MoU between 'SAF' and the Media Development Foundation

Conference Chennai, India - 7th May 2007

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the South Asia Foundation (“SAF”) and the Media Development Foundation (“MDF”), Chennai.

th May 2007 between the South Asia Foundation (“SAF”) and the Media Development Foundation (MDF) sets forth the agreements reached between the parties relating to the setting up of the Madanjeet Singh Resource Centre for Journalism Studies at the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) administered by the MDF in Chennai, India. This MoU is drawn up further to various meetings, discussions, and correspondence between the Founder of SAF, Mr. Madanjeet Singh, on the one hand, and the Chairman MDF, Mr. Sashi Kumar, and Trustee MDF, Mr. N. Ram, on the other.

The decisions and other agreements reached between the parties to date are set forth below:

1. MDF was set up in 1999 as a not-for-profit public Trust with the main objectives of (a) promoting journalism education, research, and training; (b) mapping and monitoring the media in India and South Asia; and (c) raising quality standards and promoting best practices in the journalistic profession in India and the region.

2. In furtherance of these objectives, MDF established (1) the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai (ACJ) in 1999, which conducts, for students from all over India and the seven other SAARC countries, a one-year postgraduate diploma programme in journalism education with specialisations in Print, TV, Radio and New Media (; and (2) the Asian Media Institute (AMI) to undertake research related to the news media, and mapping and monitoring the news media, in India and South Asia.

3. Since the first batch graduated in 2001, the ACJ has acquired the status of the leading institution of journalism education in the South Asian region, making it the journalism school of choice for aspiring journalists across India and from the other SAARC countries. Hundreds of ACJ graduates, preponderantly women, are in vantage positions in all the news media streams in India and, to an extent, in other SAARC countries, and are making a significant difference in terms of benchmarking serious, ethical, socially sensitive, and quality journalism.

4. SAF has, over the years, made a valuable contribution to broadening access to the ACJ’s programme by endowing substantial annual group scholarships covering tuition, living, and travel expenses for students from each of the eight SAARC countries. SAF, which stipulates the gender equity principle in the award of scholarships, and MDF concur on the imperative need to provide equal opportunity to women and men, and to promote social diversity, in enrolment.

5. SAF has enabled MDF to promote regional cooperation among youth in the field of journalism education and among journalists of the South Asian region. MDF, in association with SAF Founder Mr. Madanjeet Singh, has achieved a breakthrough by securing visas for students from Pakistan to study at the ACJ.

6. In pursuance of the objective of promoting regional exchange and cooperation, MDF organised, in association with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, the first ever Conference of Editors from SAARC countries in New Delhi in February 2007, just ahead of the 14th SAARC Summit. The conference unanimously adopted a visionary and far-reaching Resolution on the News Media in SAARC Countries (Appendix I). The conference of editors has been instituted as an annual event to be hosted in different SAARC countries to address issues relevant to the news media of the region.

7. SAF group scholarships for study at the ACJ have benefited several students from the SAARC countries and enabled them to become good practitioners in the profession. The value of their education and training at the ACJ has been acknowledged and commended by the organisations they work with and by senior editors and journalists in the SAARC region.

8. In recognition of the work being done by ACJ in the promotion of excellence in journalism, SAF has accorded it the status of an institute of excellence in the region and proposes to continue to fund the group scholarship scheme and, in addition to the handsome support already extended, provide funding for programme development and institution building.

9. The annual SAF group scholarships given by ACJ wil not be less than 16 based on gender equality. Any additional scholarships will be funded and adjusted within the total SAF grant.

10. The proposed Madanjeet Singh Resource Centre for Journalism Studies at the ACJ, Chennai will, in addition to the institutional involvement of SAF in the ACJ through the annual group scholarships programme, become the research and advocacy arm of the MDF by incorporating the AMI; implementing research programmes on the news media, and mapping and monitoring the news media, in India and South Asia; and developing new perspectives on news media coverage of deprivation and the challenge of peace-building in the region.

11. At the ACJ Institute of excellence called Madanjeet Singh Resource Centre for Journalism Studies, a building will be constructed after the name of Madanjeet Singh.

