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Impunity, gender and digital safety key focus areas for South Asia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN), a network of IFJ affiliates and partners in the region, in its commitment to work towards ending the environment of impunity and minimizing attacks on journalists as well as in addressing gender issues in media.

The 13th annual meeting of the SAMSN, held in Kathmandu from July 18 to 20 2014 with journalists, human rights activists and union leaders of seven nations of South Asia discussing regional issues and challenges to media freedom, unanimously passed a 13-point resolution which focuses on impunity, gender and digital safety.

The SAMSN took serious note of the widespread culture of impunity and its deleterious impact on journalists and media workers. The SAMSN reaffirmed its commitment to end the environment of impunity and resolves to work closely with national and international organizations to bring an end to impunity, and improve journalists' safety.

Over 100 journalists have been killed in the line of duty in Pakistan in the last decade, with 57 murders of journalists since 1992 in India, more than three dozen murders since 2001 in Nepal, and more than three dozen murders since 2006 in Sri Lanka; these point to the deadly situation for journalists in the region. The issue of greater concern is that only a handful of cases have resulted in perpetrators being prosecuted and even less in convictions.

The IFJ joins the SAMSN in calling for the constitution of a judicial commission or appointment of a special prosecutor to pursue [and expedite] the investigation and prosecution in these cases in Pakistan, India and Nepal by their respective governments.

The SAMSN noted that the continuous assaults, threats, harassments, unwarranted questioning, and restrictions on access and interference by the military with journalistic functions of practitioners in the North and the East (the former war zones) in Sri Lanka continues to prevent media institutions and media personnel from accessing and reporting on those regions. The Network condemned the special directive issued by the NGO Secretariat, functioning under the Defense Ministry of Sri Lanka, that seeks to control and curb activities of the non-governmental (NGO) sector from holding media briefings and conducting trainings for journalists; termed the Contempt of Court bill in Nepal as restrictive to journalists' rights; and expressed concerns over the growing concentration in media ownership.

The SAMSN noted the growing coercive pressure on media from the Pakistani authorities which has resulted in the arbitrary banning of channels, the shutting down of media outlets and pressuring the cable TV distribution networks from denying viewers access to some TV channels. It also voiced its opposition to the use of laws and regulations devised primarily for regulating non-media sectors, such as the ICT Law (Bangladesh), the proposed Cyber Crime Law (Pakistan), the Information Technology Act (India) and the Electronic Transaction Act (Nepal), to harass journalists and citizens for expressing their opinions on the Internet.

It also declared that digital security and secure communications for media practitioners and media support groups are now priority areas. The SAMSN said: "The digital space is a vital platform for freedom of expression and the media and governments should facilitate responsible use and access."

The meeting also acknowledged the challenges faced by women journalists in South Asia and resolves to give gender issues priority action in the coming year in SAMSN campaigns.

Download the final SAMSN Resolutions from the meeting.
asia_samsn_resolutions.pdf (78 KB)

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