15/06/2017
 

South Asia Media Solidarity Bulletin: JUNE

A car bomb went off in Kabul on May 31, which saw over 350 injured and at least 80 killed, including 2 journalists. Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP

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Asia Pacific, ASIA PACIFIC, Campaigns, Reports, Events, Meeting, Workshop, Conference, Bulletins, Blog

Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on July 15, 2017, and your inputs are most welcome.

We encourage contributions to let others know your activities; to seek solidarity and support from SAMSN members for your campaigns and activities. To contribute, email Ujjwal Acharya at: ifjsouthasia(at)gmail(dot)com

Please feel free to distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media. This e-bulletin and South Asia related contents are available at the SAMSN Digital Hub: https://samsn.ifj.org  

In this bulletin: 

1.    IFJ and SAMSN launch #JournosAgainstShutdowns: Campaign Against Internet Shutdowns in South Asia

2.    Deadly blast, suicide attack kill seven media staff in Afghanistan

3.    Two journalists killed in two weeks in India

4.    Unknown gunmen kill journalist in Pakistan

5.    Multiple incidents of press freedom violations recorded in Afghanistan

6.    Bangladeshi journalists to be monitored abroad

7.    Bangladeshi journalists arrested under ICT law

8.    Police attacks journalists, photojournalists in Kolkata, India

9.    Maldives police summons liberal bloggers over unspecified charges

10.  Pakistani TV journalist escapes abduction attempt

11.  After death threat, Pakistani journalist survives murder attempt

12.  Prominent Indian TV channel targeted for alleged loan default

13.  SAMSN Blogs on #JournosAgainstShutdowns

a.    Internet: Oxygen for Journalism, by Saadullah Akhter (Pakistan)

b.    E-curfews: Killing hope in Kashmir, by Faisul Yaseen (India)

c.    Invisible bars, by Sam Jahan (Bangladesh)

d.    Royal Kill-Switch, an interview with Prateek Pradhan (Nepal)

e.    Crucial Links, by Ujjwal Acharya (Nepal)

14.  The New Normal Of Living With No Internet In Kashmir (Feminism in India)

15.  Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age (UNESCO)

16.  Maldives Under UN Scrutiny for Blogger's Death, Quashing Dissent (VOA)

17.  Pakistan govt is digging own grave by muzzling online freedoms (Daily Times)

18.  Female journalists defying taboos and braving death threats in Afghanistan (Guardian)

 

1. #JournosAgainstShutdowns: IFJ-SAMSN Campaign Against Internet Shutdowns

The IFJ and SAMSN on May 29 launched a three-week campaign against internet shutdowns terming them ‘an act against the freedom of expression and press freedom’. The #JournosAgainstShutdowns campaign  launched at a time of increasing shut downs of the internet in the region, especially in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

In 2016, South Asia experienced the highest number of internet shutdowns globally with India having the dubious record of being the leading country in internet shutdowns. The campaign aims to raise awareness among media workers on the impact of internet shutdowns as a freedom of expression and press freedom issue; encourage journalists and their unions and professional organizations to advocate against and monitor shutdowns; strengthen regional collaboration and join international efforts and coalitions in advocacy against internet shutdowns.

During the campaign, the IFJ launched Tracking Error 404: IFJ-SAMSN Guide to Monitoring Internet Shutdowns to help journalists monitor and document internet shutdowns. Unions and journalists from across South Asia expressed solidarity with the campaign and called for end on internet shutdowns in their video messages.

See the campaign page here; the campaign launch statement here; and the Guide to Monitoring Internet Shutdown launch statement here.

2. Deadly blast, suicide attack kill seven media staff in Afghanistan

Press TV’s cameraman Habibullah Hussainzada, TOLO TV’s staff technician Aziz Navin and BBC Kabul’s staff driver Mohammad Nazeer were killed when a powerful bomb was detonated inside a parked vehicle at the Zanbaq Square, near the diplomatic enclave in Kabul on the morning of May 31. At least 150 people were killed and hundreds were injured in the suicide attack.

Four BBC journalists were injured as their vehicle was hit by the explosion. Radio producer Tajudin Sarosh, reporters Hidayatullah Hamim, Ayub Arwen and Abdullah Nizami were taken to hospital for treatment and are reportedly out of danger. Three media staffs were injured in nearby TV1 station which also suffered damage due to the blast. Three media staff of TOLO TV and a staff member of Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) were also injured in the blast. Read more here.

In another incident, four media workers including a technician and a producer at the RTA were killed in the attack and 17 others injured when four attackers, including two suicide bombers, forced their way into the RTA station in Jalalabad province. The two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the front gate and outside the main building while other attackers entered the main building. It took the security forces more than three hours to end the assault. Read more here.

3. Two journalists killed in two weeks in India

Shyam Sharma, a journalist working for a local city-based evening newspaper Agniban, was on his way to Manglia Square in his car when he was stopped by two assailants on motorcycles on May 15. They asked him to wind down his window, then slit his throat and fled the scene. A passer-by saw Sharma bleeding heavily and rushed him to hospital. He was moved to another hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Read more here.

