September 2004 News

Indian scribes to pay return visit to PoK from Nov 19

30 September 2004
The Daily Excelsior

New Delhi: As part of an effort to promote understanding and building confidence on two sides of Kashmir, 18 journalists from Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) will travel to Jammu and Kashmir from Sunday which will be followed by a return visit by Indian scribes next month in first of its kind exchange in last 57 years. The trip by journalists covering Kashmir Affairs, being undertaken as part of an initiative of South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), will be followed by a return visit of mediapersons from Jammu and Srinagar and others interested in Kashmir Affairs to Muzaffarabad, Gilgit besides Islamabad and Lahore from November 19 to 26. In both the cases, the visiting journalists will be free to meet representatives of the cross-section of political and the public opinion, a statement by SAFMA president K K Katyal said here today. The exchange is intended to provide an opportunity to mediapersons to assess themselves the situation on the two sides and 'thus perform their job objectively', it said. The initiative follows the recent decision of SAARC to accord recognition to SAFMA, an acknowledgement of the constructive role of the organisation in the region, it said. The SAFMA initiative has been facilitated by the action of the Governments of India and Pakistan in easing the visa regime for journalists from the two countries. The journalists will also take part in a two-day conference in New Delhi under the auspices of SAFMA- India on Resolution of Inter-State Conflicts in South Asia. During the return visit, the Indian journalists will also attend the fourth SAFMA regional conference on ‘reconciliation processes in South Asia’ in Lahore on November 20-21, bringing together more than 250 journalists from South Asia. The SAFMA statement noted that the two governments had taken a conscious decision to let the journalists of each side to 'see and study the prevailing situation on the other side, giving up the restrictive approach of the past.' The development coincided with the meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in New York. The SAFMA thanked the two governments for having allowed the exchange. SAFMA secretary general Imtiaz Alam, the statement noted, has hoped that this exchange of journalists will help the media understand the Kashmir issue better. Alam has expressed optimism that the room created for journalists’ exchange across Kashmir will encourage the authorities to lift all barriers to free movement of journalists across all parts of the sub-continent, including those areas where journalists from the other sides are not allowed. (PTI)


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