By Severino Samonte
MANILA – Asian journalists must report events relevant to the Asian region and broaden their information horizons beyond the traditional sphere dominated by the major Western news agencies.
This was among the main objectives of the three news agencies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) when they agreed to launch a news service cooperative endeavor called the ASEAN News Exchange or ANEX in 1980.
The formation of the ANEX was spearheaded by the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Antara News Agency of Indonesia and Bernama News Agency of Malaysia, according to the “Philippine Journalism Handbook” (Third Edition) written by former University of the Philippines-Cebu Mass Communications Prof. Jaime B. Ramirez and published by the National Book Store, Inc. in 1989.
Prior to his writing of the 1989 handbook, Ramirez, who is also a lawyer, became a staff member of the defunct Philippines Herald and the Philippine News Service (PNS).
At the time of ANEX’s organization, the ASEAN, founded in 1967 in Bangkok, was still composed of only five original members: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined in 1984, followed by Vietnam in 1995, Laos and Myanmar (formerly Burma) in 1997; and Cambodia in 1999. ASEAN last year okayed the conditional approval for Timor-Leste to become its 11th member.
ANEX was inaugurated in Manila on June 18, 1980. It was placed under the supervision of the ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information (COCI), which in turn started organizing a comprehensive training program to improve the skills and capabilities of editors and senior journalists assigned to ANEX or in-charge of regional or foreign economic or business desks.
The members of the ANEX increased later to five with the addition of the Thai News Agency (TNA) of Thailand and Vietnam News Agency (VNA).
In a speech during the ANEX inauguration, then Director Lorenzo J. Cruz of the former Bureau of National and Foreign Information (BNFI), the original mother bureau of PNA under the defunct Department of Public Information (DPI), said:
“The establishment of this network marks a milestone in regional cooperative undertaking in the communication field. With this network, the ASEAN news agencies now acquire the editorial and technical capability for direct news exchange. Under our agreement, each agency maintains full control over its own news output and outflow, without any editorial interference or supervision by other agencies. The news link-up reflects the continuing desire of the Third World news agencies to strengthen cooperation among themselves and to broaden their information horizons beyond the traditional sphere dominated by the Western news agencies.”
At the outset, ANEX had its central editorial desk at the PNA office in Manila. Its first head was Alfonso O. Labita, then PNA International editor.
For easy identification, stories emanating from PNA in Manila used the appendage PNA/ANEX in parentheses after the usual dateline.
During the ASEAN-China Media Cooperation Forum in Wenzhou City, China last June 12, Luis A. Morente, director of the News and Information Bureau, the mother unit of PNA, underscored the need to revisit the partnership among news agencies in the ASEAN region.
“To realize this, we can start with the creation of a Technical Working Group or conduct workshops on how we can go about it. I do hope that our brothers in the ASEAN region would support this,” he said in his keynote speech.
The news exchange, he said, would foster trade investments, tourist arrivals among member states, as well as cultural understanding and dialogue. (PNA)