Today’s dreams depend on tomorrow’s media

[Originally published on the Global Media Forum website, under the Youth Newsroom section in August of 2014]

Media’s role in driving development stressed at Bali Global Media Forum opening

With a strike of the Balinese gong, Indonesia’s Minister of Communication and Information Technologies Titaful Sembiring officially opened this morning’s Global Media Forum — a traditional opening for a three-day discussion on the role that the fast-changing media landscape will play in our collective future.

The forum aims to contribute to the ongoing international debate about the importance of media and information and communication technologies for peace and sustainable development. With its overarching theme of “The Role of Media in Realizing the Future We Want For All”, the forum will focus on the many ways media benefits development with the ultimate aim of including media as a standalone component of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Hubert Gijzen, Director and Representative of the UNESCO Jakarta Office, spoke of the widening gulf between societies that are resource-rich and those struggling with shortages. “The world we are living in today is alarmingly out of balance. This relates to the severe imbalance between people and planet Earth, as reflected in the concept of sustainable development. Equally worrisome is the serious imbalance among people.”

The media is crucial to meeting these challenges, said Mr Gijzen, as a lynchpin for intercultural dialogue, protection and promotion of human rights as well as upholding the values of sustainable development. However, he said that this viewpoint was not shared by all and when it comes to setting priorities to guide global development over the next 15 years, media may be left out unless those that recognize its value are vocal.

“It is not a given that full recognition of the media’s relevance will be captured in the final post-2015 Development Agenda. Therefore this forum will continue the discussions that started during the World Press Freedom Day Conference organized by UNESCO in Paris in May 2014.”

Arief Rachman, Executive Chairman of the Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO, put in perspective the role that media has played as a catalyst for unity and harmony in his country. “There are more than 17000 Islands in Indonesia, 783 languages and 5 major religions. We all still live peacefully. You know why? Media!”

Closing the ceremony, the Minister of Communication and Information Technologies spoke of the quintessential requirement of Indonesians to share information and knowledge, stating that “in Indonesia, we are drowning in information and therefore the people need to be made literate and empowered to access information so they can lead lives with sense of adequacy and decency.”

The country recently went to the polls to elect its new president in an emotionally charged election. “Indonesia, like the UN, now has a post transitional development agenda to complete. We are grateful that in our country, our media and the voice of the people have never been marginalized,” he said. “In fact, the media and the people now are in the driver’s seats of nation building.”

The contribution described by the Minister is one that the media can make in societies in which they are allowed to operate unhindered; and if the goal of this forum is realized, this could become a norm.

Written by – Rehmatullah Sheikh