In a joint statement issued ahead of the World Press Freedom Day which falls on May 3, the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) and the South Asia Media Commission (SAMC) have urged governments in South Asia to safeguard the freedom of expression against repressive provisions, measures or groups.

The two media bodies termed the commemoration of this year's Press Freedom Day, with its theme as “New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies,” an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of media freedom. It would also serve as an occasion to evaluate media freedom, to defend the media from attacks on their independence, and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

“Freedom of expression is a precious right that bolsters every other freedom and provides a foundation for human dignity. Free, pluralistic and independent media is essential for exercising this right,” said SAFMA secretary-general Imtiaz Alam and SAMC president Kumar Ketkar.

The SAFMA and the SAMC called on the governments in the region to commit themselves to supporting and expanding press freedom and the free flow of information in the digital age. “New media have enabled people to bring about massive social and political transformations. Yet, media freedom is fragile, and it is also not yet within the reach of everyone. Furthermore, as more reporting is transmitted online, more and more online journalists including bloggers are being attacked and even killed for their work,” Mr. Alam and Mr. Ketkar said.

According to statistics with the two media bodies, 185 journalists have been killed since 1992 for their work. Of these, Pakistan tops the tally with 58 followed by India 39, Afghanistan 28, Sri Lanka 25, Bangladesh 18, and Nepal 17.

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