29 journalists killed in S Asia: IFJ report
LAHORE: Twenty-nine journalists and media workers from six South Asian countries laid their lives while performing one of the most hazardous jobs during June-2007 to March-2008, according to a 40-page report released by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on the World Press Freedom Day on Saturday.
Out of the six countries which include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the highest casualties of 12 deaths occurred in Pakistan during the period. Five media persons died in Sri Lanka while 12 journalists had to sacrifice their lives in Nepal, India and Afghanistan with four from each country.
The report also enlists 214 serious incidents of physical harm, threats, intimidation, abductions and detentions of media persons in the six countries during this period. The highest number of such incidents, 90, was recorded in Sri Lanka due to the ongoing conflict, followed by Nepal where journalists faced 57 incidents of death threats, beatings and abductions.
Afghanistan is the next country with 36 such incidents followed by Pakistan with 19 major incidents of harassment and maltreatment. India had the least tally of only 12 such incidents.
The report says that the year from May 2007 to mid-April 2008 was “one of delicate political transitions in several countries of South Asia.” Afghanistan continued to struggle with the problems of reconstruction in a post-conflict situation, with institutions of law and governance still nascent. Nepal and Pakistan held firm to the course of democratisation and the media community in both countries played a significant role in the relative success with which political change was achieved, the IFJ report says. Bangladesh remains under an emergency dispensation with the media subject to significant and often capriciously enforced curbs. Sri Lanka slid further toward all-out internal conflict, IFJ had foretold last year, and the media in that country continues to be a casualty of unrelenting war.
About India, the IFJ report says that “the largest country in the region continued to reflect diverse trends in its internal media dynamics. “Peripheral” regions such as the north-eastern states, Jammu and Kashmir and the central Indian plateau continued to suffer from serious internal strife.
“The media was often caught between the demands of rival insurgent groups on one side and the state security agencies on the other,” the report says.
The report contains specific details about each country.
About Pakistan it says: “Although, the media rights situation worsened considerably in Pakistan throughout 2007, the current year has brought renewed reasons for hope. The new governments that have been sworn in at the federal and provincial levels following nationwide elections in February 2008 have held out early assurances that they would be mindful of the special needs of a free press. The newly installed federal government has taken early steps to rescind overly stringent regulations governing electronic media. All possible coercive actions against the media, such as blocking television channels, have been firmly ruled out of court by the new coalition parties.
“State and non-state actors in Pakistan, however, retain formidable powers of violence and coercion, which threaten the functioning of a free media on day-to-day basis. There has been no effort to confront the culture of impunity that prevails in cases of journalists being harassed, abducted or attacked, often with lethal effect.
The media industry also owes the community of journalists a debt for its steadfastness in adverse times in the cause of free speech and the right to information. Minimally, this debt could be discharged through the prompt implementation of the statutory wage awards for media workers that have been successively notified, only to be ignored by the industry.”
Source: The News