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SAFMA calls for peaceful resolution of conflicts in South Asia

By Shujaat Bukhari

LAHORE, NOV. 21. The fourth South Asia Free Media (SAFMA) Conference today called for peaceful resolution of all conflicts in South Asia. It rejected the use of force by state and non-state actors and coercive or sham diplomacy to solve differences and disputes, as enshrined in SAFMA's Kathmandu declaration on "Peace and Media" and New Delhi's declaration on inter-state conflicts in South Asia.

Adopting the Lahore Declaration, the conference reiterated its commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes. It recalled SAFMA's resolve to rise above national, ethnic, religious and ideological divides while performing duties as reporters, opinion-makers and producers without indulging in acrimony, falsification, demonisation or jingoism.

It appreciated the joint statements issued by India and Pakistan initiating composite dialogue, stopping cross-border infiltration and repression, exploring possible options on Kashmir, to find a solution that will satisfy the people of Jammu and Kashmir, India and Pakistan. It took note of the confidence-building measures and options proposed to open a debate on Kashmir by the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, and the reduction of troops in Jammu and Kashmir as announced by the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. It also appreciated the proposed move of a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and Jammu-Sialkot.

Concern over deadlock

The declaration also expressed concern at the deadlock over the resumption of dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE and differences between India and Bangladesh over cross-border infiltration and re-demarcation of certain points of the border.

It also mentioned the continuing political and constitutional crisis in Nepal, the Maoist insurgency and the delay in resumption of dialogue between the Maoists and the Government.

The SAFMA declaration took strong exception to using inter and intra-state conflicts or war against terrorism to curtail civil liberties, introduce draconian laws, suppress the democratic aspirations of the people and violence against the civil population.

The declaration said that it was encouraged by the decision of the last SAARC Council of Ministers' meeting to make SAFMA an associate body of SAARC and the assurance by New Delhi and Islamabad on the liberalisation of the visa regime for journalists across South Asia.

Earlier addressing the conference, the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Khurshid M. Kasuri, said that the media played an important role in reinforcing positive trends in South Asia and in promoting co-operation and understanding.

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