(UPDATED) RIACHY AT OANA MEETING PUSHES NEWS AGENCIES TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, NEVER FEAR AUTHORITY

National News Agency Director, Laure Sleiman, commenced on Wednesday the 42nd meeting of the Executive Council of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA).

The one-day meeting, which is taking place at Hilton Habtoor Hotel, is hosted by Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA), under the patronage of Lebanon’s Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, and presence of OANA President, Mr. Aslan Aslanov.

The participating news agencies in OANA’s Executive Council meeting are: Azerbaijan News Agency (AZERTAK), Turkish News Agency (ANADOLU), Malaysian News Agency (BERNAMA), Bahrain News Agency (BNA), Iranian News Agency (IRNA), Japanese News Agency (KYODO), Mehr News Agency ( MNA ), Mongolia News Agency (MONTSAME), National News Agency (NNA), Russian News Agency (TASS), Korean News Agency (UNHAP), Chinese News Agency (XINHUA), PNN Report((UNHAP).

The following is Mrs. Sleiman’s opening speech:

“Your Excellency Minister of Information Mr. Melhem Riachy,

President of OANA Mr. Aslan Aslanov,

My fellow agency directors, members of OANA Executive Council and OANA Technical Office,

It is a great honor for us to welcome you here in Lebanon — this country that is small in size and great in diversity and openness.

Lebanon, which welcomes you today on its territory, is only 10452 square kilometers. Its sons live in 18 different communities. It hosts more than 2 million displaced Syrians and Iraqis, who have fled violence and terrorism in their respective countries, in addition to the huge number of Palestinian refugees.

Today, you have come to Beirut from various countries in Asia and the Pacific to discuss and exchange ideas about the future of news agencies in light of the world’s technological development, and to discuss their role in blocking the promotion of terrorism, which is destroying our civilizations, cultures, and diversity.

Lebanon, which has recovered from a 30-year-old war, is pleased to host the meeting of the Executive Council of OANA at the onset of a new presidential era. Our new president is relentlessly seeking change and reform, as well as restoration of prestige to national institutions. This conference is also under the patronage of Information Minister, Melhem Riachy, who is relentlessly trying to transform the Ministry of Information to a Ministry of Dialogue and Communication.

Our meeting today coincides with UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day, which translates our deep conviction in the freedom of expression.

We have chosen four themes to be the focus of our meeting:

1- News media in the era of digital development

2- News Agencies’ performance at a time when mobile phones have become accessible to everyone

3- New standards of journalism: the transformation of journalism in line with modern media

4- Role of news agencies in blocking terrorism

Finally yet importantly, allow me to thank His Excellency, Minister of Information Mr. Melhem Riachy, for sponsoring this meeting. I would also like to welcome you once again in your second country, Lebanon.”

In turn, OANA President, Director of AZERTAK News Agency, Mr. Aslan Aslanov, delivered the following word:

“Dear Mr. Minister, distinguished participants of the meeting, dear friends,

First of all, on my own behalf and on behalf of the members of the Executive Board, I would like to thank the Lebanese government and Minister of Information Mr. Melhem Riachy for assistance in organizing this meeting and for participating in todays gathering.

I would also like to express my gratitude to Director of Lebanese National News Agency (NNA) Ms Laure Sleiman for hosting the meetings of OANA Executive Board, and the Ethics and Technical committees.

As you know, Baku hosted the 5th News Agencies World Congress and the 16th General Assembly of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA) last November, co-organized by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and AZERTAC and supported by first Vice-President, Mehriban Aliyeva. Each of you contributed to the organization of those events. I would like to thank you for your support and help.

I think the fact that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev attended and addressed the joint opening ceremony of the General Assembly and the 5th Congress and received a group of media representatives increased the importance of our events.

Thirty-five out of 44 OANA members attended the Baku-hosted General Assembly of OANA. We heard an extensive report on the activities of the organization over the past three years, which was delivered by First Deputy Director General of Russia’s TASS news agency Mr. Mikhail Gusman. We also voted to elect new members of the technical and ethics committees.

We realize great responsibility as AZERTAC took over OANA presidency and believe that we will successfully cope with this task in the next three years.

We are confident that through combined efforts we will achieve a lot in improving OANA’s activity and making it a more dynamic organization.

We have sent letters to all OANA members inviting them to put forward proposals on how we can improve the structure and work of OANA and increase functionality of its website. We have received feedback from a number of members, including Russia’s TASS, Australia’s AAP, South Korea’s Yonhap, Vietnam’s VNA, China’s Xinhua, Iran’s IRNA agencies. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of you personally for your valuable proposals. These proposals are being considered and will be implemented during our presidency.

I would like to draw your attention to some of the proposals. We would appreciate any comments on these proposals during our discussion today. Australia’s AAP agency proposes holding workshops and trainings for OANA member agencies on a regular basis. I believe that this will make a significant contribution to the development of cooperation among news agencies. The workshops and trainings will allow our agencies to have an exchange of experience and ideas, and employees will have the opportunity to benefit from knowledge and skills of their colleagues at other agencies. AAP also proposed organizing forums as part of Executive Board meetings. I think this is also a very effective proposal. AAP’s other proposals are related to the issues, which will be discussed at today’s meeting.AAP proposes that we discuss today the improvement and functionality of OANAs website, and review the work of the Executive Board. I would appreciate your comments on these issues.

