The NAM News Network, a joint effort of the 116 member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, was formally inaugurated on Tuesday by Zainuddin Maidin, the Malaysian information minister, although it has been live online since April 17.

Zainuddin urged members to develop their media and use technology to forge better communication links among them.

"Unless we do this, we shall continue to bemoan the fact that the so-called international media has not and will never give the fair coverage that is due to us," he said in a speech.

The Non-Aligned Movement is a group of nations that sought to avoid alignments with so-called superpowers during the Cold War.

It includes mostly poor countries but also thriving economies such as Singapore, Malaysia and India.

Trust lost

The minister said the West was cynical about the creation of NNN, but people had lost trust in Western media outlets after their reports on the Iraq war.

"Unless we do this, we shall continue to bemoan the fact that the so-called international media has not and will never give the fair coverage that is due to us"

Zainuddin Maidin
Malaysian information minister

"Before, people had a strong confidence, (they) wholeheartedly believed in BBC, believed in CNN, but now the situation has changed," he told reporters after introducing the news service.

In contrast, said the minister, the NNN aimed to be an  independent and balanced source of news that was not biased.

"We are giving the news fairly, we are not using the deceiving  approach, just like the Western media are doing," he said, insisting that NAM countries practised press freedom.

"We don't want to practice that, we are trying to project  ourselves as free, independent news."

Different languages

The web-based news service will carry about 60 news items daily, as well as photographs, contributed by 35 news agencies and news organisations of NAM member countries in Asia, West Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.

Other countries including China, whose news agency Xinhua has a wide global presence, are contributing.

French, Spanish and Arabic news services are also being planned.

Zainuddin said NNN must be supported, nurtured and developed to become an important window on NAM countries for the world.

"Admittedly, it already has its fair of detractors but we must not be discouraged. With commitment and determination, we can make NNN a successful news organisation of the South and prove the doomsayers wrong," he said.

Malaysia's national news agency Bernama will maintain the site.