20 April 2004
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message to Asian Media Summit
Kuala Lumpur, 19-21
Delivered by Mr.
for Communications and Public Information
recently celebrated the centennial of the first powered flight by the Wright
Brothers. That anniversary gave us
an occasion to reflect on how, in just one hundred years, the invention of the
airplane has transformed the way we travel in a way that no-one at the time
could have foreseen.
Today our world
is in the midst of another revolution, one with equally far-reaching
consequences. I refer of course to
the dramatic impact technology is having on how we communicate with each other.
The Internet, and its ability to bring together traditional media and make them
universally accessible, holds enormous promise – for health, trade, education,
governance and much else.
But we must do
more than stand back and admire this potential; we must make something of it.
At the World Electronic Media Forum in Geneva last December, the
expression “content is king” rang through all the discussions.
That phrase is not merely a slogan. It
is a call to action – a call on communicators and regulators to ensure that
the new technologies serve the cause of development and the well-being of all
humankind. Technology is not an end
in itself; ultimately, “what” is communicated” is far more important than
“how” something is communicated.
All across Asia, old and new technologies are combining to empower new voices, enhance existing ones and make information available more widely than ever before. But as we all know, there is much work to be done to bring this revolution into the hands and homes of ordinary people everywhere. Moreover, we are all stakeholders in an equally important effort: to ensure that the communications revolution opens doors instead of closing them, and nurtures tolerance rather than promoting division.
None of this
will come about by accident. “Content
providers” need the support of policy makers.
They need an environment in which freedom of expression is assured.
After all, that freedom is not only a human right; it is also an
indispensable condition for economic and social progress.
You yourselves have a role to play, and I hope you will add your voices
to the discussions leading to second phase of the World Summit on the
Information Society, which is scheduled to be held in Tunisia in 2005.
In the global
debate about new media, we are more fortunate than our forebears in the era of
the Wright Brothers, in that we can glimpse the future shape of our information
society and the challenges it poses for us all.
I look forward to working with you in our common quest to build an open
information society that benefits and empowers all the world’s people.
Let us seize this opportunity. And
let us remember that while technology shapes the future, it is people who shape
technology. In that spirit, let me
thank you again for the close attention you are paying to these important