SAMC urges South Asian nations to ensure media freedom

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Lahore, May 5 (UNI) The South Asia Media Commission (SAMC), a regional media watchdog, has urged the countries of the region to guard media's freedom of information and expression against threats from state and non-state entities.

The watchdog urged Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to ensure that journalists perform their duties in an environment free from pressures, in a statement marking World Press Freedom Day, during the week-end.

SAMC Chairman N Ram and Secretary General Najam Sethi, and South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) Secretary General Imtiaz Alam said, ''World Press Freedom Day highlights how freedom of information and expression is vital for democracy. Any threat to journalists and media means a threat to democracy, which is gaining ground in more countries of the region after elections in Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan.'' They said the region was mourning the death of five journalists, one each in Afghanistan and India and three in Pakistan, just four months into the year.

''It is worrisome that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) impunity index includes Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India as the deadliest places for journalists to work in,'' they added.

Giving a special mention to Sri Lanka, they said, ''The intensification of the ongoing conflict and the continuing erosion of democratic practices in the island nation have created an environment conducive to violence, the violation of human rights, impunity and corruption, earning it the title of one of the most dangerous places in the world for the media.'' The SAMC also called for specialist training and insurance cover for those mediapersons who report in dangerous environments in the region.

It also appreciated the movement towards scrapping anti-media laws by the new Pakistani government.

UNI XC SKB AS1806

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