New Delhi, Dec 8 (IANS)

Mediapersons reporting from conflict zones, including Jammu and Kashmir, Maoist-affected Chhattisgarh and the northeastern states, should get government protection, media experts said at a seminar here Saturday.

“The state institutions are expected to provide adequate protection and other systems to the journalists – irrespective of the views of the newspaper and channel concerned,” said a statement passed at the seminar on ‘Reporting Conflict Zones’ organised by South Asia Media Commission under the mandate of Indian chapter of South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA).

“There is no organised machinery to either protect or to project objective truth about the situation in those areas,” said a release issued by the commission, which facilitates free flow of information among Saarc countries.

The experts put the onus on the owners of the media organisations to “give monetary and legal back up, including special insurance, to the journalists”.

The statement issued on the conclusion of the day-long seminar regretted that there was a general apathy threatening the free flow of information which was a “prerequisite for maintaining national unity, integrity and sovereignty”.

The families of newspersons reporting from conflict zones too were subjected to blackmail, the experts said.

The statement said this while noting the “permanent threat” to the lives of the scribes reporting from “conflict zones like J&K, naxal affected areas like Chattisgarh or the northeast to various districts under Maoist influence…”.

The media commission urged the “state institutions, media owners and independent media organisations to join hands to face the grave threat to free media”.

“We should express solidarity with those who do a difficult job of reporting from the battle lines as it were,” the statement said.

Calling upon the governments to repeal the laws that restricts freedom of press in any manner, the seminar urged the governments particularly the Jammu and Kashmir government not to resort to the “stoppage of advertisements to newspapers and desist from resorting to persecution”.