IFJ Documents Press Freedom and State of Journalism in South Asia

<center>Release of second annual IFJ Press Freedom Report for South Asia</center>

The year since May 2003 has been a turbulent time for journalists in South Asia. As in previous years, governments, insurgents, terrorists, corrupt officials, gangsters and fundamentalists of all religions were seen to be targeting media for its free and fearless reporting.

Despite major challenges and difficult political situations in the region, there were many examples of the work of journalists in highlighting discrimination, promoting peace and resisting attempts at censorship and repression.

The second annual report on press freedom in South Asia has been coordinated by the International Federation of Journalists, the global voice for journalists. The report, covering Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka records and spotlights a worrying trend of increasing violence against journalists, including the deaths of at least 12 journalists and other media workers in the 12 months to this day.

The report also monitors the commitment of governments across the region and their actions on press freedom, saying: "Ruthless criminality and political indifference often mean that little can be done to stop determined killers. But governments must continue to be challenged. They must respect democratic rights, investigate and follow up every attack and be held accountable when there is official complacency, negligence or, as in some cases, official complicity in attacks on media."

The report shows that journalism in South Asia continues to be a risky affair, and that those journalists operating in regions of civil, political unrest and ethnic violence do so under enormous pressure on both their safety and their ability to do their job freely. In many cases, the attacks on journalists could be directly linked to their free and fearless reporting.

Journalists need support not only to do their jobs in safety but they also need professional training and proper working conditions.

A coalition of journalists' organisations and press freedom groups in South Asia continue to challenge those that violate press freedom and independent journalism through protest and solidarity actions. The publication of this report, which documents and publicises violations, with contributions from organisations across the region, is one of these solidarity actions.

"While there have been some positive developments in improving media freedom in South Asia, sadly these are grossly overshadowed by attacks and persecution of the press," the report concludes.

"Clearly, though, there is a long way to go to achieve the conditions necessary for journalists to fulfil their democratic function. And journalists and media workers have the best hope for achieving this by acting collectively through strong, independent media associations that demand respect for independent journalism and give journalists a voice in negotiating proper training, a fairer legal environment and acceptable working conditions. Attacks to hurt, harass and silence journalists can no longer escape proper investigation and punishment as they so often have in the past."

Further information, Jacqueline Park, Director IFJ Asia, +61 411 721 692, ifj@ifj-asia.org or Laxmi Murthy, Tolerance Prize Co-ordinator for South Asia in New Delhi, +91-9818383669, ifjsouthasia@hotmail.com

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