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South Asian Media Solidarity Network to be formally structured, campaign for comprehensive freedom of expression action plans

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 27 September 2007 IFJ media release:

South Asia: South Asian Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) adopts declaration at Kathmandu, to seek formal constitution at next meeting

Representatives of member organisations of the South Asian Media Solidarity Network, at a meeting in Kathmandu on September 15, 2007 supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (foundation), unanimously adopted a new charter. The charter will be the basis for SAMSN's transition from an open platform to a formally structured organisation with an agreed charter and a wide and inclusive membership.

In the process of this transition and well afterwards, SAMSN will remain committed to certain core beliefs and convictions, which were reaffirmed at the Kathmandu meeting:

- That free media institutions are an essential part of each country's effort to build a truly democratic and representative political order;

- That working journalists, media practitioners and organisers, should remain committed to the fostering of a democratic and professional media culture with a responsibility to the public interest;

- That professional freedom is no privilege but a responsibility embodying respect for the truth and the right of every individual citizen to know;

- That all journalists and media staff have the right to work in conditions of safety and security;

- That they have the right to freedom of association and to collectively bargain for wages and appropriate working conditions.

Member organisations of SAMSN at Kathmandu, undertook to work together as a cohesive and mutually supportive network to improve and assert press freedom and the rights of journalists in the South Asia region.

Towards this end, SAMSN has agreed that it would:

- Continue the ongoing exchange of information about attacks on press freedom, freedom of expression and journalists' rights and systematically document these using all appropriate media;

- Provide information for the annual report on press freedom in South Asia published by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

- Encourage coordination between journalists' unions, press freedom organisations and human rights bodies at a local, national and regional level

- Develop and implement a training program to build capacity in each country and across the network to support this work

A plan for further action was agreed, covering a four-part agenda:

- A Fair Workplace;

- Human rights, diversity and editorial independence

- Respect for journalism as a profession and a social responsibility

- Solidarity

SAMSN will seek in the year ahead, to formally constitute itself into a structured organisation, with an agreed constitution and a wide membership. To the extent possible, the SAMSN constitution will distil the best out of national charters from all the countries in the South Asian region.

Two such models that already exist are the Sri Lankan media charter, adopted at Tholangamuwa on September 11, 2005 and the Afghan model adopted at Kabul on July 31, 2007.

While managing this transition and well afterwards, SAMSN will also seek to launch broadly-based campaigns supported by coalitions of groups within civil society in defence of media freedom.

SAMSN will campaign for a comprehensive plan of action for the support and development of independent journalism in South Asia within international programmes being developed for the region, including through the allocation of substantial funding.

To look at the full version of the SAMSN charter, please go to:
http://www.ifj-asia.org/files/samsn_members_declaration_final.pdf

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries.

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