Pakistan tops SA list in killed journalists\01\12\story_12-1-2007_pg7_2

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Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: Despite some advancement in press freedom, Pakistan tops the list in murdered journalists with four killed in 2006, followed by Sri Lanka where two journalists and five media employers were murdered in 2006.

The South Asia Media Monitor 2006 launched here on Thursday by the South Asia Press Commission said that two journalists were killed in Afghanistan and India and one in Nepal in 2006. Although no journalist was killed in Bangladesh, the country still remains a dangerous place for the profession. The report termed the Maldives “a prison for journalists” and said that there was no letup in curbs on the press in the country in 2006.

The report said that despite remaining independent, the media in Pakistan continued facing outbursts of intolerance by intelligence agencies, landlords and clerics. The tribal areas were turned into no-go areas for journalists. The situation in Balochistan and interior Sindh remained quite dangerous for journalists. The government amended the PEMRA law to curtail the freedom of the electronic media and weighed its options on brining in yet another law named PAPRA to contain the print media. Four journalists were killed during the year while performing their professional duties. These included Hayatullah, Muneer Ahmed Sangi, Maqbool Hussain Siyal.

Malik Muhammad Ismail, the resident editor of Pakistan Press International, was killed in Islamabad and the motives behind his killing could not be ascertained and the police failed to apprehend any culprits, the report said.

The report said that on the legal front, except for India where information laws have been further relaxed, there was no significant development in terms of improvement in press laws. The report said that corporatisation of media remained the dominant trend in the region with contents and format being decided by the advertisers.

The public sector media, despite competitive pressure from the private sector, remained in government control without responding to the imperatives of public services, openness and pluralism. In terms of inter-state relations in the region, media with a few exceptions followed the official line.

The report said that in India, corporate interests had overtaken concerns of the public, adding that neglect of development in the region by the media was marked by negative stories and official stands. The most glaring was the coverage of the Mumbai train bombings by the Indian electronic media, which promptly blamed Pakistan and its intelligence agency. The media in fact brought the Manmohan Singh government under great pressure to suspend the composite dialogue process, the report added.

The report said that in Afghanistan, journalists are increasingly facing hazards in performing their duties with the resurgence of the Taliban. They come under fire not only from the Taliban, but also from NATO forces, the report added.

The media in Afghanistan remained under pressure from security agencies, clerics and warlords and the government adopted various measures to coerce the media into subjugation and becoming an instrument in its propaganda campaign.

Two German journalists were killed and many others came under threat and intimidation during 2006. The US forces arrested a cameraman, a correspondent and a driver of Al-Jazeera for filming what they called sensitive locations. According to the report, the most remarkable development was the democratic revolution in Nepal that also freed the media from the clutches of censorship and official control.

In Sri Lanka, growing ethnic polarisation squeezed the space for independent and objective journalism, the report said, adding that the government increasingly adopted measures to curtail press freedom and 2006 was another year of violence.