We also have Iran’s IRNA agency, which proposes discussing the opportunity for member agencies to share with each other their professional and technical achievements as well as successful experience. IRNA also made a proposal similar to AAP’s proposal, which is holding joint workshops among member agencies. IRNA put forward one more proposal that we discuss today how OANA can benefit from social networks.

Another proposal came from Russian TASS agency, which believes that it would be beneficial for us to invite guest speakers from research centers or non-member agencies to the meetings of the Executive Board.

We took over OANA’s website from TASS, and have been working to make it more efficient. A technical report, which is presented to you, features detailed information about what we have done. I would like to give a brief insight into some of improvements made on the website. One of them is that we changed the video player. By doing so we ensured access to video content on the OANA website from mobile phones and tablets.

We created a Twitter account of OANA.

Given the growing role of social networks, I think it is important to our future development. It is a well-known fact that nowadays everyone, particularly young people, have access to internet resources through mobile devices. Therefore, we adapted OANAs website to mobile devices in order to improve access to the website and increase its functionality.

Apart from this, we added several new functions to the website. One of them is that we launched a service that allows a chair agency to collect the statistical data of the website. We also added “Send to a friend” function, which enables sending a selected news story to anyone through e-mail.

As you know, last December marked the 55th anniversary of the establishment of OANA. We created a special section on the website to highlight memorable occasions in the life of the organization.

I would also like to take this opportunity to invite member agencies to post as many as possible news stories on OANAs website in order to improve its functionality. We have done certain work in this area since we took over management of the website.

Twenty-seven member agencies are currently posting their news on the website of OANA. But we will do our utmost to maximize this number. I also urge the agencies attending our meeting to be much more active in this regard.

As you know, we have Technical and Ethics committees as sub-committees of OANA Executive Board. AZERTAC, Australian AAP, UAE’s WAM and Japanese Kyodo are current members of the Ethics Committee, while the Technical Committee features AZERTAC, Russia’s TASS, Iran’s MNA, Mongolia’s Montsame, Indonesia’s Antara, Kazakhstan’s Kazinform, and Kuwaiti KUNA.

But the OANA Charter does not feature any clause on these sub-committees. We believe that certain amendments should be made to the Charter and a relevant close should be added in order to ensure effective activity of the committees. We can also elect chairmen of the committees from among their members. We would appreciate your proposals on this issue at our today’s meeting. (AZERTAC may recommend Australian AAP as chair of the Ethics Committee, and Russian TASS as chair of the Technical Committee).

Once again I would like to thank you for participating in this meeting, and personally Ms Laure Sleiman for organizing the event, and invite each of you to be active in todays discussion.

For his part, Information Minister, Melhem Riachy delivered a word in which he capitalized on freedom of expression and the pressing need to preserve it without fearing local authorities.

“First and foremost, allow me to welcome you all and to welcome this conference in hopes that it may have a good outcome for you and all the news agencies across the world.

I would like to thank you for the interesting axes that you’ve tailored for this conference, especially in line with the modern digital media and its development, and the challenge to keep pace with this progress whilst simultaneously protecting the media ethics and objectivity.

These basic points should be the focus of modern media work especially that the evolution of mobile phone media applications has rendered every citizen a journalist; but unfortunately, this has somehow led to the citizens’ loss of their sense of humanity. For instance, people nowadays favor video recording an incident over helping those involved.

We are countering a crisis, but in the face of today’s burgeoning technology and civilizations, in the face of this reality, this conference is required to discuss all the substantial points to swiftly thrash out looming hindrances.

Time is running out and the huge technological and digital developments never cease to surprise us by the day. News agencies are required to develop standards to enhance the logic of communication and dialogue, as well as a culture of communication and dialogue between the peoples of the world and the people of one nation. Perhaps news agencies should consider developing investigative journalism and the pursuit of news beyond the obvious. I think we are required to work on this issue to strengthen investigative journalism, which in turn would protect the public opinion and our peoples from corruption and terrorism.

In this context, I would like to highlight a new point concerning the subject of media coverage of news agencies, especially the National News Agency; the work of news agencies should not be solely limited to covering the activities of politicians and officials, but should be more conducive to the citizen’s affairs and social and economic concerns. Agencies should also promote the concept of cultural activities and the concept of inter-peoples mobility to make them communicate.

I would like to underline the importance of protecting freedom of expression through these agencies and not to fear political power in any way. It is the news agencies’ duty to spread the truth; it is the truth that saves us, and it should be at the heart of any media action.

The situation in Lebanon has shifted from that of confusion and instability to a more stable one, especially after the election a new President, and the inter-Christian reunion, which paved the way for inter-Lebanese reconciliation. We are endeavoring to come out with a new elections law to later hold legislative elections and elect a new parliament.”

Source: National News Agency