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South Asian NGOs Reporting on Rights Violations

16-12-2004 (New Delhi)
Three human rights NGOs in South Asia, members of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), are supported by UNESCO to monitor free expression violations in Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka circulating information locally and internationally in an attempt to protect journalists and media workers.
UNESCO funding supports action alert training, research and distribution carried out by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), the Free Media Movement (FMM) in Sri Lanka and the Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES) in Nepal who credit the project with having a positive impact on the media freedom situation, including by prompting the release of jailed journalists.

Serious threats to media freedom persist in these countries. In Nepal, journalists have been kidnapped and killed in the ongoing conflict between the authorities and Maoist rebels. In Sri Lanka, two journalists have also been killed this year. In Pakistan, repressive criminal libel legislation has been proposed and a wave of arrests of journalists has attracted the attention of press freedom groups worldwide.

However, the NGOs involved in this project note some free expression advances. In particular, CEHURDES records a lessening of hostilities towards journalists, which it attributes to the dissemination of alerts and protests against violations. PPF says that its reports on violations are attracting attention in the media in Pakistan, thus giving more exposure to free expression issues. In Sri Lanka, FMM was able to travel throughout the country to record more cases. FMM will shortly launch its new website. PPF and CEHURDES are already online at http://www.pakistanpressfoundation.org and http://www.cehurdes.org.np respectively.

Shobhakar Budhathoki, Secretary General of CEHURDES, says, “Journalists have been released as a result of action alerts and their life has been protected.” He cites the example of journalist Durga Thapa, released by Maoist rebels in August after two weeks. A CEHURDES staff member participated in the negotiating team, which held three rounds of talks over ten days.

The three NGOs belong to a regional committee formed at the IFEX conference and workshops in Baku, Azerbaijan in June 2004. The committee was created to focus on the need for a regional hub in South Asia that would help expand the distribution of free expression information and cover areas that are under-represented.

(By Kristina Stockwood, IFEX)
Related themes/countries

      · Freedom of Expression: News Archives 2004
      · Nepal: News Archive 2004
      · Pakistan: News Archive 2004
      · Sri Lanka: News Archive 2004
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