Journalists Beyond Frontiers': SAARC consensus on free media yet to be evolved -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Journalists Beyond Frontiers’: SAARC consensus on free media yet to be evolved

Ali Waqar
DHAKA, November 11 2005: South Asian Association for regional Cooperation (SAARC), which is holding its 13th head-summit in a couple of days in Dhaka, has yet not evolved a consensus on the free movement of journalists and free flow of information in the region. However there has been some movement towards this goal.

Bangladeshi Information Minister Shamsul Islam hinted at it, speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural session of the three-day second SAARC Journalists Summit titled ‘Journalists Beyond Frontiers’ formally opened at Lake Shore Hotel, Dhaka on Thursday November 10. The South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), a regional body of journalists, has arranged the summit, which is being attended by around 150 journalists hailing from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

“A corollary to press freedom is the journalists’ freedom of movement,” he said.

“We are taking some steps towards this end but this is an issue on which a general agreement amongst all countries is necessary,” he said, adding that along with free movement of journalists, media products of SAARC member countries including television programmes, should be allowed as well. “This will go a long way in removing the existing information deficit.”

Islam said the conference came at an opportune time as the South Asian leaders were already exploring all avenues of close cooperation. He said to deny journalists the freedom of movement was tantamount to circumscribing press freedom.

Earlier, SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam said unless free flow of information and movement of media products became part of the SAARC agenda, the fear from freedom and mistrust would not be removed. Media deficit was one of the main contributing factors in fostering ethnic and journalistic divide, he added.

He also pointed out that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh had the most restrictive information regimes in place. It was only after the fear from freedom is removed that good governance could get a chance, he told delegates. He announced SAFMA’s complete support to Indo-Pak and Indo-Bangla peace talk.

Grameen Bank Managing Director Dr Mohammed Younas, in his keynote address, emphasised the need to strengthen the SAARC. He said unless poverty was addressed the region could not become strong.

SAFMA Bangladesh President Reazuddin Ahmed and the presidents of SAFMA chapters from the member countries and other media dignitaries from the region also addressed the conference.

The participants of the meeting also observed a one-minute silence to mark the death of SAFMA’s founding member and former SAFMA Bangladesh Vice President Enayatullah Khan. They also expressed solidarity with the families of Pakistani journalists who lost their lives in the October 8 earthquake.

The participants unanimously passed a resolution asking the South Asian heads of the government to include the right of free travel for journalists as part of their agenda for the 13th SAARC Summit. A media monitor report for the year 2005, focusing on the state of media in the region and excesses against journalists, was also issued. Media Monitor Editor Hussain Naqi and Media Monitor Assistant Editor Sadaf Arshad discussed at length the problems faced by working journalists in the region.
Source: Daily Times