Asia’s Journalists Show Resilience in a Challenging Context

According to a recent survey led by the Asian American Journalists Association’s Asia Chapter (AAJA-Asia), the global decline of news industry sustainability and their own job security are the issues that most concern news professionals working in Asia. The crackdown on journalists by authoritarian governments is another key area of concern in a crucial global election year. Despite these challenges, Asia’s journalists show resilience and faith in their journalism’s positive impact on society.

In January and February 2024, ahead of the annual New.Now.Next Media Conference (N3Con), AAJA-Asia conducted a survey on the challenges, needs and hopes of news media professionals working in the Asia Pacific region. Sixty-six journalists from 18 countries completed the survey.

The survey, designed to guide the N3Con programming team in creating a relevant conference program, enabled respondents among AAJA-Asia’s extended community to express their expectations and aspirations for the organization’s flagship annual event, N3Con 2024. The survey also questioned respondents about the professional challenges they face, the skills they need to advance their career, and their dreams for the future of the news industry in Asia. 

Survey Results Portray an Industry Under Threat

In a global context of lay-offs and media outlet closures, the long term sustainability of the news industry as a business, and the safety of their jobs were unsurprisingly the two top concerns mentioned by a majority of respondents. Close to 60 percent and 52 percent of the respondents, respectively, included these two issues among their three top professional worries. The next two, most mentioned challenges, cited by more than 42 percent of respondents, were the difficulty of navigating their journalism careers and the challenge of reporting about topics that truly interest them and that can have a meaningful impact. 

Above: A screenshot from AAJA-Asia’s 2024  What’s New? What’s Now? What’s Next in Asia News? Survey

Attacks against freedom of expression were also mentioned as one of the respondents’ top areas of concern. Thirty-six percent mentioned it as one of their top three worries. In the survey’s open answers section, attacks on freedom of expression were pin-pointed by journalists from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Pakistan and Thailand.  Many also emphasized the challenge of dealing with online and offline harassment and problematic attempts by authoritarian regimes to control the press and crackdown on pro-democracy, environmental and human rights activists. 

Overall, the survey results convey the alarming image of an industry and a profession facing strident challenges and operating under the pressure of numerous threats, both economic and political in nature. 

Strong Calls for Collaborative Investigative Journalism and Diversity in News

On the positive side, the wealth of proposals for the AAJA-Asia New.Now.Next Conference program and the vigorous pleas for the news industry expressed in the survey Indicate that Asia journalists’ passion for their jobs and their faith in the crucial role the media plays in society remains unfaltering.

More than two thirds of the respondents listed skills in data journalism and investigative journalism as being sought-after skills along with improving their reporting. More than half of them also sought help with fact-checking and source verification. Many expressed a desire to see N3Con conference sessions on cross-boundary investigative journalism projects, especially around climate reporting. Other frequently suggested topics included solutions journalism, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the impact of AI on journalism and how to protect and strengthen media freedom.

Above: A screenshot from AAJA-Asia’s 2024  What’s New? What’s Now? What’s Next in Asia News? Survey

Many respondents’ dreams for 2024 echoed these interests and concerns and often contained energizing statements about the role that journalism should and will play in the Asia Pacific region. 

Ronna Nirmala, managing editor for Project Multatuli, a public-service media based in Jakarta, Indonesia, shared many of those aspirations

“My most cherished dream for 2024 as a journalist,” wrote NIrmala, “is to contribute significantly to fostering a deeper understanding and empathy among diverse communities within the region.” In an era marked by rapid technological advancements, geopolitical shifts, and the pressing challenge of rising authoritarianism, she said, she hoped to use the power of journalism to amplify marginalized voices, challenge prevailing narratives, and promote constructive dialogue. 

“I envision crafting narratives that not only inform but also inspire positive change,” she wrote, “fostering a sense of interconnectedness that transcends cultural, political, and social differences.”

Nirmala sees investigative journalism as shedding light on the stories of those silenced by oppressive regimes, contributing to the preservation of freedom of the press and the fundamental right to information.

Survey coordinator Gilles Demptos, AAJA’s Director for Asia Pacific, analyzed the survey results and expressed appreciation for all the journalists who took the time to complete the survey.

“Their straightforward answers, often moving and always inspiring contributions promise enlightening and vigorous discussions at N3Con 2024.” 

AAJA-Asia’s New.Now.Next Media Conference will take place in Singapore on 23-25 May.  More info at: https://www.n3con.com/2024/