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‘Asian media appear to be weathering storms better than expected’:



Experts discuss Covid’s impact on media

The session was co-organized by China Daily, University of International Business and Economics, Shanghai International Studies University and Asia News Network.

SNS: Amid the spread of coronavirus pandemic, which has affected the businesses across the globe, a panel discussion session themed “COVID-19 and Impacts on the Media” was held virtually.

The session was co-organized by China Daily, University of International Business and Economics, Shanghai International Studies University and Asia News Network on Wednesday.

The panellists discussed how reporting strategies and operations of the media have changed amid the COVID19 pandemic.

Mr. Zhou Shuchun, Standing Committee member of the CPPCC National Committee and Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of China Daily, delivered the welcoming remarks.

“Chinese media colleagues have braved hardship and danger to record heart-warming battles to tell the story of China’s fight against the pandemic, which boosted the morale of frontline warriors,” he said.

Later, Dr. John Gong, Professor of Economics, University of International Business and Economics; and Dr. Debao Xiang, Professor of School of Journalism and Communication, Shanghai International Studies University; shared their insights on the topic.

John Gong pointed out that the model of the media is changing. “Now people are more and more receiving messages through relays of information. What this difference makes is that, in order for the message to be relayed, there is a tendency for the message to go extreme. You’re moving into a world where you have those short snackable video clips kinds of product that people tend to use or like to watch. There’s no difference between fact and opinion-editorial,” he said.

“It is now even more difficult for readers to get information that is objective, fact-based. Traditional media need to tighten their seatbelt and stick to what they are doing. If you have to sacrifice your journalistic standard for traffic volume, this is deplorable. The government needs to take actions. I think we have quite a strong government here in China that looks after this disinformation and misinformation,” he added.

Debao Xiang pointed out that the pandemic’s impact on the industry is both negative and positive. “There is a decrease in the average media budget due to the coronavirus. Around 35,000 journalists in the US have been laid off and faced pay cuts amid the pandemic. This is not only influenced by COVID-19 but also the impact of the new technologies. But audience trust for journalists has increased …this is a good phenomenon for the journalism industry,” he said.

Insight Spotlight was followed by a panel discussion which was moderated by Mr. Pana Janviroj, Executive Director, Asia News Network; and Dr. DJ Clark, Multimedia Director, China Daily Asia Pacific.

Prominent leaders from media companies and experts joined the panel discussion. They were: Mr. Zhiming Chen, Deputy Director of International News Department, China Daily; Mr. Choo Joon Kian, Deputy Editor in Chief, Sin Chew Daily; Mr. Philip Golingai, News Editor, The Star; Mr. Ziaul Hoque, News Editor, The Daily Star; Ms. Vivian Hsiao, Reporter, China Post; Mr. Min Thaw Htut, Executive Director, Eleven Media Group; Mr. Nitish Kapoor, ANN Editorial Coordinator, The Statesman; Ms. Juliet Labog-Javellana, Associate Publisher, Philippine Daily Inquirer; and Mr. Ly Tayseng, CEO, Phnom Penh Post, Cambodia. They examined the implications of COVID-19 on the media industry. They discussed the future development of the media industry.

Pana Janviroj pointed out that many Asian media appear to be weathering the storms better than expected. But more importantly there is a consensus from bottom to top of the newsrooms, despite the dwindling resources and advertising revenue plunges, the relentless determination to do their jobs.

“Those are to bring accurate reportings to readers and keep them well informed. The reporters are determined to do their jobs because readers and public at large appreciate their works. The Covid-19 era has endowed long awaited public appreciation of mainstream national media and journalism,” he said.

Zhiming Chen highlighted that technology has played a key role to contain the 2020 virus. “As a news organization with global reach, China Daily is fortunate to have offices and reporters worldwide. This means, during critical moments in COVID-19 coverage, we have nose, eyes, ears on spot. This kind of local presence was invaluable for us,” he said.

Choo Joon Kian said Sin Chew Daily has not laid off or had pay cuts for anyone. The company has officially launched a membership scheme. He said that the number of members has increased to 240,000 and their e-papers have increased by 5 percent. The company plans to set up a paywall on Apple next year.

Philip Golingai said, “For me, with the retrenchment in most of the media organizations in Malaysia and also downsizing and some closures, having at least three to five news organizations is very promising for us. Roughly, that’s the situation for us.”

Ziaul Hoque said the COVID-19’s impact has been unsettling. “Our revenue went down twothirds. There have been job cuts but they are not related to the pandemic. For workload, we have to adapt to these situations because it is the demand of the time. I think it’s a positive thing, in a sense that what we had to do, it expedited the process (to digitalization). We had to remodel business models,” he said.

Vivian Hsiao said she saw a bump in the number of readers in the beginning. “When covering the COVID-19 pandemic, our readers really needed to know what’s going on. I think the responsibility of the media increased greatly this year, but we have to be careful in covering the pandemic and provide accurate information because we wanted to give our readers the current information. But we also wanted to avoid creating unnecessary panic among them as well,” she said.

Min Thaw Htut said revenues from print advertising have declined. But that decline has been covered by digital investments. “Even though our core content is news, we have also diversified our content. The main lesson I have learnt is that we have to remain trustworthy, reliable and independent to do our main core functions. The other thing that we have to be mindful about is that the attention for eyeballs is very competitive. How do we survive this? It’s by creating good quality news,” he said.

Nitish Kapoor said revenue was going down at the start of the pandemic. “But with an increase in internet users, we have gained revenue. Eventually, we’ll get long-term benefits for sure. It will surely come back to us,” he said.

Juliet Labog-Javellana pointed out that one of the positive impacts of COVID-19 for the media is it provided the impetus to accelerate digital transformation and innovation. “So what the Inquirer did was to move quickly to different platforms like we hosted more than a dozen webinars; print journalists went into podcast….we published newsletters. Because most of our staff are working from home so maybe the big challenge during this pandemic is that media’s access to government officials has been limited because there are no face-to-face press conferences. Officials can mute you online. There’s no opportunity to grill officials. The Inquirer had to leverage our credibility to counter the ‘disinfodemic’ about COVID-19 which posed a danger to people’s lives,” she said.

Ly Tayseng said, “This year, we didn’t have to retrench staff. This year, our advertising for printed media was reduced by 30 percent, but our subscription number has remained the same. Our digital revenue is increasing, but it is not significant. If the advertising revenue keeps dropping, I think there may be an impact for next year.”

Founded in 1981, China Daily covers 33 million readers and users worldwide through diversified platforms, including newspapers, websites, and mobiles and social media.

The number of China Daily’s followers has now reached 55 million on Weibo, 9.5 million on the WeChat Blog platform, 99 million on Facebook and another 4.39 million on Twitter.

The China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable is a by-invitation network of movers and shakers in Asia, providing platforms for focused dialogue, issue investigation and possible collective action on strategic issues relating to Asia’s economic, business and social development.

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 



By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre



By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments




The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.


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