The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world in 2020, including the momentum of ASEAN Community building. Due to the global lockdown, ASEAN’s information sector became not only a vital source of data, but it also became responsible in ensuring the information conveyed was correct and timely.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti bin Haji Mohd Daud said this during the 15th Conference of the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (15th AMRI) and Related Meetings held via video conference at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) yesterday.
At the plenary session of the 15th AMRI, Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti delivered a statement about the increased importance of the information sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti was pleased that AMRI’s actions on fake news and misinformation were in line with the Leaders’ Declaration of the Special ASEAN Summit on Coronavirus Disease 2019 and the Joint Statement of the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on Coronavirus Disease 2019, both adopted on April 14, 2020.
AMRI’s joint statement to minimise the negative effects of COVID-19 endorsed last year demonstrates its commitment to strengthening cooperation in enhancing public communication, and supporting the free flow of information during and after COVID-19 in ASEAN.
“From a positive perspective, COVID-19 has accelerated the process of moving towards a more digitised way of living. Even in lockdown, media technology enables us to sustain communication through digital means; improve our knowledge and use of digital technology; and develop digital commerce and trade. However, increased use of digital and social media has also given rise to the spread of fake news and misinformation; misuse of media technology; and cybercrime as well as cybersecurity attacks.”
“In this regard, AMRI must not be complacent in countering the negative aspects of the “new normal”,” it said.
Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti made four suggestions: to strengthen coordination in urgently addressing fake news, specifically through the ASEAN Task Force on Fake News; to continue shaping a community of responsible media users; to engage with other sectors to counter cybercrime; and to ensure timely information on travel bans and restrictions.
On this front, Brunei proposed for the information sector to work closely with other sectors and relevant national agencies in broadcasting travel updates and information.
As ASEAN Chair for 2021, Brunei Darussalam has chosen the theme ‘We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper,’ which underscores ASEAN’s collective pursuit to improve the wellbeing and livelihood of its people, especially as the region works to recover from the pandemic.
The theme emphasises on ASEAN’s need to work together to realise shared interests and confront challenges of common concern. All this will ultimately enable the people of ASEAN to thrive, prosper, and secure sustainable development for the benefit of present and future generations.
The theme of the 15th AMRI ‘ASEAN: A Digital Community with Accessibility for All’ is relevant to Brunei’s chairmanship goals, and welcomes the Framework for Promoting Accessibility for All in ASEAN Digital Broadcasting endorsed by the AMRI in December 2020.
The Sultanate supports the initiative to increase access for all groups of people, including those with different abilities and senior citizens, and launched the first phase of sign language interpretation on Berita Perdana national primetime news on February 1, 2021.
Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti also highlighted an excerpt of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s titah at the 37th ASEAN Summit, in which the monarch stated that the regional outlook and post-2025 Community Vision will be shaped by actions in the coming years.
“These must therefore be arranged well so that future generations can face the next era with confidence and optimism.
“The information sector is as important as the health and finance sectors in helping ASEAN recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and build a more prepared, dynamic and sustainable community.
“AMRI’s support towards Brunei Darussalam’s aim to promote Strategic and Holistic Initiative to Link ASEAN Responses to Emergencies and Disasters (ASEAN SHIELD) in 2021 is important. SHIELD is an overarching approach to better shield the society, economy and the broader developmental agenda, as well as to enable a swift and collective response in mitigating impacts of emergencies and disasters.
“This work in particular includes supporting the use of digital technologies to facilitate the digital transformation of the region, enhancing communication practices and cooperation during crisis situations, and strengthening media and information cooperation with other relevant sectoral bodies, stakeholders, and partners within and beyond the region,” the minister said.
The conference began with an opening ceremony in which Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office of the Kingdom of Thailand Anucha Nakasai as AMRI Chair for 2020 and 2021, in his opening remarks, touched on the important role AMRI plays in maintaining ASEAN’s effective role under the fields of media and information, especially in light of the unprecedented situations brought about by the pandemic.
Nakasai said ASEAN is moving towards a digital community with accessibility to all, through the reinforcement of digital skills of ASEAN citizens and ensuring that no one is left behind.
Vice Minister of the Ministry of Information and Communications, Vietnam Dr Phan Tam was the deputy chair of the conference.
Ministers and senior officers from ASEAN member states as well as the ASEAN Secretary General Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi attended the conference.
The 15th AMRI discussed and endorsed three outcome documents which will be elevated to the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits for the Leaders’ notation, namely the Framework for Developing Digital Readiness among ASEAN Citizens; Framework for Promoting Accessibility for All in ASEAN Digital Broadcasting; and the Joint Media Statement of the 15th AMRI and Related Meetings.
The 15th AMRI also noted the report of the 18th Senior Officials Meeting Responsible for Information (18th SOMRI), the 6th SOMRI+3 and the 3rd SOMRI+Japan which included Brunei Darussalam’s reports on ASEAN cooperation with the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the ASEAN Plus Three. Brunei Darussalam is currently the country-coordinator for ASEAN-ROK dialogue relations.
In the afternoon, Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti also attended the 6th AMRI+3 Meeting together with ministers and heads of delegation from ASEAN member states as well as the Plus Three countries. The meeting was chaired by Thailand.
The 15th AMRI Conference was preceded by the 18th SOMRI, the 6th SOMRI Plus Three Meeting and the 3rd SOMRI Plus Japan Meeting on March 10, 2021, attended by senior officers from the PMO, Radio Television Brunei and the Information Department.