August 7, 2018, Kathmandu. AMARC Asia-Pacific notes that the political situation in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh has deteriorated considerably in the recent past. The role of the media including lack of coverage is crucial to this threat to democratic functioning of society.
In Pakistan, notable activists like Salman Haider, Ahmed Raza Naseer and Samar Abbas have been disappeared for voicing inconvenient truths. More recently, in Bangladesh, Diya Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib were killed by a speeding bus leading to widespread protests by students across the country. Disturbingly the government has chosen to crack down on protestors, including use of force on thousands of students, including use of political party workers to intimidate any protest. The issue has only now gained global attention after prominent photographer Shahidul Alam was arrested. In India, there have been more than 50 incidents of gruesome violence in the last three years against Muslims and Dalits, and sexual violence against adolescents and women; with either silence or active encouragement from the ruling parties at state and center. Prominent journalists who raise their voices have received death threats, trolled relentlessly, or sacked in the face of political pressure.
This growing sense of impunity by government or majority communities is in part sanctioned by the failure of mainstream media to create pressure on governments and shape public opinion in favor of protecting human rights. We recognize that digital media platforms provide a powerful platform for alternative opinion. Frequent internet shutdowns across these countries is an indicator of both the extent of censorship and the power of digital media platforms. However internet penetration in South Asian countries, especially Pakistan, India and Bangladesh is relatively low and out of reach for the oppressed.
Amidst this growing crisis, we believe that independent and progressive community radio stations can lead the movement for change. We call upon our members in South Asia to broadcast radio programs discussing the incidents and their implications to the best of their ability. We believe that such efforts will not only hold governments accountable to their obligations and responsibilities but also mediate and promote progressive politics within increasingly polarized communities.
Source:AMARC Asia-Pacific Regional Office, Kathmandu, Nepal.