15 November 2011
SAMSN Partners Concerned by Increasing Curbs on Media
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and partners in the seven-country South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) are deeply worried about what seems an accelerating trend of media control through censorship and various other forms of extra-legal coercion.
The most recent example of this manner of restraint is the decision of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to block four websites hosting news and current affairs content about the country, after they failed to register with the Media Ministry in accordance with a newly introduced rule.
SAMSN partner, the Free Media Movement (FMM) of Sri Lanka, has condemned the move as a manifestation of the intolerance for dissenting opinions and an official determination to deny people their right to information.
The Government of Bangladesh in mid-October blocked a website that the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, had set up for live streaming of a protest movement it was launching nation-wide.
Again in October in India, the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting proposed a change in the norms of licensing news and current affairs broadcasters over cable and satellite. These included an increase in the minimum net worth of companies seeking to uplink content to broadcast satellites. The ministry also proposed that news broadcasters should enforce a “five strikes and out” rule, whereby channels that violate an agreed code of conduct five times – or any number to be determined through consultations – would lose their licence to uplink.
SAMSN partners in India have opposed these proposals and suggested instead that a comprehensive review of media policy be undertaken by a duly constituted body. Recent proposals by Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman Markandey Katju to expand the powers of the PCI to cover electronic media, have won only partial endorsement from SAMSN partners in India. They argue the norms of appointment of the PCI, including its chairman, need a thorough review.
Partner organisations in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir have alerted SAMSN to a directive by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, to stop government advertisements and all other forms of support to five newspapers. The newspapers named are the Kashmir Times, Greater Kashmir and Rising Kashmir (all English-language dailies) and Buland Kashmir and Etalaat (both Urdu dailies). . The circular, sent out early in October, is similar to others issued in the past and purportedly punishes the targeted newspapers for promoting outlawed political causes.
The IFJ Asia-Pacific expresses its support to all SAMSN partners as they seek to evolve a common strategy to combat the shared challenges they face.
“Greater cross-border exchanges of information and a continuing dialogue on strategic options could contribute towards a better culture of respect for media freedom and human rights,” IFJ Asia–Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries
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