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    UNIS/SG/2452
    19 November 1999
    Secretary-General, Addressing UN Television Forum, Says Media Attention
    Helps Fund-raising for Crisis Victims in ‘Faraway Countries’

     
    Support Can ‘Dry Up’ with End of Prime-Time Exposure; Journalists Asked to ‘Stay with the Story’, beyond Initial Coverage

    NEW YORK, 18 November (UN Headquarters) -- These are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, made by video circuit, at the opening today of the fourth World Television Forum, organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI), on the theme, ‘The Impact of Television on Peace and Development’:
     

    I’m sorry not to be with you in New York, but I’m grateful to the technology of modern telecommunications, which allows me to join all of you from Istanbul.  And I’m delighted to share my virtual platform with three television journalists of such distinction as Tom Brokaw, Jean-Pierre Elkabbach and Charlayne Hunter-Gault.  I’m also delighted by the theme of your discussions for the next two days:  the role of television in peace and development.  

    Peace and development are, of course, the main goals of the United Nations.  But they are no longer the exclusive responsibility of governments or inter-governmental organizations.  Globalization has increased the influence of non-governmental actors -- including the international media -- even while leaving millions of people in developing countries almost untouched, particularly when you consider that 50 per cent of the people in the world have not made or received a phone call.  

    So we at the United Nations must find new partners in our unending struggle against war and poverty.  You in the media, especially television, are very high on our list.  And so I ask you:  Can television be a weapon in the fight to win freedom from want?  Can it help make the difference between war and peace?  Can it transform the response to a crisis from one of inattention to one of intervention?
     
    By “intervention” I do not mean necessarily the use of force.  That is the last resort, to be used only when the worst is happening.  Rather, I mean any form of action which may prevent violence, poverty or suffering of any kind.

    At this event a few years ago, I asked journalists to reflect on the concept of "preventive journalism".  That was not meant to suggest that you should deviate from your first priority of reporting the facts.  What I meant was, on the contrary, that your integrity and care in reporting the facts -- your ability, in other words, to live up to your own high standards -- might be improved by a greater awareness of the effect your reports can have.
     

    Equally important, by drawing attention to abuses or potential conflicts in good time, you could give the international community the chance to do something about them before they explode in all-out warfare.  
    No less significant than the way you report crises are the decisions about which crisis to report.  By giving attention to the victims of crises in faraway, “insignificant” countries, you can help them to receive more aid and assistance than they otherwise would.

    So often we at the United Nations are doing our best to relieve suffering and to help rebuild a war-torn society over a period of years.  But once the country is no longer on prime-time news we find that the funding, and the political support from governments, tends to dry up.  You could help us, and help the people of those countries, simply by staying with us -- and staying with the story.

    Together, finally, I believe we can make the world understand the United Nations better -- understand that it is their United Nations:  theirs to improve, theirs to engage, theirs to embrace.

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