Media Release: SAMSN
May 3, 2013
World Press Freedom Day, 2013, the International Federation of Journalists
(IFJ) with UNESCO support launches a report on South Asia, the eleventh in an
annual series that reviews all developments that have a bearing on media
freedom and quality journalism in the region.
South Asia Press Freedom Report for 2013, titled “Building Resistance,
Organising for Change”, seeks to bring into sharp focus the diverse experiences
of media practitioners in the South Asian region. Over the year under review,
these have ranged from the continuing threat of legal action and the growing
menace of physical violence, to the challenges posed by new forms of
inter-personal communication and engagement with the media and the defence of
the traditional values of the craft.
over all these is the issue of financial viability, which has emerged with a
renewed force in the currently unsettled economic times. In some of the smaller
South Asian countries, with weakly institutionalised media industries,
financial viability has always been a
constant challenge. But even in countries with well established industries and
long settled traditions, such as India, developments over the year have
unsettled some of the optimism of the last decade of rapid growth in the media.
The issue of transparency in ownership and editorial functioning has been
brought to the foreground. Accountability and credible modes of regulation
still remain relevant.
safety was sharply in focus as a priority in a region which remains one of the
most dangerous for journalists to operate in. In Nepal and Sri Lanka, violence
against journalists and the media has been a disturbingly recurrent phenomenon
over the past twelve months. Prolonged internal warfare, now formally declared at
an end in both countries, presented serious challenges for independent
journalism while a blanket of impunity for violent acts committed during the
war continues and political settlement remains elusive.
status as a frontline state in a global conflict continues to deepen ethnic and
sectarian fractures. The past twelve months have seen a further deterioration
in the safety environment for journalists. Pakistan has had its impunity rating
increasing rapidly and without break for the last four years.
growth of social media has over the year, added a new dimension to both the opportunities
and challenges facing journalism. In India, a cartoonist had his website shut
down and then faced arrest on sedition charges, for satirising corruption using
depictions of the national flag. In another context, noxious rumours
circulating through the internet and the mobile phone network led to a mass
panic and the flight of people of a certain ethnicity from some of India’s most
Bangladesh, young activists campaigning for the trial of war-crimes accused
from the country’s 1971 war of national liberation, were arrested for posting
putatively “atheistic” material on their blogs. In the Maldives, a campaigner
for religious tolerance, suffered a near fatal attack, provoked by material he
had posted on his blog.
year saw a growth in instances where national laws were applied to suppress
freedom of expression. Legal actions and inconsistent judicial practices
contributed to a culture of censorship. In India, heightened concern over
terrorism led to a number of journalists being criminally charged and in
certain cases, arrested under special security laws.
continue to block access to information, for example when Afghanistan’s
parliament convened in 2012, the main halls and the press galleries were
declared out of bounds for journalists.
a more general level, journalists face a situation of having to fight for the
credibility of their profession as the region witnesses the growing integration
of the media with other, unrelated business interests. None of the countries in
South Asia has yet worked out a credible means of regulating this intrusion of
commercialism into the media.
the Maldives, the government continues to stand by the ill-advised decision to
reserve all official advertisements for a special gazette, denying independent
media this important financial sustenance and making them dependent on a
variety of commercial and political actors. In Bhutan, an arbitrary change of
rules by the electoral authorities, since rescinded, meant that most
independent media platforms would be denied political advertising during the
ongoing election campaign.
India, the year under review saw the prospect of employment and livelihood
anxieties multiplying for journalists who had taken what seemed like lucrative
opportunities in a number of new media platforms promoted by finance, real
estate and other companies through the boom years of the last decade.
still struggle for fair wages and decent working conditions. In India,
Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal principally, established laws on the protection
of living standards are being breached with little consequence. In other
countries such as Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Afghanistan, the struggle is
underway for securing protections under the law for the wages and working
conditions of the media community.
in South Asia call out for sensible regulatory frameworks that do not impede
the public right to freedom of expression and access to information, and
safeguard the media from the commercial intrusions that have deeply eroded its
the ten that have preceded, this year’s report is part of the continuing effort
of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) for sharing experiences and
building foundations for united action across frontiers.
continuing financial support from UNESCO for this annual report is gratefully
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0950
Asia Coordinator, Sukumar Muralidharan on +91-98105-18009
represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries
the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific
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