Financial contribution of SAF

12. Undertakes to contribute US $ 1,000,000/- (one million United States dollars) towards group scholarships and the development of the Madanjeet Singh Resource Centre for Journalism Studies at the ACJ over a period of five years.

13. The first instalment of the aforesaid contribution should not be less than US $ 200,000/- (two thousand United States dollars). It will be paid by SAF-India chapter into a designated bank account of MDF by July 2007, when the academic year of the ACJ commences.

14. Subsequent four equal instalments of the contribution of US$ 200,000/- (two thousand United States dollars) each will be paid by July in each successive year.

15. MDF shall submit an annual audit to SAF Governing Council and a progress report on the ACJ scholarships and the Madanjeet Singh Resource Centre for Journalism Studies.

16. It is stipulated that SAF shall discontinue funding MDF in case MDF fails to fully comply with SAF’s cardinal objective of promoting regional cooperation.

17. In conformity with the SAF Governing Council resolution adopted in 2002 at Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France, SAF shall not fund any project without at least a matching contribution in cash or kind against SAF's financial assistance.

Additional financial support

18. MDF will be responsible for raising additional funds that may be necessary for additional scholarships from the SAARC region and/or for programme development and institution building at the ACJ and the Madanjeet Singh Centre for Journalism Studies. MDF undertakes to inform SAF from time to time of additional support that may be forthcoming for the Institute.


Sashi Kumar
Chairman, Media Development Foundation
On behalf of Media Development Foundation

Mani Shankar Aiyar
On behalf of South Asia Foundation-India

Madanjeet Singh
On behalf of the South Asia Foundation (SAF)

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Appendix I

Resolution on the News Media in SAARC Countries
Adopted at the Conference of Editors from SAARC Countries,
9th and 10th February 2007, New Delhi

The Conference of Editors from SAARC Countries, organized jointly by the Media Development Foundation and the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, and held in New Delhi on 9th and 10th February 2007

- recalls the historical role of the independent news media in the struggle against colonialism and in nation building in several countries of  South Asia;


- recognizes that a free and untrammelled news media are a sine qua non for democracy and for it to take deep root, flourish, and reinvigorate itself constantly in the region;

- acknowledges that the trajectory of growth of the news media in each of the SAARC countries is specific and varied and reflects the respective political, social, and cultural national contexts;

- recognizes that the robust financial health and buoyant growth of the news media in South Asia are in encouraging contrast to the situation prevailing in most developed countries where the print as well as the broadcast media have come under pressure from a complexity of factors and circumstances and trends of decline or stagnation in circulation, viewership, revenues, and news operations are in evidence;

- reaffirms the social responsibility of the news media and their fundamental duty to make the peoples of the region better-informed and empowered citizens;

- recognizes the technological advances and processes of convergence and digitization that influence and shape the changing character and practice of journalism in the region;

- recognizes the growing number of TV channels is some of the SAARC countries adding a new dimension to the media as a means of understanding neighbours and peoples in the region;

- notes that internet use is growing, although at different rates, from a relatively low base in the SAARC countries; that online journalism and the new media are at an early stage of development in the SAARC region as a whole; and that the internet presents a challenge but also exciting opportunities to journalists and the news media in a context where the press and the broadcast media are in growth mode;

- notes the challenges posed by the growing segmentation of the news media market in South Asia and the diversification of practice in the profession, spilling into the internet-enabled blogosphere and versions of citizens’ journalism; 

- recognizes the need for the news media to evolve effective internal mechanisms to ensure that the integrity, independence, credibility, and trustworthiness expected by the people of the news media are maintained;

- recognizes the need to do more in the SAARC countries to nurture and develop truly autonomous public service broadcasting that is adequately funded, is editorially independent, and is institutionally insulated from pressures from the state and the market;  

- acknowledges the imperative need to address quality issues in journalism and media performance in the SAARC countries and promote best practices in the profession;

- acknowledges the trends towards tabloidisation, trivialization, dumbing down, and sensationalism in sections of the news media of the region and the consequent need for media criticism and serious and periodic self-reflection, and self-regulatory codes of practice;

- recommends that media organizations in the region practise accountability by instituting mechanisms such as internal news ombudsmen with an independent mandate, to keep the values of accuracy, fairness, trustworthiness, and journalistic ethics in constant focus, and to reflect and articulate the legitimate demands made by the public on the functioning of the news media;

