19 November 1999


Press Release
SG/SM/7228
OBV/124



SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS TELEVISION CAN HELP WORLD TO BETTER UNDERSTAND UNITED NATIONS

19991119

Following is the text of the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the occasion of World Television Day, to be observed on 21 November:

The theme for this year's observance of World Television Day is "Mirror or Map: the Impact of Television on Peace and Development". Peace and development are, of course, the main goals of the United Nations. 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.

I would like to ask both the world's television journalists, producers and programmers to reflect on the concept of "preventive journalism". I do not mean to suggest that they should deviate from their first priority of reporting the facts. But I do believe that integrity and care in reporting the facts can be improved by a greater awareness of the effect those reports can have. Equally important, by drawing attention to abuses or potential conflicts in good time, the world's media can give the international community the chance to do something about them before they explode in an all-out warfare.

No less significant than the way crises are reported are the decisions about which crises to report. By giving attention to the victims of crises in "faraway" places, or those situations that have been "orphanned" for one reason or another, media can help them to receive more aid and assistance than they otherwise would. Often, the United Nations finds that once that country is no longer on prime-time news, funding and political support from governments tends to dry up. Television can help us, and help the people of those countries, simply by staying with us -- and staying with the story.

Television can help the world to better understand the United Nations -- to understand that it is their United Nations: theirs to improve, theirs to engage, theirs to embrace. As we enter a new millennium, I look forward to working closely with the world's television professionals in pursuit of global peace and development.

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