Saturday, August 04, 2012

"Remain Alive is the first job of a journalist"

Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous. The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them” ~ Reporters Without Borders.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF)10th annual (2011 ~ 2012) World Press Freedom Index, the 8 South Asian countries are placed:~

Afghanistan 150, Bangladesh 129, Bhutan 70, India 131, Nepal 106, Maldives 73, Pakistan 151 and Sri Lanka 163. The survey consists of 179 countries.

Remain Alive is the first job of a journalist" says Kanak Mani Dixit, Editor of Himal Southasian and publisher of Himal Khabarpatrika a fortnightly from Kathmandu, Nepal. He delivered a lecture on “Media Freedom in South Asia in the Light of Self Censorship” at the Press Club of Sri Lanka Press Institute recently.

Kanak Mani Dixit addresses the gathering at the Press Club of Sri Lanka Press Institute

Kanak Mani Dixit in his address, “What we have gone through in Nepal doesn't hold a candle to what you have gone through in Sri Lanka."Candle of Memory"~ Sri Lankan journalists Richard de Zoysa (1990) and Lasantha Wickrematunge (2009) were killed in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has been in continuous turmoil. But the fight for press freedom continues. Sri Lankan activists and journalists give courage to the fight for media freedom.

The larger arena where the public do not get the journalism they deserve is through self censorship. The issue of self censorship, which does a greater harm, has not been discussed much as obvious issues of attacks on press freedom. When one lacks the courage, rigor or self confidence to challenge the authority, or when one keeps to the easy path of pointing the finger at the demagogue and going silent, there I believe occurs self censorship. We are forced to look at the mirror of self censorship. Self censorship is a pain!

The volume of timidity among journalists, their support group and civil society commentators is high, and the threat of the demagogue, populism and in-house problems within media houses have contributed towards the timidity among journalists. No country is exemplary, on the other extreme when talking of press freedom everywhere there is intimidation, timidity and self censorship.

It is difficult for people to go against the flow. The issue of self censorship affects strongly when it comes to vernacular and local level journalism. Local level journalists are more vulnerable than the national level journalists.

Anna Hazare's activism against corruption got more publicity than Irom Sharmila's more than a decade long hunger strike!. Irom Sharmila has been on hunger strike demanding the repeal of the security forces act Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
Saleem Shahzad was killed in Pakistan. Journalists in Pakistan cannot write about the army or intelligence. If they do, they get “Press Advice”, a note to warn the journalists to be careful.

Media in Afghanistan is squeezed between the Taliban, international forces and government. Journalists in Afghanistan cannot write about religion or women’s rights. If they journalists write about these issues, they get “Night Letter”, a note which is slipped under the door at night to warn the journalists.

Former Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal invited the Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation, Ban Ki Moon to visit the “Treasure House” of Nepal, Lumbini. Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the rest of the Maoists killed 13,000 – 14,000 people during the insurgency (1996 – 2006) in Nepal. We did our research and published stories. As a result the Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation, Ban Ki Moon cancelled his visit to Lumbini. Journalists should be able to do research.

“Radio Revolution” is taking place in Nepal. There are 300 radio stations broadcast news and current affairs in Nepal. Uma Singh was a courageous Nepali journalist. Her father and brother disappeared and she was killed in 2009. After the killing of Uma Singh, the families of women journalists put fear on them. Maoists used their power through intimidation, then humiliation, if both didn't work, then they killed the journalists!. Number of deaths of journalists increased during the insurgency in Nepal.

Threat of Populism is so called a deadly romance!” he added.

Captured during a casual conversation

"Many media paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements ~ Reporters Without Borders

Dr.A.T.Ariyaratne,Founder of Savodaya Movement is in conversation with Sam Wijesinghe, Chairman of Dispute Resolution Committee of the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka

Audience at the event

Dr.A.T.Ariyaratne,Founder of Savodaya Movement is in conversation with Kanak Mani Dixit

Kanak Mani Dixit at the Press Club of Sri Lanka Press Institute

Audience at the event


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