SAARC ministers’ meet begins

Kathmandu, August 29:

The fifth meeting of information ministers of the SAARC countries began at the Birendra International Convention Centre in Kathmandu today. King Gyanendra inaugurated the meeting participated by Lyonpo Leki Dorji of Bhutan, Jaipal Reddy of India, Md Nasheed of Maldives, Tanka Dhakal of Nepal and Sheikh Rashid of Pakistan. Deputy Minister for Information and Media of Sri Lanka, Cegu Isadeen, and Information Secretary of Bangladesh, Mohammad Mahbubur, are representing their countries. Today’s meeting reviewed previous decisions and the 18-point Plan of Action which was adopted in the first SAARC information ministers’ meeting in 1998 in Dhaka, and reviewed last December in Pakistan. The meeting will finalise agendas on various issues to be presented in the upcoming 13th SAARC Summit to be held in Bangladesh in November. The decision will be made public tomorrow.

Minister for Information and Communications, Tanka Dhakal, said “mutual sharing of information” could be useful not only for harnessing the region’s potential in order to alleviate poverty, but it could be useful also to combat regional terrorism”. Describing terrorism as a major irritant that has hindered Nepal’s development, the minister said that “a strong mechanism for sharing information on criminal activities in SAARC” would help fight terrorism in the region. SAARC Secretary-General, Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji, said development of information and communication sector would give input to socio-economic development of the region. Key agendas that the information ministers discussed today were drawn up by senior officials yesterday. Establishing a regulatory framework to manage private TV channels and public broadcasting organisations, airing weekly SAARC news on state-owned radios and broadcasting a monthly TV news programme were part of the agenda.

Other issues included: organising a SAARC film festival, establishing SAARC Media Development Fund, developing a common view of the region to be presented in the World Summit on Information Society to be held in Tunish in November, and producing a video documentary called SAARC in The New Millennium and also preparing Transnational Guidelines for satellite broadcasting in the SAARC region. SAARC information ministers’ meeting started in 1998.