The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and partner
organisations from the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) joined a
declaration in Kathmandu, Nepal, condemning the rapid deterioration in conditions
for free media in South Asia.
The declaration, which was adopted at a two-day meeting of media
practitioners from South Asia hosted by UNESCO, the Federation of Nepali
Journalists (FNJ) and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights (OHCHR) to mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3, affirmed that free
media institutions are an essential part of efforts in all South Asian
countries to build a truly democratic and representative political order.
The delegates deplored “the evident deterioration in the media freedom
situation” in South Asia and noted that the “most challenging issues for
journalists are violence directed by state and non-state actors engaged in war,
and bureaucratic and legislative efforts to silence dissent”.
The meeting noted that the hazards facing free and independent media in
the region have been epitomised in the murders this year of Lasantha
Wickrematunge in Sri Lanka, Uma Singh in Nepal and Musa Khankhel in Pakistan.
“there have been four murders, three arrests of editors or publishers, and one
case of a news organisation being charged with sedition” since World Press
Freedom Day in 2008.
The gathering observed that in Sri Lanka, “J.S. Tissainayagam, arrested in March 2008 and charged
with terrorism six months later, continues to face trial for articles written
in 2006 that were critical of the military strategy of the Government in its
combat operations against separatist guerrillas in the east of the country”.
The murder in January of Wickrematunge, who was posthumously honoured
with UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Award for 2009, was followed by the
kidnap-style arrest of N. Vithyatharan, another Tamil editor in Sri Lanka,
and his detention without charge for two months. Vithyatharan was discharged
unconditionally on April 24. However, throughout his detention senior government
officials repeatedly branded him an “accessory in terrorism”.
The South Asian media freedom community demanded that state authorities
in all countries “explicitly denounce these acts of lawlessness against the
media and institute appropriate sanctions against those responsible”.
The meeting’s delegates resolved that all media freedom bodies in the
region will “remain united in cross-border solidarity, in shared pursuit of an
environment of respect for press freedom”. They pledged that all bodies will
work together as “a cohesive network to support each other in (a) common
aspiration to improve and assert press freedom and the rights of journalists in
the South Asia region”.
The deterioration in the media environment is also emphasised inUnder Fire: Press Freedom in South Asia 2008-2009, produced by the IFJ for
SAMSN and released at the Nepal
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