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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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Govt. MP Wijeyadasa strikes discordant note on Port City Bill



… alleges bid to turn Port City into Chinese territory

Over 12 petitioners move SC against proposed law

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, yesterday (15) alleged that the proposed Bill, titled ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission,’ would transform the reclaimed land, adjacent to the Galle Face Green into a Chinese territory.

Addressing the media at the Abhayarama temple, under the auspices of Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Rajapakshe, warned of dire consequences if the government went ahead with what he termed the despicable project.

Sixteen parties had filed action against the Bill. Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda thera was among the petitioners.

The ruling party had placed the Bill on the Order Paper on April 8, just 15 calendar days after the publication of the Bill in the Gazette. In terms of the Constitution a citizen intending to challenge the constitutionality of a Bill had to do so within one week from the Bill being placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse said.

Among those who moved the SC were the General-Secretary of the UNP and the Chairman of the UNP. The Attorney-General has been named a respondent in the petition. The BASL, too, moved SC against the Attorney General. Three civil society activists, Oshala Herath, Dr. Ajantha Perera and Jeran Jegatheesan also filed action.

Lawmaker Rajapakse explained how the proposed Bill, if enacted, could allow independent status to USD 1.4 bn Colombo Port City. Former Justice Minister alleged that the Colombo Port City project was far worse than the selling of the strategic Hambantota port to the Chinese by the previous administration.

The Colombo District MP said the Parliament wouldn’t have financial control over the Colombo Port City Project whereas its independent status would legally empower those managing the project to finalise agreements with external parties

Referring to the previous administration, the former UNPer alleged that China had bribed members of Parliament. MP Rajapakse questioned the rationale behind China providing computers to all members of Parliament and officials as well as jaunts to China.

Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t give in to Chinese strategies aimed at bringing Sri Lanka under its control. The former minister explained the threat posed by the growing Chinese presence including the Colombo Port City, a terminal in the Colombo harbour and at the Hambantota port.



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Sooka pushing UK for punitive action against Army Commander



An outfit, led by Yasmin Sooka, a member of the UNSG Panel of Experts’ (PoE), has urged the UK to take punitive measures against the Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

The Army headquarters told The Island that the matter had been brought to the notice of the relevant authorities. It said that it was all part of the ongoing well-funded campaign against the Sri Lankan military.

Issuing a statement from Johannesburg, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said it had compiled a 50-page dossier which it has submitted to the Sanctions Department of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on General Shavendra Silva. The Submission argues why Silva, who is Sri Lanka’s current Army Commander, should be designated under the United Kingdom’s Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions Regime established on 6 July 2020.

“We have an extensive archive of evidence on the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, meticulously collected by international prosecutors and lawyers. The testimony of victims and witnesses – many now in the UK – was vital in informing this Submission, and making the linkages to Shavendra Silva and those under his command,” said the organisation’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka.

The ITJP Submission details Shavendra Silva’s role in the perpetration of alleged gross human rights violations including of the right to life when he was 58 Division Commander during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 in the north of Sri Lanka. It draws on searing eyewitness testimony from Tamils who survived the government shelling and bombing of hospitals and food queues in the so called No Fire Zones, many of whom now reside in the UK as refugees. The Submission also looks at Silva’s alleged involvement in torture and sexual violence, including rape, which is a priority area of the UK Government’s foreign policy.

“The US State Department designated Shavendra Silva in 2020 for his alleged role in the violations at the end of the war but the remit of the UK sanctions regime works is broader and includes his role in the shelling of hospitals and other protected civilian sites during the military offensive. This is important in terms of recognising the full extent of the violations, as well as supporting the US action,” commented Ms. Sooka. “UK designation would be another significant step forward in terms of accountability and would be in line with the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in Geneva for which Britain was the penholder,” she added.

Political will in applying the UK’s new sanctions regime to Sri Lanka was apparent in a recent parliamentary debate which saw 11 British parliamentarians ask why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures, including Shavendra Silva, who was named six times in this context.”



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Ten lives snuffed out in road accidents during festive period



Road accidents had snuffed out 10 lives during the Sinhala and Tamil New year, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday, adding that 121 accidents had been reported on April 14 alone.

Twelve of the accidents took place on the Southern Expressway.

DIG Rohana also said that 758 drunk drivers had been arrested on April 14. He added that such drivers would not be released on police bail.

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