Lao media eyes bright future despite challenges

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The media and the publications they produce need to aspire to self development so they are better equipped to fulfill their duty to promote national protection and development.

This was the general assessment of the managers of mass media and publishing when commemorating the 69th Mass Media and Publishing Day.

Speaking at an event attended by more than 300 people to mark the occasion at the National Culture Hall yesterday, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Prof. Dr Bosengkham Vongdara reviewed the work of the ministry in its duty as a counsellor to the Party in the field of media and publishing over the past year.

“The operators of media outlets and publishing bodies have improved their operations by using modern technology that enables them to provide information through many channels, especially through new media, which has broadened audience access,” he said.

Laos has 33 newspapers, 46 television stations, and 76 radio stations. Media outlets are in the process of upgrading from analogue to digital technology.

A report presented by Deputy Minister and President of the Lao Journalists’ Association, Mr Savankhone Razmountry, provided an assessment of the continuing growth of the media and publications, both in terms of quantity and quality.

The two ministry leaders singled out coverage of last year’s catastrophic flood in Sanamxay disctrict, Attapeu province, following the collapse of a dam as outstanding reporting.

“Media personnel and reporters visited the site of the disaster to report on the losses and impacts to the general public, which sparked the flow of aid from organisations and individuals for the relief effort,” Prof. Dr Bosengkham said.

“The media also worked in a timely and effective manner to stop negative criticism of the Party and government concerning the tragedy,” he added.

Alongside growth and development, there are challenges for the media and publishing industry to overcome. These include limited funding for technical services, inadequate professional expertise, and the fact that some major facilities are in need of repair.

Furthermore, the content of some publications does not fulfil its political obligations, while poor presentation discourages public interest, the minister said. There has also been a slow response to public complaints due to a lack of cooperation from the sectors responsible concerning various problems.

Giving guidance, Prof. Dr Bosengkham said that building and broadening a strong political ideology among media personnel was pivotal in addressing the challenges to enhance political responsibility.

He stressed the need for nationwide digitalisation and reducing the amount of unnecessary protocol in news articles. This should be replaced with articles on development, jobs, useful lessons for the public, and articles criticising anti-social behaviour and misconduct.

Referring to specific coverage, the minister pointed to the campaign to prepare for the Eleventh Party Congress, Visit Laos-China Year 2019, the National Games in 2020, and events to mark the Megalithic Jar Sites listing by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

The minister advised the amendment of laws and the creation of new regulations to govern the media sector. He also advised the media to be creative in improving quality towards modernisation and sustainability and called for improved management and inspection of the media amid the surge in popularity of new media.

Prof. Dr Bosengkham also stressed the need to accelerate studies of new ways of making income from information technical services, and legitimate liquidity in expenditure.

The minister advised that younger personnel should be imbued with political ideology and attributes, while their professional skills should be developed so they could become valuable successors in the years ahead.