Malaysia, Indonesia advocate for greater media role in strengthening relations



A discussion over breakfast in Jakarta with Indonesia ISWAMI President Asro Kamal Rokan - Bernama

A discussion over breakfast in Jakarta with Indonesia ISWAMI President Asro Kamal Rokan – Bernama

Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian and Indonesian press have agreed to play a complementary role in further strengthening bilateral relations between the two neighbouring countries through ‘out-of-the-box’ expansion of the traditional role of the media.

Noting that the role of the media should not be confined to news reporting and promoting better understanding among the people, the press of both countries through a journalists’ friendship network, ISWAMI, met in Jakarta recently to look into various possibilities.

The meeting, held at the Indonesian Press Association (PWI) headquarters, agreed to focus efforts on the millennial youth and small entrepreneurs with the possibility of jointly organising specific programmes to benefit them.

“The thrust of the programmes aim to get them to work together, synergistically complementing each other’s interests, expertise, creativity and resources to take on regional and global markets,” said Mohamad Nasir Yusoff, the ISWAMI secretary.

He said both Malaysian and Indonesian youths are highly talented and need only simple guidance and matchmaking to bring them together, talk to one another, plan things out and kickstart projects together.

“Along the way, hopefully, they will realise and learn to appreciate the many similarities shared, being closest neighbours, understand each other better and thus further strengthen people-to-people relations,” he said.

He also said that ISWAMI had had an experience once when it jointly organised an economic seminar and product exhibition of Malaysian and Indonesian female entrepreneurs in Bandung, West Java, in January 2011 and managed to match-make some 60 entrepreneurs, especially in cosmetics, fashion and handicraft.

Group photo during a visit to Lion Air HQ in Jakarta - Bernama

Group photo during a visit to Lion Air HQ in Jakarta – Bernama

Indonesia ISWAMI president Asro Kamal Rokan said concrete efforts must be taken because the millennials are the ones who will soon inherit the countries and they must know each other well enough to ensure that the bilateral relationship remains at its best past the present generation of leaders.

“Our generation, and those of our grandparents, too, are very close to each other despite the geographical borders because we realise that we are of the same Malay root with one culture, one religion and one language. We share so many similarities and, in fact, many of us have blood relatives on the other side of the border,” he said.

However, he added, times have changed and the millennials are too occupied with gadgets and technology to even start looking at the similarities, let alone appreciate them. He pointed out that it was not uncommon that youths of both countries were involved in fierce cyberwars over small matters such as overlapping claims on culture, food, batik cloth and even songs and dances.

“All those were never an issue at all during the olden days because our grandparents knew fully well that those were our common heritage. Be you in Malaysia or in Indonesia, all are entitled to enjoy it, to practise it,” said senior editor and culture critic Shamsuddin CH Haesy.

Khaidir Majid, the group editor of the Malaysian Berita Harian media group and ISWAMI treasurer, agreed, pointing out that the youths will be better focused on a mutually beneficial future once they have joint-venture projects at hand.

He pointed out that better things should be at hand soon such as joint business ventures and other viable economic projects like co-ownership of online youth TV, printed or online youth magazines, joint production of TV programmes and newspaper content or even Nusantara fashion and design houses.

“Of course, ISWAMI will need the full support of both the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia and their related agencies, especially in initial funding and venture capital. ISWAMI will help prepare suitable platforms for the millennials to come together,” he said.

Malaysia ISWAMI president Rashid Yusof said further discussions will be held with Indonesia ISWAMI to finalise ‘a first small step’ forward towards realising that and, hopefully, before the year-end ISWAMI will already have a suitable platform for the youths and by the youths of both countries.

As ASEAN alone provides a ready market of some 670 million people, to start at a regional level will be good enough for any joint-venture project, he said, adding that being IT-savvy, the youths of Malaysia and Indonesia may need only a short time to get established regionally and globally.

“Our out-of-the-box idea is not far-fetched actually as we intend to complement efforts and programmes that have in a way already been undertaken by our respective governments. We at ISWAMI only want to expand it to synergistically involve youths of both countries. Prosper thy neighbour and together we progress,” he said.

The head of the PWI Advisory Board, Ilham Bintang, in welcoming the idea said the press will always have a significant role to play either in promoting people’s participation in the nation’s development or as a watchdog to ensure the proper implementation of projects undertaken by the government.

“In this age of social media, where everybody with a handphone can share what is news to them, the press is still looked upon for its news integrity and for news as news should be,” he said.

Despite the advent of various online platforms, he added journalists still have their job, likening them to singers who had faced the challenges of time and the advancement of technology from singing on vinyl record to tapes to cassettes and now on YouTube and online.

For the mainstream media to start thinking about a bigger contribution towards nation-building with focus on youths and entrepreneurs is very honourable, he said, expressing the belief that it can be done because the press has access to lots of information and opportunities waiting to be snapped up.

Indonesian Ambassador to Kuala Lumpur Rusdi Kirana, who is all for this noble intention of the press, said: “To cooperate and work hand-in-hand in synergy is the best way for millennials of both countries to progress together. Two hands are always better than one.”



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