UNESCO participates in AMARC regional seminar; chairs session on safety of media workers in South Asia
UNESCO Office in Kathmandu has supported the regional seminar on ‘enhancing the role of community radio and promoting positive social change’ organized by World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) in Kathmandu from 6 to 8 September. A specific session on “Safety of Media Workers in South Asia’ has been included in the seminar within the UNESCO frame of the project "Increasing the Safety of Journalists" financed by UN Peace building fund, a global UN multi-donor trust fund supported by over 50 international donors, through the UN Peace Fund for Nepal.
The session was chaired by Axel Plathe, UNESCO Representative to Nepal. Plathe initiated the session presenting a general picture of the safety of journalists across the world and specifically in Nepal. He contextualised the session with the on-going work in Nepal, especially the efforts being carried forward by UNESCO and its international partners, to monitor and ensure safety of media workers and journalists.
The first presentation of the session was made by Laxman Datt Pant, Project Coordinator of the project ‘Increasing Safety of Journalists’. He informed that the project is being implemented by national and international media advocacy groups including National Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Information and Communication, Federation of Nepali Journalists and the Nepal International Media Partnership (NIMP). AMRAC is one of the members of the NIMP.
The UNPFN/UNESCO project has a three-tier approach –by establishing a nationally owned mechanism that provides an appropriate framework to tackle the issues of safety of journalists and impunity of the perpetrators, by enhancing the capacity of state authorities, including security sector institutions and the judiciary system, to better protect journalists with support from civil society and the public at large and by enhancing the capacity of journalists and media houses to better protect themselves.
Mir Abdul Wahed Hashimi of Internews Network – Afghanistan presented on the “Status of Media in Afghanistan”. He informed that freedom of expression and free media is recognized by Afghanistan constitution and media law which has been revised four times since 2001.
The presentation on “Community Radio and Self-Censorship in India” by Dr. Kanchan K. Malik, Faculty Fellow at University of Hyderabad informed that safety of media workers in community radio stations is not an issue and so far there have been no reported cases of the staff or managers having to risk their lives for airing programmes. But this does not infer that community broadcasting in India functions in a free and independent environment.
Binod Bhattarai, Media and Communication Consultant from Nepal talked about ‘Self Censorship’. He pointed that Nepal did away with pre-censorship of print media in the 1990 constitution (Article 13) and the Interim Constitution (2007) went a step ahead to declare, “There shall be no prior censorship of publication and broadcasting…’ (Article 15) including ‘electronic publication’ though it does mention that “government retains right to impose ‘reasonable restrictions’ through laws”.
The seminar that saw eight different sessions was attended by a total of 38 participants including community radio broadcasters, media academicians, communication rights activists, and experts from different developmental disciplines, donors and the government representatives from South Asia.
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