South Asian Monitor: Achievements and challenges in a new reality

South Asian Monitor: Achievements and challenges in a new reality

Afsan Chowdhury,

South Asian Monitor has completed its two years in an age of media where the lines between international politics, journalism and economics are fraying. The media space is now more than just about reporting and how. It is about a strategic functioning in a region of many possibilities and conflicts.

Independent media is therefore not a matter of choice but one of necessity for survival as an effective entity. The simple world of global politics where bi-polar cold war system reigned is over. Traditional super power domination is declining. In this crossroads of transition SAM is trying to be both contemporary and bold.

SAM’s three challenges

As a SAM contributor and friend of the Editor I believe it’s the most high-profile venture of a journalist, active in the profession for almost 4 decades. Irtiza Nasim Ali has survived Bangladesh’s frenetic media environment where journalism’s challenges are not limited to consequences for expressing unpopular opinions only. Having weathered many road-blocks he has reached the desk of South Asian Monitor. Today, SAM is becoming a vehicle to bring in a new kind of journalism to an emerging audience that is far more sophisticated than seen even a decade back. But challenges remain.

  • The first challenge that SAM faces is of course technological because as an online publication, reach and impact is much greater than ever before. But it also means a much higher level of utilization of digital opportunities to retain relevance. As an international media outlet, SAM is in competition with other national outlets. Contributors from various spaces write on similar or converging issues making such media both national and international simultaneously. Just as the net makes access easier, it also makes competition more intense.
  • The second challenge of SAM is to retain its international character which is both its product edge and advantage. Coming out as it does from a non-South Asian country with little strategic interest in the region, SAM is well situated to withstand pressures from various power groups and national governments.

But what will have to be sustained is the attitude of the SAM team as a whole. South Asian regional media has often meant proxy national media that have shown greater interest in upholding the national flag than objective analysis from a regional perspective. Till date SAM is unscathed but as its influence grows in the region, pressures to impress national political identities on the outlet will increase. That will be one great challenge of South Asian media in general and SAM in particular in future.

  • Finally, the challenge will be of sustainability of all that SAM has wished to be when it was born. Its providing materials that are of quality, its bringing many incisive voices together and providing a platform missing elsewhere. And it is these very achievements that need to be protected. This protection has to extend from the economic to the editorial, from freedom of opinion to judicious investing in a future that is intellectually and otherwise sound.

Three Achievements

The challenges are very significant, but they have been also built by the achievements that SAM has made in a relatively short time. What has worked most for SAM is the surprising gap in the regional media market of a corporate platform which it is becoming rapidly. South Asia is a very strong media region with mega player India dominating but no outlet as yet represents the collective nature of the region’s thinking.

SAM is poised to fill this gap by putting on this gown of regional collective aspirations. It holds no flag up and instead of speaking itself, allows all others to speak. There have been such attempts before, but they mostly were sitting on the fences of the cold war. SAM which despite its insecurity is not beholden to any power or state.

Its second achievement is that although resource constrained, SAM has managed to provide an endless supply of news and views to its consumers. To be quite honest, it offers so much on the table that very few will be able to consume all the items. Whether the feast should be a little more moderate or even more elaborate is another matter but the eminently huge feast with limited resources speaks of the commitment of the editorial team.

Its final achievement is its exclusive commitment to media and its principles. It could be tempting to dabble and manipulate in the many small and great games being played in the region but SAM has stayed away from all that till date. Avoiding this temptation when so many have fallen for it marks the serious journalistic intent of SAM.

With so much in its bag and yet so many challenges, the future promises to be robust and exciting. Let’s hope its rewarding too. Best wishes.