The year 2007 turned out to be the most difficult for the media in South Asia, with 20 journalists and four media workers killed in the line of duty. Pakistan topped the list with seven killings followed by Sri Lanka (six), Afghanistan (five) and Nepal (three). Three media workers lost their lives India and one in Afghanistan.
“The journalists and media outlets suffered in the conflict-ridden regions and faced unprecedented restrictions and forced closures in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan,” said a report of the South Asia Media Commission, an independent body that keeps track of the media scene in the region.
According to the report, prepared by N. Ram, SAMC chairman, Najam Sethi, secretary general and Husain Naqi, regional coordinator, security of journalists remained a major issue in Pakistan.
After taking credit for allowing private TV channels, President Pervez Musharraf clamped down on the media. The report said there were police raids on media organisations, printing presses and bureau offices and detention of journalists as he “ham-handedly” dealt with the media over the past year. In Afghanistan, journalists became victims of the guns of not only Taliban-Qaeda extremists, but also of other forces, including local warlords.
“Most worrying was the introduction of illegal FM radio stations promoting hate and violence in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan,” the report said. In Sri Lanka, as ethnic conflict grew, journalists became vulnerable to conflicting pressures, with the government and the LTTE competing in enforcing restrictions on the media.
Nepal and Bangladesh presented a mixed picture due to a difficult and tenuous transition. If the Maldives remained, as usual, a difficult country for journalists since many decades, Bhutan presented a case of healthy but careful opening for the media with the advent of constitutional monarchy and the introduction of democracy, the report said.