The 10th Conference of the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI) was held in Vientiane, Lao PDR, on 5 November 2009. It was preceded by a Senior Officials Meeting for the 10th Conference of AMRI on 3 November 2009.

Striking the gong nine times, H.E. Dr Thongloun Sisoulith, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lao PDR, officially opened the 10th Conference of AMRI. In his Opening Address, Dr Thongloun pointed out that the information sector has a core role to play in building the ASEAN Community by 2015, including the dissemination of ASEAN activities to the people and creating ASEAN awareness. The ASEAN Anthem was played at the opening ceremony.

The Conference was chaired by H.E. Mounkeo ORABOUN, Minister of Information and Culture of Lao PDR. He warmly welcomed the delegates to the Conference and noted that this conference is significant; it is being held after the ASEAN Charter came into effect on 15 December 2008 and after the blueprints on building the ASEAN political-security community and the ASEAN social-cultural community were adopted by the ASEAN Leaders.

The Conference was attended by H.E. Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Dewa Major General (RTD) Dato Seri Pahlawan Awang Hj Mohammad Bin Hj Daud, Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister’s Office, Brunei Darussalam; H.E. Mr Khieu Kanharith, Minister of Information, Kingdom of Cambodia; H.E. Sutjiptohardjo Donokusumo, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Lao PDR, Indonesia; H.E. Mounkeo ORABOUN, Minister of Information and Culture, Lao PDR; H.E. Dato’ Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim, Minister of Information Communications and Culture, Malaysia; H.E.Brigadier General Kyaw Hsan, Minister of Information, Myanmar; H.E. Mr Conrado A. Limcaoco, Jr, Secretary, Philippine Information Agency and Government Mass Media Group, Philippines; Mr Chan Yeng Kit, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, Singapore; H.E. Mr Satit Wongnongtaey, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, Thailand; H.E. Mr Le Doan Hop, Minister of Information and Communications, Viet Nam; and H.E. Mr Sayakane Sisouvong, Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Political-Security Community. The speeches of the Ministers are attached.

With the entry into force of the ASEAN Charter on 15 December 2008, and the ongoing implementation of the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) Blueprint, ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint, ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint and Initiative for ASEAN Integration Work Plan 2 that, together, constitute the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community (2009-2015), the Ministers agreed that the theme, “Enhancing Media Cooperation in ASEAN Community Building” was timely and appropriate. The Ministers noted that the information sector plays an important role in creating a sense of belonging and enhancing deeper mutual understanding among ASEAN Member States about their culture, history, religion and civilisation. Towards this end, they agreed on the need to deepen media cooperation to support community building through closer coordination, projects, media networking and human resources development.

At the meeting, the Ministers explored ways in which the information sector could enhance the effectiveness of the existing programmes to further support ASEAN community building.

The Ministers noted the ongoing projects to increase ASEAN awareness, such as the television and radio news exchanges (ASEAN Television News and ASEAN-in-Action respectively). The Ministers supported the use of the ASEAN Anthem, titled “The ASEAN Way”, and other ASEAN symbols, including the ASEAN motto “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”, to raise ASEAN awareness. They were pleased that the producers of ASEAN Television News and the ASEAN-in-Action will incorporate the ASEAN Anthem into the programmes. The Ministers also noted that a compilation of ASEAN pop songs has been produced and will be distributed to enhance appreciation of our cultures.

The Ministers emphasised the role of ASEAN youths as future leaders to reinforce the sense of ASEAN Community. The Ministers commended the following activities to engage the youths in ASEAN, namely, ASEAN Regional Quiz, where students from the region compete against each other on their knowledge of ASEAN; the ASEAN Computer Game, to foster a sense of regional identity in an entertaining way will be completed by end January 2010; and the ASEAN Newsmaker project, which provided students with skills to create content about life in their country that promoted cross-cultural understanding among ASEAN youths through digital media.

The Ministers viewed the ASEAN Media Portal and the ASEAN Culture and Information Portal as important platforms to create awareness on ASEAN and enhance media cooperation.

National Communication Plans on ASEAN Awareness and Understanding
The Ministers noted the reports from Member States on the implementation of the National Communication Plans on ASEAN Awareness and Understanding leading up to the 10th AMRI. The Ministers agreed on the need to realign the National Communication Plans with the three communication plans of the APSC, AEC and ASCC. The Ministers also agreed to explore the idea of having public information centres on ASEAN in each Member State. They agreed on the need for greater collaboration with ASEAN Dialogue Partners to promote ASEAN to the international community.

ASEAN Digital Broadcasting Cooperation
The Ministers endorsed the progress in ASEAN Digital Broadcasting cooperation. Since the 9th AMRI, ASEAN Member States have made progress on the roadmap for the implementation of digital broadcasting in the region. ASEAN Member States affirm the importance of early digitalization to reap the benefits of the digital dividend and to ensure that terrestrial broadcasting remains relevant in the face of competition from new media platforms such as mobile and IPTV.

Recognizing that Member States are at different stages of readiness for digital TV implementation, the Ministers agreed that ASEAN adopts a phased approach towards Analogue Switch-off over a period of time from 2015 to 2020. Guidelines will be developed for digital switch-on. There will be a common set of technical specifications for Standard digital set-top boxes for ASEAN, thereby helping to lower the price of set-top boxes for regional consumers.

To meet the demand for digital content, the Ministers called for more collaboration among ASEAN Member States to co-produce digital content and promote exchanges of content. They agreed on the need to train personnel with the necessary skills set for HD production.

Realizing that ASEAN Dialogue Partners, namely China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India and the European Union have moved ahead in digital broadcasting implementation, the Ministers agreed that ASEAN would explore collaboration with these dialogue partners on digital terrestrial TV deployment and capacity building.

The Ministers expressed their sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Lao PDR for the warm hospitality and excellent arrangements contributing to the success of the Conference. The Conference was held in the traditional spirit of ASEAN solidarity and cordiality.

The 11th AMRI is tentatively scheduled to be held in Malaysia in 2011.