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Need for South Asian Press Council

Need for South Asian Press Council

The Hindu (New Delhi)
May 22, 2000

NEW DELHI, MAY 21. Veteran journalist, Kuldip Nayyar, today called for
the formation of a South Asian Press Council which can serve as a
watchdog for media in this part of the world.

He suggested a South Asian news agency can also be set up wherein news
from the SAARC countries can be pooled at a central office and wired
back to their respective countries.

The suggestions given by Mr. Nayyar at a public meeting on the "Role of
Media in Human Development in South Asia" ensured that the meeting,
which otherwise lamented on the insensitivity and jingoism that has
enslaved the media, ending on positive note.

Lamenting that today newspapers in India provided only titillation, Mr.
Nayyar said: "It is because newspaper today is an industry. It has
ceased to be a mission."

"I also find that insensitivity is increasing in this region ?
insensitivity towards the people who matter. The crisis today is the
crisis of change," he argued.

In his address, Mr. Prem Shankar Jha, veteran editor and columnist,
said: "There has been a profound and tragic change in the nature of
journalism itself. Today newspapers are full of items on leisure,
travel, beauty pageants, food and five- star hotels. Issues such as
agriculture, SSIs, handlooms, slum dwellers, water supply and sanitation
find no space?. The crucial link is commerce".

Arguing that the drought in Bihar was foreseen by the media in 1967 when
the crops failed, Mr. Jha lamented that in stark contrast, the Gujarat
drought found coverage only after it had broken out. "This is because
news has become event-oriented and not issue-oriented".

Veteran journalist from Bangladesh, Mahfuz-ul-Alam, said there was
insensitivity on part of Indian media towards her neighbours as well.
"There is almost no space given to developments in Bangladesh.

This goes on to show that just as the western media treats the third
world, the Indian media treats its neighbours," he argued.

According to him, the people in South Asia were faced with similar
problems and therefore, the need of the hour was "a media perspective
that was a little more convergent."

Mr. Kanak Mani Dixit, Editor, Himal from Kathmandu, said "When it comes
to human development, the underpinnings lie in information and knowledge
form which energy for activism is generated. Information and education
is the need of the hour and media should endeavour to provide to provide

Pointing towards the imaginative use of radio, patronage of vernacular
media and a much more balanced use of television was needed in the
region, Mr. Dixit said the English language news papers must also be
rescued from "commercialisation and debonairisation."

The public meeting was organised by the Institute of Objective Sciences
as part of the four-day South Asia Conference on "legacy of
Mahbub-ul-Haq: Human Development' being held in the Capital from March