NEW DELHI: On World Press Freedom Day on Tuesday, a report by the International Federation of Journalists said that in comparison to previous years there was less threat to media person’s life in 2010 in South Asian countries, though challenges of decent wages and working conditions remain the same.
Moreover, the “sharp deterioration of an already bad situation in Pakistan far outweighed the relative improvement in the other seven countries” in the region, it added.
‘Free Speech in Peril’ as the report is titled, is the ninth edition of such a study in South Asia and is supported by the Unesco. It was released in a function here on Tuesday.
“The prevalence of conflict and financial hardship has a direct impact on the risks to journalists, whether they live and work in areas of outright conflict, more remote districts or major cities,” the report said.
“The risk is even more prevalent in Pakistan, now the world’s most dangerous country for media workers, where the failure of the country’s largest media houses to pay employees fairly, if at all, leads individuals to accept dangerous jobs for which they might at least be paid,” it added.
Afghanistan too continues to be challenged by intensifying conditions of conflict. Bangladesh and Nepal are seeking a way out of polarising political confrontations that have left deep scars, the report said.
Bhutan and the Maldives continue to be challenged by the difficulties of moving toward multi-party electoral democracies, it added.
In India, the report said threat levels for media are high in conflict prone areas like Jammu and Kashmir, the North-East and Maoist insurgency hit areas in central India, where “local governments and the security forces pressure the media, while militants vie to control media contents in their favour”.
In Nepal, the number of killings of media personnel has dropped since the end of the decade-long civil war in 2006 and nationwide elections in 2008, but assaults and threats continue against journalists. In Sri Lanka, journalists bravely seek to hold the line against power holders who show little tolerance for dissent and a pall of censorship hangs over the country, the report said.
While the freedom and working conditions of journalists was reviewed in the report, the function saw a panel discussion on press freedom in the era of social media, highlighting how it provides a new platform for expression and allows citizen journalists to report on otherwise under-covered stories and overcoming repressive media environments.
“The ongoing protests and demonstrations in the Middle East dramatically illustrate how social media is reshaping the way citizens get information and how journalists report the news,” Mr N Bhaskara Rao, chairman of the Centre for Media Studies, said.
Transparency was the key question that the Indian media faced through 2010, with “paid news” and “cash for coverage” remaining in public focus throughout the year, the IFJ report said.
“The media industry in India faces serious dilemmas in seeking to reconcile its revenue model – which is highly dependant on advertising – with the compulsions of quality news gathering in an increasingly competitive environment,” the report said.
“The diminution of subscriptions as a revenue source has resulted in the devaluation of information and growing pressure by advertising departments on journalism,” it added.
On the Niira Radia episode, the report said: “A number of intercepted conversations between a high-flying industry lobbyist and some prominent figures in the domain of business, politics and administration surfaced.”
“Interspersed with these diverse conversations were a significant number that involved the lobbyist and leading journalists in both print and broadcast,” it added.