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Sombath Somphone:
Missing for three years

Sombath Somphone is the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Community Leadership. The Award was made in recognition of his life-long efforts to promote sustainable development in Laos by training and motivating its young people to become a generation of leaders. Sombath founded Participatory Development Training Centre (PADETC) in Vientiane in 1996 to foster sustainable, equitable, and self-reliant development in Laos. In his response to the citation for the Award, Sombath said:

“What I have accomplished so far is only a small beginning. To have long-term impact, we will need more coherent and comprehensive development approaches that place human dignity and economic and social justice for all at the center of development. To achieve this, it cannot be just the work of a few organizations or a few committed individuals; it should be a sustained movement that involves everybody: the government, the private sector, and people from all walks of life and from all age groups, and especially our young who comprise more than half of our population.

“PADETC's approach to development has always been to balance the development lessons from outside Laos with our local experiences and knowledge. We seek such a balance through broad-based consultation and the involvement of young people at the forefront of the development movement. These measures have worked and we have gained increasing support. We believe that through our own efforts and with the support of our well-wishers, we can build a socially, economically and environmentally balanced society which ensures stable livelihoods for all, and for future generations.”

Sombath has been missing since 12 December 2012. He was last seen more than three years ago. Visit the following websites for more information about Sombath’s disappearance:

The Sombath Initiative

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

Asia Communication Awards 2015

The Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) made five Asia Communication Awards for 2015 at its 24th International AMIC Conference held at the American University in Dubai in June. Two awards were conferred on individuals and three to institutions which made outstanding contributions to the sector in the region. The AMIC award recognizes outstanding contributions and achievements in the fields of media and communication. It is the highest recognition which AMIC can bestow. It is awarded annually by a Jury of AMIC Board members. The two individual awardees for 2015:

Dr. Alan Hancock, a globally influential communicator and media development specialist formerly with UNESCO, was conferred the Award in recognition of his meritorious lifetime contributions to communication education and research, institutional development and media advancement in Asia and internationally.

Click here for more.

Malaysia's fifth decade
of studies in communication

Malaysia’s first communication programme was launched by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) nearly 44 years ago. "Communication studies in Malaysia have come a long way since the first course was offered..." remarked Prof. Dato' Dr. Syed Arabi Syed Abdullah Idid in his paper "The Past and Coming Communication Journey in Malaysia" which presents a comprehensive chronology of the growth of the field in the country. His paper will be published in the Jurnal Komunikasi, Malaysian Journal of Communication, which will be available for open-access download here.

USM was the second university to be established in Malaysia in 1969 and was founded in Penang, where Southbound is also based.

The first communication programme in the country began as a literal work-in-progress with part-time lecturers flying in from Kuala Lumpur and beyond to teach their courses. Its curriculum evolved as the pioneering batch of students worked their way through their programme.

Professor John Lent was appointed as the Coordinator of USM's fledgling programme in 1972 and dived into frantic months of developing and teaching the courses as student numbers increased, making communication one of the most popular courses in the School of Humanities.

He recalled those busy and exciting early days of the programme: "It was not unusual to spend 16 hours in the classroom weekly .... Every day’s work began early and ended late and we were on campus at least half day on Saturdays. But, despite this workload, the whole experience was exciting and productive, and without a doubt, those 19 or 20 months were among the most pleasurable of my 51-year teaching career."

John Lent's efforts, combined with the hard work of a handful of his colleagues from those early days, quickly built an impressive programme and developed an illustrious class of pioneering Malaysian communicators. He recalled:

"The new curriculum was one to be proud of, even surpassing many longer-established undergraduate programs in the United States in its scope, rigor, and depth. The courses were oriented toward both research/theory and practice and were interdisciplinary in nature. They revolved around communication skills, humanistic approaches to communication, and development and international communication. The latter were especially appropriate at the time with Asian governments’ and NGOs’ emphasis on using communication for national development purposes. Development communication was the buzzword of the day."

"Students were expected to do actual reporting and writing in simulated assignments on campus and real-world situations during their internships. We even had press cards printed for them. Third-year students were required to carry out original research, using primary resources and techniques such as historical method, content analysis, interviews, or audience and other surveys. The papers they wrote for my courses dealt with a variety of topics, and I think it necessary to mention representative ones here for there is no doubt, these were the pioneering studies of Malaysia’s mass communication. Examples were: Shirley Tan Lee Nah’s history of Penang journalism, 1911—1945; Primalani Muthucumaru’s Straits Echo history; Cheah Kim Lean and Rodziah Ahmad Tajuddin’s treatment of Malaya’s underground press, 1942—1960; Molly Mathews’ history of Malaysian broadcasting; Mohd. Naim Ismail’s work on Suara Malaysia; Parameswari’s analysis of government press releases used by five Malaysian dailies; Ismail bin Mamat’s content analysis of Straits Times and Utusan Melayu and Tuan Kamaruzaman’s similar study of Utusan Malaysia and Straits Echo; Lee Wai Keong and Venugopal’s “Research Projects on Women’s Magazines”; Lee Kim Har’s history of Kwong Wah Yit Poh, 1910—1945; Ng Seng Kang’s work on Chinese culture, language, and press; Cheok Chye Sin’s content analysis of two Chinese newspapers; Rajan Moses and C. Mathew George’s comparison of The Star and Sing Pin Jit Poh; Othman bin Haji A. Rashid’s study of Malaysian mass media during the Japanese occupation; Ainon Haji Kuntom’s history of Malay newspapers; Abdullah bin Mahmood’s content analysis of Utusan Malaysia and Utusan Melayu; Aziz Muhammed and Zainie Rahmat’s study of the Ministry of Information’s use of folk media to disseminate government policies; Bachan Kuar Gill’s survey of the Punjabi press in Malaysia; G. Parimala Devi and N. Nirmala Devi’s project on the availability, penetration, and utilization of media in a Tamil community, and Penelope Tan’s work on Malaysian films and the censor. I think a few were published and I used, with proper acknowledgement, some of the students’ findings in a series of articles and a monograph I wrote on Malaysian mass communication. I had that much confidence in the way the research was conducted."

To read John Lent's recollection of his two years in Penang devoted to developing Malaysia's first communication programme, click here.


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