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News agencies shift focus to social networks — Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies

February 16, 2015, 14:54 UTC+3 KUALA LUMPUR

The report says freedom of speech is important but there should be no "freedom at any cost," religion, beliefs and ideology of other people must be respected, especially regerding the minorities

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KUALA LUMPUR, February 16. /TASS/. Journalism and global terrorism threat, activities of professional news agencies in the framework of fast expansion of social networks were among the main topics discussed at the two-day session of the Executive Committee of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA) which finished in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on February 15. The organization brings together 43 state and private news agencies from 35 countries — from Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkey to Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. Russian news agency TASS is currently presiding in OANA.

Summing up the results of the session, OANA Secretary General, TASS First Deputy General Director Mikhail Gusman noted that the organization, established more than 50 years ago, has now demonstrated its efficiency in responding to new challenges which are posed by the rapidly changing situation in the global media sphere. "It is important that we demonstrate readiness to cooperation and coordinated reaction to acute modern problems," he said.

"We express deepest concerns about the latest developments aimed against the media and journalists," the Indonesian news agency Antara said in a report presented at the session. "Still fresh in our memory are attacks on Charlie Hebdo in France, as a result of which 12 people were killed, and recent execution of a Japanese journalist by Islamic State militants," the agency noted. At the same time, the report stressed that there should be no "freedom at any cost." "Freedom of speech must respect religion, beliefs and ideology of other people, especially if we are speaking about a minority," the agency added.

The participants in the meeting paid special attention to the work of OANA members in the framework of fast expansion of Internet technologies. In its report for the members of the Executive Committee, TASS says that, apart from traditionally working with professional subscribers, the agency is shifting focus to social networks and Internet users. "Distributing news articles from the website is now organized on Facebook, Vkontakte, Twitter… As a result, the share of social networks has already exceeded 5% of our general audience," the report stated.

The Malaysian agency Bernama, organizer of the Executive Committee session, said in its report that more than 67% of families in the country now have access to broadband Internet, a two-fold increase from 2007. In such conditions, the work of news agencies more actively shifts to Internet. For instance, around 83.5 million visits to the Bernama website were registered last January, the report said.

According to a report by South Korean news agency Yonhap, more than 84% in the country have smartphones — that is even more than the number of people who have personal computers. Almost 60% of South Korean residents read and watch news on their devices. As a result, the agency channels its efforts in this direction, "especially in the framework of sharp deterioration in positions of our traditional clients — newspapers and broadcasters," the report said.

Social networks are also becoming the source of first-hand information, the Japanese news agency Kyodo noted in its report. In this connection, a special group on searching for news in blogs and posts by regular Internet users has been set up. "Along with this, the most important task is to verify this news, to determine the source of information," the report said.

As a result of the Executive Committee session, a document on ethical norms in work of OANA members was adopted. It states that all news should be verified and have an authorized source. OANA members refuse to publish news that can even indirectly facilitate the activities of terrorist organizations, use their rhetoric, jargon and symbols.

The participants in the session also made a decision to set up an OANA Award. It will be given to journalists or teams of member agencies for outstanding contribution and improving quality of the agency’s work. The next session of the Executive Committee will take place on South Korea’s Seoul in November.

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