May 2010
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India media team is the largest at XVIth SAARC Summit

India will have the largest contingent of journalists at the XVIth South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit that is being held here this week.

Buzz up! According to a report in the web site of Bhutan's main English daily - Kuensel, 43 Indian journalists are already listed to come to the country. Pakistan is fielding 31 journalists as of yesterday, it adds. hutanese media coordinators in Thimphu are reportedly hard pressed in drawing up plans to accomodate over 300 journalists who are arriving in the country in the next few days to cover the summit.

There are only 106 seats in the media gallery at the Grand National Assembly, the venue of the summit.

"We can't accommodate all of them in the gallery, but we're drawing up plans so that everybody gets an opportunity," the web site of Bhutan's main English daily Kuensel quoted the director of civil aviation, Phala Dorji, as saying.

Dorji, who is also the chief media liaison officer for the event, further said: "We'll distribute the 106 seats equally to all media so nobody is left out."

He said the coordinators had been explaining to journalists about the logistical challenge before them and requested the media to send only one journalist from each media agency during the opening and closing of the summit.

Of the 106 seats, there is a plan to reserve about 20 seats for the south Asia Freedom of Media Association (SAFMA) journalists and another 20 to 25 for media coming on their own. Those coming as part of official delegations will also be allotted seats.

Photographers and cameramen will be allowed at the grand national assembly hall when their leader addresses the summit, according to officials.

The SAFMA journalist summit has also been shifted to Paro, 52 km from Thimphu, as there were not enough hotel rooms to accommodate about 100 journalists from the region attending the summit.

About 74 journalists, including photographers and cameramen, will be arriving with the SAARC delegates.

"The list could grow," said Phala Dorji.

About 60 journalists from the observer countries will also be in the capital during the summit week.

Ministry officials said the media centre set up at the information and communication office would provide video footage and photos, while the national television, BBSC, would cover the event live. BBSC will also provide clean feed of the summit, without commentary, free of cost. BBSC will also have an arrangement of uplinking facilities at the media centre, which would enable other broadcasters to uplink their news feed directly. What could come as a relief to coordinators is that a number of journalists are coming in to cover other things than the SAARC summit itself.

Most of the journalists from India and Pakistan are more interested in where their leaders will meet on the sidelines of the summit.

Recent media reports in both countries have been rife with speculations of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, meeting in Thimphu. (ANI)
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