Black and White and Read All Over … in Asia, Anyway

Newspapers in the United States may be shrinking, losing circulation and laying off employees at an alarming rate, but times have never been better for the daily press in Asia.

Seven of the 10 best-selling daily newspapers worldwide are in Asia, according to a Yahoo News story, and circulation there rose 3.6 percent in 2006, compared to a two percent drop in the United States.

“The media has never been as powerful, or as pervasive, as it is in Asia right now,” said Shelia Coronel, director of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University.

Rising literacy and economic expansion have created strong demand for news in the region, experts say.

And, while online readership is growing rapidly in advanced countries such as South Korea and Taiwan, demand for print is growing in the industry’s three biggest markets, China, India and even tech-savvy Japan.

Advertising revenue for newspapers has been equally impressive — with revenues rising 85 percent in India between 2001 and 2006.

Some Southeast Asian nations still lack a free press, but Indonesia, where official censorship was lifted only 10 years ago, has some of the strongest press freedom in the region.

The government has even instituted a program to try to boost newspaper readership.

Still, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono asked the press to exercise “self-censorship” in a speech marking National Press Day on Feb. 9.

Citing the example of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published cartoons deemed offensive to Muslims, Yudhoyono called for the press to publish only news that is “appropriate.”

–Will Crain/


“Newspapers thriving? Yes — in Asia.”
Yahoo News, January 24, 2008

“SBY asks press for self-censorship”
The Jakarta Post (subscription), February 11, 2008

“Media Self Censorship”
Indonesia Matters, February 9, 2008

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