Delhi ‘South Bloc’ fears neighbourly journos

sm-krishnaThe Indian Foreign Ministry has declined to allow participation of foreign journalists in an Environmental Journalism Course – focusing on coastal management scheduled to be held in Tuticorin, India from October 26 to November 6 next.

The Institute for Further Education of Journalists (FOJO) of Sweden, in co-operation with Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI) of India is organising the programme to provide journalists some of the basic tools in covering environment issues with special emphasis on the coastal and marine environment.

SDMRI is a non-governmental and non-profit Marine Research and Higher Education organization in Tuticorin Tamil Nadu, established in 1998. It is an institute recognised by Manonmanian Sundaranar University of Tirunelveli and the UGC of India. SDMRI lists around 12 high profile Indian academics and researchers, some in the fields of molecular biology, biomedical engineering and bio technology, as their Alumni.

The training programme under SDMRI authority had methods of reporting and planning of work to be discussed and practiced in the course. Furthermore, the course was to focus on how to get access to and analyze scientific information and how to make it interesting to common people.

Also impacts of human activities on the coastal and marine environment was included to be presented and discussed and the opportunities and benefits provided by the coastal and marine environment highlighted.

Fifteen journalists from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were selected for the course of which 4 were from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka each. Visa for these journalists were applied for, to participate in the programme.

But in the last minute, the foreign ministry of India, on October 20 declined to grant permission for the environmental course to be held with foreign participants.

“We are extremely sorry to inform that because of the unfortunate decision from the Ministry, the course is now conducted only with Indian participants,” SDMRI director JK Patterson Edward had said in an e-mail communiqué with the Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan participants.

“We were in receipt of the letter from the Ministry on 20th October 2009 and we tried our best to get things done, but now we felt that it was too late and not within our hands.”

A Bangladeshi journalist, who was deprived of participation in the course due to a last minute decision of the Indian foreign ministry said, “FOJO or the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the financer of the programme, should rethink before further funding any project in India as it harass foreign journalists to get visa or let attend them in the programmes.”

SIDA sources say they are not involved in this training project or its funding, but FOJO is. The official FOJO web site says, “The vulnerable coastal zones and their crucial role for the ecological balance is the focus of a new Fojo project. The objectives of the project are to strengthen environmental journalism, especially regarding marine issues and to create networks between journalists and scientists working in the region.”

It then adds, with the Indian government’s decision to stop foreign journalist participation, the training programme is now underway for only the Indian journalists “who have unfortunately lost the opportunity to share experiences and knowledge with their colleagues from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.”

SAS Editorial –

“SouthAsiaSpeaks” wish to add that these are all issues of democratic rights that need to be co-ordinated and acted upon with consensus by a regional network of human rights organisations that to date lack serious intellectual discourse, committed networking and a holistic approach in finding answers on a regional basis. In this regard, South Asian federations mandated to take up human rights in the region, are the most conspicuous in their absence. 

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