THE need for the expansion of journalism education has prompted the International Federation of Journalists to develop a programme which focuses on comprehensive activities to assist media professionals across Asia. The move has been welcomed by the territory's leading academics in the media field. Federation president Jens Linde told delegates at its Asia regional conference, held in Hong Kong, that there was a 'profound lack of investment in journalistic education'. He said the region should not underestimate the value of journalism education. The federation was planning a pilot 'Media for Democracy' project, which would develop a programme of activities to strengthen the ethical, professional and constitutional position of the media in all parts of Asia and the Pacific, Mr Linde said. The project would include workshops, discussion groups and the establishment of a regional network of professional organisations through which issues could be raised. 'We aim to establish criteria for standards of professional journalism which will respect democracy and citizen's rights,' the federation president said. The programme would also try to identify areas of activity for professional, legal and constitutional reform in the fields of freedom of expression and freedom of information. The federation, as the leading worldwide body for journalists, represents more than 400,000 journalists working in more than 90 countries. The chairman of the department of communication and journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Dr Joseph Chan Man, agreed there was a lack of journalism education in the territory and in Asia. 'There has been a great demand for journalism programmes in recent years because of the growing needs of students and the industry,' Dr Chan said. This year, hundreds of students had to be turned away from the Chinese University's Department of Communication and Journalism. Only 70 students are accepted by the department each year, according to the existing quota. Dr Chan said the Chinese University, in an effort to address the problem, had plans to develop a School of Communication and Journalism in the near future. He said a proposal had been prepared to call for the expansion of quotas and the journalism programme's curriculum. Dr Chan welcomed the federation's media democracy programme, saying that it would have a positive influence on the profession. 'The programme will address the shortage of journalistic education in general and raise the issue with the public.' Baptist University's assistant professor in the Department of Journalism, Joyce Nip, said although more journalism programmes were being provided by Hong Kong and mainland institutes, they still did not meet the demands of the market. The professor said there was a great need for in-service training within the profession. Ms Nip said she would encourage her students to take part in the federation programme and look at the role of media professionals in Asia. The chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists' Association, Ivan Tong Kam-piu, said the federation project would enhance the standard of the industry. 'It will not only encourage us to consolidate the development of democracy here in Hong Kong and China, but also to look at ways in which we can strengthen professional journalism,' Mr Tong said.