Press Releases

                                                                                                                22 April 2004

    Secretary-General, in Message to Asia Media Summit, Says Freedom of Expression Is Indispensable for Economic, Social Progress

    Calls on Communicators, Regulators to Ensure New Technologies Serve Development of All Humankind

    NEW YORK, 21 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the Asia Media Summit in Kuala Lumpur on 19-21 April 2004, delivered by Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information:

    The world recently celebrated the centennial of the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers.  That anniversary gave us an occasion to reflect on how, in just 100 years, the invention of the airplane has transformed the way we travel in a way that no one at the time could have foreseen.

    Today our world is in the midst of another revolution, one with equally far-reaching consequences.  I refer, of course, to the dramatic impact technology is having on how we communicate with each other.  The Internet, and its ability to bring together traditional media and make them universally accessible, holds enormous promise -- for health, trade, education, governance and much else.

    But we must do more than stand back and admire this potential; we must make something of it.  At the World Electronic Media Forum in Geneva last December, the expression “content is king” rang through all the discussions.  That phrase is not merely a slogan.  It is a call to action -- a call on communicators and regulators to ensure that the new technologies serve the cause of development and the well-being of all humankind.  Technology is not an end in itself; ultimately, “what” is communicated is far more important than “how” something is communicated.

    All across Asia, old and new technologies are combining to empower new voices, enhance existing ones and make information available more widely than ever before.  But as we all know, there is much work to be done to bring this revolution into the hands and homes of ordinary people everywhere.  Moreover, we are all stakeholders in an equally important effort:  to ensure that the communications revolution opens doors instead of closing them, and nurtures tolerance rather than promoting division.

    None of this will come about by accident.  “Content providers” need the support of policy makers.  They need an environment in which freedom of expression is assured.  After all, that freedom is not only a human right; it is also an indispensable condition for economic and social progress.  You yourselves have a role to play, and I hope you will add your voices to the discussions leading to the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, which is scheduled to be held in Tunisia in 2005.

    In the global debate about new media, we are more fortunate than our forebears in the era of the Wright Brothers, in that we can glimpse the future shape of our information society and the challenges it poses for us all.  I look forward to working with you in our common quest to build an open information society that benefits and empowers all the world’s people.  Let us seize this opportunity.  And let us remember that while technology shapes the future, it is people who shape technology.  In that spirit, let me thank you again for the close attention you are paying to these important issues.

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