28 May 2003


NEW YORK, 27 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the first Conference of Ministers on "Information and Broadcasting in Asia and the Pacific", delivered by Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, in Bangkok 27 May:

It gives me great pleasure to convey my greetings to this important international conference on the challenges facing the broadcasting industry in Asia and the Pacific.

The remarkable technological advances of the "information age" have created vast new opportunities, yet they have also generated new "divides" between rich and poor and between information technology "haves" and "have-nots". This troubling paradox prompted world leaders, in the Millennium Declaration they adopted at the Millennium Summit in 2000, to commit themselves to ensuring that the media are free to perform their essential role, that the public have access to information, and that the benefits of the new information and communications technologies are available to all people.

Such goals are only as good as the efforts to put them into practice. This forum is well timed, and its participants well placed, to promote real progress at both the regional and global levels.

All the countries in the Asia and Pacific region are experiencing the effects of globalization and "digitalization", raising new and compelling issues. How should a developing society respond to the growing commercialization of the media and the accelerated concentration of media ownership? What can be done to enhance the role of public service broadcasting? How best can cultural diversity be preserved while promoting pluralism of content? By vigorously debating these and other pressing concerns, a shared regional agenda for action can emerge.

Your efforts can also influence the debate at the global level in advance of the World Summit on the Information Society, which will be held in two parts –- in Geneva in December 2003, and then in Tunis in 2005. The Summit will bring together political leaders and leaders from the private sector, civil society and media organizations. It offers a unique opportunity not only to understand just how the information revolution is transforming our societies, but most of all, to shape its future so that it serves and empowers all people.

I thank the Government and people of Thailand for hosting this conference, and all others involved in making it possible. The Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development in particular played a crucial role in bringing the participants together. Let us sustain this cooperation so that your conference, and the approaching Summit, can both succeed in bringing real, positive change into people’s lives.

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