South Asia continues its well-deserved reputation as one of most unsafe places in the world for journalists to work. Daily attacks on media workers, a culture of impunity for those that target journalists, and a profoundly undemocratic and hostile media environment in many countries mean journalists who seek out and report truth do so in a climate of fear and intimidation.
"The past year saw governments continue the crack down on democratic rights and press freedom in the name of tackling terrorism. And corrupt officials, insurgents, fundamentalists of all religions and gangsters with their own violent methods of silencing truth tellers, continue with impunity," said Jacqueline Park, director, IFJ Asia-Pacific.
On World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the IFJ releases its Third Annual Press Freedom Report for South Asia: Courage and Censorship - Journalists and Press Freedom in South Asia 2004-2005 to highlight the professionalism of journalists working in adverse circumstances to protect press freedoms and keep the public informed.
The report sets out to tell the full story of press freedom, democratic rights and journalists' safety in South Asia. Sadly, it details the deaths of too many journalists and records the unspeakable treatment of many others. In a terrible and shocking toll, 19 media workers were killed between May 2004 and April 2005 in targeted attacks for their efforts to ensure the voice of the free press in South Asia is heard. The report also documents the declining media freedoms so important for media independence and vital to democracy.
"In this report we recognise the amazing courage and professionalism of our colleagues across the region, many of whom work in the most difficult situations," said Park.
The report tells how journalists in Nepal have been at the forefront of the opposition to the Royal coup and clampdown on press freedom and democratic rights there; of the courage of Bangladeshi journalists who, despite daily attacks of the most horrific proportions, continue to expose the corruption that pervades the country; and of how journalists, while counting their own losses, were quick to tell the world and their own communities of the devastation caused by the tsunami.
The report has been co-ordinated by the International Federation of Journalists on behalf of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN), a unique coalition of journalists' unions and press freedom organisations in the region. The SAMSN, bringing together more than 25,000 journalists across the region, is dedicated to building solidarity among journalists' organisations and other groups in the region working to promote a safer working environment and greater respect for the work of journalists.
The IFJ called upon governments to respect democratic rights, investigate and follow up every attack and be held accountable when there is official indifference, negligence or, as in some cases, official complicity in attacks on media.
"Spotlighting the cases of violence against journalists and press freedom violations plays a valuable role in not only raising awareness of these issues but also in applying pressure to ensure that the perpetrators of these assaults are brought to justice," said Park.
For the full report (part 1) click here
For the full report (part 2) click here
For a MS Word version of the report (attached) click here
For more information contact:
Director, IFJ Asia-Pacific, International Federation of Journalists
Tel: +61 2 9333 0950
Fax: +61 2 9333 0933