Anita Joshua

`SAARC Journalists Summit-III' organised by SAFMA inaugurated

  • N. Ram elected chairperson of South Asia Media Commission at its founding conference
  • Commission to develop mechanism that will respond to attacks on journalists

    NEW DELHI: Faced with criticism on how the governments of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh had failed to keep their promises vis-a-vis free movement of journalists and media products across the borders of the sub-continent, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi on Sunday said journalists would not return empty-handed from the 14th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

    Inaugurating the `SAARC Journalists Summit-III' organised by the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) here, Mr. Dasmunsi said, "Free exchange of media should not be undermined anymore and you will not return from this SAARC summit totally frustrated. You will get something definitely."

    Nailing governments

    While showering praise on journalists for their coverage of ticklish bilateral issues, the Minister urged media personnel from the region to focus on developmental measures adopted by SAARC countries.

    By drawing attention to positive steps taken by other SAARC countries, journalists could nail their own governments for lack of performance, he said.

    Earlier in the day, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu N. Ram was elected chairperson of the South Asia Media Commission (SAMC) at its founding conference. Along with him, Najam Sethi, Editor of Pakistan's Daily Times was elected general secretary.

    Besides, Husain Naqi, a veteran journalist from Pakistan and Editor of South Asia Media Monitor will be the Commission's coordinator.

    Codes of practice

    Meeting under the chairmanship of Mr. Ram, the Commission set itself the task of devising practical and ethical "codes of practice" and guidelines for media organisations to deal with diverse situations affecting journalists. "We do not want governments to make these guidelines," Mr. Ram said in his welcome address at the founding conference. These codes will also seek to address the principles of the media's own accountability, transparency and social responsibility.

    Besides, the Commission proposes to evolve a mechanism to highlight attacks on media personnel and organisations across South Asia. Primarily, the aim is to put in place a mechanism that will allow SAMC to instantly respond to attacks on journalists or media organisations in any of the member countries.

    In his address, SAFMA secretary-general Imtiaz Alam said measures must be adopted to reduce the information deficit and various shades of distrust in the region. This would be possible only by greater freedom of movement of journalists and media products across borders through measures such as easier visa regulations and free movement of newspapers.

    Further, Mr. Alam urged journalists not to allow themselves to be used by their respective governments to perpetuate state propaganda.

    "Why should journalists [particularly of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh] become embedded to our respective foreign offices," questioned the veteran Pakistani journalist.