"I think many journalists are not aware of the impacts of ASEAN's many achievement on us. It seems that if it is not a corruption case then they will not publish it. We realize that we have to change this" -- Dian, Foreign Ministry's director general for ASEAN affairs
Haven't we been here before?
Communicating the ASEAN message graced this blog, when I first started writing it in this way back in April 2007. Then, it was the Malaysian ASEAN Youth/Sports Minister who was encouraging the youth to face up to both global and regional challenges by learning about ASEAN.
Now, like a boon to the minister, we read that most youngsters are actually in tune with what ASEAN is doing:
It found students from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were most likely to identify themselves with the ASEAN, with 96 percent, 93 percent and 92 percent respectively.
Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam are the newest members of ASEAN, having joined the 10-nation grouping in the 1990s.
They are often referred to as the newest four, or CMLV, and their development lacks behind the other six member countries.
Students in Singapore had the weakest affinity toward the grouping, with some 49 percent saying they were citizens of the grouping.
Even if these are the latecomers expressing this opinion, it cannot hurt for ASEAN to know that they might be getting something right.
Furthermore, it was not that they were only in tune with what the regional grouping was doing but that they also identified themselves as citizens of ASEAN.
In my view, this is a great start, and very welcome news to the South East Asia grouping, especially in the light of the establishment of its Charter last year.
Work to be done
In the meantime, much needs to be done by the media--the purveyors of information, and often the putative gatekeepers to society--to showcase the works of ASEAN. This, at least, was what Indonesia was saying.
Superficially speaking, blame can be apportioned to the media for failing to write about ASEAN. Truth be told, if there is little interest in the first place, how can you expect editors to consider writing about it. Therein lies the paradox of reconciling a responsibility to encourage citizens to feel more in tune to the regional grouping, and highlighting what it means for them, with reporting actual news about the organisation--even if it is considered bad.
On communicating regional integration to citizens, there are hardly any black-and-white areas: these agreements are realities--whether we like it or not, and so it becomes incumbent on all and sundry in the media to do its level best to understand the issues inherent in them, and if it is not happening, use the media itself to question why it is not happening.
Surely, that can only be a small step to obtaining that critical and progressive view of regional integration?