SAFMA launches ‘Media Monitor-South Asia 2003’ report
* Report serves to highlight issues facing regional press
LAHORE The South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) launched its first media monitoring report, “Media Monitor-South Asia 2003”, at the Lahore Press Club on Friday.
Hussain Naqi, a senior journalist and human rights activist, and Mariam Mushtaq compiled the report.
SAFMA Vice President Abdul Qadir Hassan, Secretary General Imtiaz Alam and Lahore Press Club (LPC) Secretary General Noman Yawar were among those who attended the report’s launching ceremony.
Talking to reporters, the speakers said that press laws must be reviewed in order to empower local media. They also demanded free visas for journalists belonging to SAARC states.
“This [report] is just the beginning and a more extensive edition will be completed next year,” pledged Mr Alam who welcomed “suggestions for improvement”. He added other SAARC countries would also launch the same report. Mr Naqi said the press in South Asia faced certain difficulties.
“The region has witnessed a variety of conflicts in the past,” said he. “Journalists’ physical safety is under constant threat.”
This, he said, reduced “their ability to work independently”. “At least seven journalists were killed in Pakistan, India and Nepal in 2003,” Mr Naqi said, quoting an extract from the report.
He went on to say: “Corrupt practices, ethnic and communal hatred, intolerance, deterioration of judicial and administrative systems, the liaison between criminals, politicians and state conflict hinder reporters from working fairly and fearlessly.”
“Two journalists survived murder attempts at the hands of drug peddlers in Pakistan while many others have been harassed throughout the region. Most of them were victims of religious or political intolerance.”
Journalists working in conflict-ridden areas like Indian-held Kashmir, Pakistan’s tribal area, Nepal and Sri Lanka were being subjected to the ire of various warring factions.
Mr Naqi said Islamic militants in Pakistan attacked cable stations and defaced billboards picturing female models in a bid to abolish “obscenity”.
“A government usually refuses to take criticism, trying to uphold what it considers sacrosanct in the name of national dignity. The media has always been asked not to cross certain limits in most of the South Asian countries,” he claimed.
“However due to the information revolution and a strengthened sense of determination, the media has courageously asserted its independence within SAARC member states,” concluded Mr Naqi.