By Mahendra Ved, CJA-India chairman / Press Council of India
The Press Council of India has proposed a joint panel of press councils from all SAARC countries to work on related issues and improving relations with one another.
SAARC, the acronym for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, is an eight-nation regional body, of which five – Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka – are Commonwealth member-nations.
Save for a handful of correspondents posted in each others’ countries and a few institutional arrangements, like the South Asian Free Media Association (Safma), interaction among them remains limited. The press councils know each other mostly through international wire agencies.
Indian officials said that on April 9, Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju, who is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India, sent a letter to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry proposing the creation of the SAARC Press Council joint panel which was forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The idea for the formation of the joint committee was floated by Pakistani Press Council Chairman Raja Muhammad Shafqat Khan Abbasi, who wrote about it in an e-mail to Mr. Katju.
In his letter to the I&B ministry, Mr. Katju wrote that the formation of such a committee was a “very good idea and India should give leadership in this committee”.
Apart from working on the maintenance of press freedom and press responsibilities, the committee could also work for improving the relations between these countries, he said.
“I have written a letter and also spoken to (I&B) Minister Ambika Soni on phone. She said it was a very good idea and decided to forwarded it to the Prime Minister’s office with recommendations,” Mr. Katju said.
“We can initially form a panel with the SAARC countries as members but it can later be expanded to include more South Asian countries.”
He said he has sought clearance from the government after which SAARC can be approached.
In his letter, he also suggested that the proposed panel can be set up as a “multi-faceted process enhancing socio-economic and ideological development in the region on a sustained basis”.
Picture credit: India Gate New Delhi – Kevin Nellies : © Commonwealth Secretariat