- decries the continuing intimidation of, and attacks on, journalists in the region by agencies of the state, extra-constitutional authorities, self-appointed cultural custodians, religious and political press-gangs, and criminal elements in society acting in collusion with law enforcement agencies;

- calls upon the state to intervene immediately and decisively in every instance to protect journalists and the media from attacks and threats from any quarter;

- demands the de-criminalization of the law of defamation following the example set by Sri Lanka and treating alleged defamation as a purely civil matter;

- deplores the intolerance towards and the harassment of the news media in certain cases by central and local legislatures under the guise of unfettered legislative privilege, and by the judiciary invoking criminal contempt of court powers, both tending to have a chilling effect on free and independent journalism in the region;

- urges all branches of the state as well as the citizen sector to recognize the vital functions of the news media in a democracy, and in particular their credible-information, critical, watchdog, investigative, educational, and agenda-building roles, and to play a proactive role in enabling a free media dispensation;

- urges the governments of the SAARC states to bring in necessary legislation or amendments to national constitutions to make media freedom in the fullest sense an explicit, inalienable, fundamental right that cannot be tampered with in any manner;

- affirms that the news media in all their diversity are a collective genre; that media freedom is indivisible; and that in the SAARC region this freedom must be made available, constitutionally and legally speaking, equally to the press, the broadcast media (radio and television), and the internet and new media;

- urges the governments of the SAARC states to enact laws that actualize the right to information in each country, considering that it is an indispensable and invaluable corollary right for journalism, particularly investigative journalism, and can facilitate truth-telling, accuracy, fairness, justice, and efficiency;

- recognizes the need for a legal framework for cross-media operations so that the right of the media to expand and diversify in developing media markets is reconciled with legitimate concern over media monopolies, wherever applicable, restricting the right of citizens to be better informed through better choice and pluralism;

- urges the governments of the SAARC states to enable freer movement of journalists in the region by issuing multiple-entry long term visas to all bona fide journalists and other news media personnel without cumbersome restrictions on the areas they can travel to;

- urges the governments of the SAARC states and distribution networks to desist from blocking wired (cable and optic fibre) or wireless (tv, radio or internet) signals carrying live content purveyed by news organizations of the region to any country or part of the region;

- urges the governments of the SAARC states to dismantle all border barriers to free flow and exchange of news media products in the region;

- recommends that media organizations set up news bureaux or stringerships and make other appropriate arrangements in as many countries of the SAARC region as possible so that there is a substantial, measurable enhancement of the coverage and understanding of the South Asian neighbourhood all round;

- calls upon organizations of working journalists and editors, other professional associations, and media industry bodies in the various SAARC countries to enhance and intensify their interactions, discussions, and cooperative activities;

- commends the valuable role being played by the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) and other initiatives to bring journalists from SAARC countries together on a common platform;

- calls upon journalists and media organizations in the countries of the SAARC region to maintain their independence and keep a healthy and critical professional distance from their foreign policy, security, and other official establishments as well as from vested interests of any kind, so that journalism can play an independent democratic and progressive role in making inputs into or shaping foreign and other vital national policies;

- calls upon journalists and media organizations in the countries of the SAARC region to pay sustained attention to the realities, causes, and consequences of mass deprivation in the countries of the region and to systematically improve the coverage of mass deprivation, thus helping build an effective agenda for public action; 

- recommends that institutions of excellence for journalism education and training, imparting advanced hands-on skills as well as core professional and ethical values and media perspectives, be encouraged, with access to students from across the region;

- recommends that news media organizations and institutions of journalism education in South Asia initiate research on the state of the media and publish the findings, leading to a body of original work in this field from within the region;

- recommends that in the age of wall-to-wall media, a rounded media education be made part of the academic curriculum at the high school level in the SAARC countries, so that the youth of the region develop a critical awareness and perspective relating to the news media and their role in society;

- proposes that editors from the SAARC countries build on the initiative of this conference and set up a dynamic and interactive website as a common forum where they can continue to converse freely with each another, learn from each other, identify issues for wider debate in civil society, and carry forward their ideas into the public realm.

- proposes that this conference of editors become an annual event hosted primarily by media organizations in different SAARC countries to address issues relevant to the news media of the region.