New IFJ Report on Collective Action for Press Freedom In South Asia

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today

released a report titled Freedom in

Solidarity: Media Working for Peace in South Asia, which presents the

results of a 18-month process working with affiliates to assess capacity to

respond collectively in crises involving media freedom.

 

 

The report

presents the outcome of this process of evaluation of past efforts in the

defence of press freedom in situations of conflict in five countries of South

Asia: Bangladesh, India, Nepal,

Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Situations analysed cover the wide range of conflict situations encountered by

media practitioners in these countries and their efforts to collectively work

to establish an environment conducive to free reporting.

 

Both

successes and failures are evaluated to arrive at an understanding of the

essential ingredients of a credible and effective collective response to media

freedom challenges.

 

The report

makes the case for journalists’ unions and organisations to operate in concert

with wider civil society actors to pursue an effective mode of international

networking. Sharing experiences across diverse areas can often energise local

struggles in the vast sub-continent. Unions that have strong institutional

structures, invest in capacity building and operate transparently have greater

success in all these respects.

 

Media law

remains an area where rapid changes are underway in these countries and one where

unions need to remain firmly engaged. There is an unspoken truth in these

countries that underground groups and criminal gangs often have a voice in the

media through the fear they foster. No better defence exists against these

threats than unity in a professional cause and adherence to a declared code of

conduct by journalists.

 

South Asia’s media professionals

need to participate in a debate over the transfer of resources built up by

state-controlled broadcasters to public control. This would be an essential

part of a debate, which is long overdue, on public service journalism and its

core values.

 

Often, the

links between unions in the national capitals and the more remote areas in the

South Asian countries, where the challenges facing journalists are especially

acute, are tenuous and weak. These need to be strengthened since the challenges

to the exercise of the free speech right in distant areas will not gain

traction and become issues of wide public concern, till they are adopted by

unions in national capitals and the metropolitan centres.

 

Journalists’

unions need to live up to their conventional role in delivering improved pay

and working conditions. Current approaches to this vital issue, especially in Pakistan,

Bangladesh and India, which have institutionalised processes of wage

determination through statutory wage  boards, need to be reassessed and a campaign developed to shift

employers’ attitudes towards staff.

 

Unions

should consider creating a representative structure of young journalists and

women, to deepen the participatory character of the responses to ongoing

challenges. The involvement of women and the younger professionals would be a

crucial investment in the future of media freedom in all these countries.

 

The report

is currently available in English. Translations in Bangla, Hindi, Nepali,

Sinhala, Tamil and Urdu will soon be posted online.

 

All

activities going into the report were conducted with the financial support of

the United States Institute of Peace.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries

 

Find the

IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific