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Asia-Pacific broadcasters work on saving lives in disasters

Leading broadcasters in the Asia-Pacific are meeting to address climate change and reduce death and destruction from natural disasters.

Members of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), and experts from around the world are meeting in Indonesia at the region’s first Media Summit on Climate Change, ICTs and Disaster Risk Reduction, organised by the ABU and hosted by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of the Republic of Indonesia.

Following a day of workshops sharing experiences on covering climate change and disasters – including a session by senior staff from Japanese national broadcaster NHK who covered the massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 – the summit was officially opened on 5 June 2014 by the Vice President of Indonesia, Dr Boediono. 

He spoke of preparing for and covering natural and man-made disasters in a democratic society, where the citizens themselves were part of the reporting and information gathering through social media.

“But this freedom or non-censored press comes with greater responsibility,” he told delegates. “It comes with a constant reminding of the public’s birthright to get information, not just information but the right, correct and balanced information.”

More than 200 delegates from 32 countries had been welcomed to Jakarta the evening before by Indonesia’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Mr Tifatul Sembiring. He also spoke of the media in democratic societies and hoped that industry leaders from 31 of the region’s national public broadcasters would help the country celebrate democracy, peace, and harmony.

Earlier, the Ministry’s Director-General for Information and Public Communication, Mr Freddy H Tulung, co-hosting the Summit with the ABU, spoke of the cost of disasters in human and dollar terms. By 2011, economic losses in the Asia-Pacific region – which he said was the most disaster-prone in the world – reached almost 3,000 billion US dollars, impacting on rich and poor countries alike.

He said women and children suffered disproportionately in disasters and it was the duty of everyone to mitigate the risks and cope with the consequences. He said the media in particular needed to help build “an integrated and competent information system”.

In welcoming delegates and guests, ABU Secretary-General Dr Javad Mottaghi said the first Media Summit on Climate Change, ICTs and Disaster Risk Reduction was a unique response of broadcasters in the Asia-Pacific to rise to the challenge of climate change on a day packed with symbolism – World Environment Day.

“It is a crucial day for humanity because climate change challenges are upon us and it is crucial for all of us to reflect, to consider and above all to act,” he said. “The whole purpose of this Summit and many more activities initiated by the ABU is to increase the public awareness and to save lives.”

After three days of hearing reports on the threats to the 4.2 billion people living in the Asia-Pacific – two-thirds of the world’s population – the Summit will culminate in a Jakarta Statement of Commitment, pledging to do more to inform their citizens of impending disasters and to help in recovery.