary in July.
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