Kamlesh Jain, 42, was shot dead by two motorcycle-borne assailants at his office in Pipliya Mandi, Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh on May 31. He was shot twice from close range and died on the way to hospital. Jain was reportedly filing stories for Indore-based Hindi daily Nai Dunia, with which he was associated for the last 12 years. Jain’s family said that local illegal liquor sellers had threatened to kill him after he reported their activities to the police a few days back. Read more here. According to a report the family claimed that Jain had informed the police about the threat. Read more here.

4. Unknown gunmen kill journalist in Pakistan

Bakshish Elahi, the Bureau Chief of K-2 Times Urdu daily newspaper was shot dead by unknown motorcycle-borne gunmen near his home at Lora Chowk, Haripur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The gunmen fled the scene after firing five shots at Elahi, one of which hit his head and others his chest and stomach. Read more here.

5. Multiple incidents press freedom violations recorded in Afghanistan

Security personnel of a private construction company assaulted Ziar Khan Yaad of TOLO News and Sabawoon Sahil of Maiwand TV for their critical reporting about the ongoing road construction in Surkhrud district of Nangrahar province in eastern Afghanistan on June 13. They were also confined in a room for a few hours and harassed. The journalists were reporting on the delay in construction of the Nangrahar-Kabul road and late payments to the labourers.

On May 25, Abdul Hai Namati, provincial governor of Baghlan, cut off a television interview stating that he didn’t like the questions. He was been interviewed for a program called ‘Face to Face’ on Arezo TV. There were four journalists present at the interview, who were subsequently threatened and ordered to delete the footage. Ahmad Fawad Talash, Javid Saddat, Said Amin Jalali and Salam Fretat were held for two hours and were only allowed to leave after intervention from media rights organizations.

Read more here, and here.

6. Bangladeshi journalists to be monitored abroad

On May 17, Bangladesh’s foreign ministry directed all its missions to monitor the activities of the Bangladeshi journalists traveling abroad and find out whether they are involved in any anti-state activities. The ministry instructed all its missions to take the matter seriously. The letter says the decision was made in line with the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs. Early this month, the committee had said any Bangladeshi journalist traveling abroad should be monitored and if their activities are found to be against “the interest of the country”, the foreign missions should report back to the ministry. Read more here.

7. Bangladeshi journalists arrested under ICT law

On June 12, Golam Mostafa Rafiq, the editor of the Habiganj Samachar daily was arrested from his office over an allegedly false report published in the newspaper. Rafiq was sent to jail by a court. The report in question stated that the ruling party MP Abdul Majid Khan would not get the party nomination for the next election, and cited a Dhaka-based online news site.

In another case, journalist and university teacher Afsan Chowdhury was arrested on June 7 for defamation under the ICT Act for one of his Facebook posts. A retired army officer Masud Uddin Chowdhury filed the case after Chowdhury falsely identified him as the father of a rape accused. Chowdhury claimed that he removed the post as soon as he realized it was a mistake. On June 11, the High Court granted him anticipatory bail on condition that he would present himself to a judicial court within four weeks. Read more here.

8. Police attacks journalists, photojournalists in Kolkata, India

On May 22, at least 50 media workers were attacked and beaten by police officers and personnel of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) as they covered a protest march organized by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in at the Esplanade in Kolkata, West Bengal. The attack saw at least a dozen journalists and media workers seriously injured.

In a separate incident, journalists were gathering near Dufferin Road in Kolkata to protest against the attacks last week in the same area, when they were charged at by police. On May 16, police attacked several photojournalists and camerapersons were who covering a fire in the Kohinoor building on the well-known Park Street in Kolkata. Police attacked the media workers, accusing them of obstructing the fire department. The driver of a police van kicked and pushed several photojournalists, in front of police officers who took no action. Read more here and here.

9. Maldives police summons liberal bloggers over unspecified charges

The Maldivian police issued summons to three liberal bloggers living abroad - Dr Azra Naseem, Muzaffar ‘Muju’ Naeem, and Hani Amir - posting separate statements on Twitter. The statement asked the bloggers to present themselves to speak in their defense against unspecified allegations. The police said they would ask the Prosecutor General’s office to press charges and try them in absentia if they refused. Read more here.

10. Pakistani TV journalist escapes abduction attempt

Azaz Syed, a senior journalist with Geo TV, said he was intercepted by a masked motorcycle-borne individual at Park Road in the capital city on June 2 evening while he was returning home. A car with the suspected kidnappers was following him closely and the suspects asked him to come out of the car but he sped into a nearby police station to take shelter. The police acted immediately by barricading the roads but failed to arrest the suspects. The police registered a case and started an investigation into the matter. Read more here.

11. After death threat, Pakistani journalist survives murder attempt

Journalist Rana Tanveer, who had reportedly received death threats for writing about religious minorities for Express Tribune newspaper, was run over by a car. Tanveer survived the murder attempt with an injured left leg. Tanveer had moved to a safe house after his residence door was painted with a death threat a few days earlier. He had reported the matter but the police did not register a First Information Report. Read more here and here.

12. Prominent Indian TV channel targeted for alleged loan default

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raided the residences of Prannoy Roy, the executive chairperson of NDTV, in New Delhi and Dehradun on June 5 in connection with allegations of Roy and NDTV causing losses to a private bank by defaulting loans. The CBI said it had registered a case and raided four places belonging to Roy and his wife Radhika Roy. The couple founded the TV network in 1988. NDTV is also under the investigation by the Income Tax department and the Enforcement Directorate. The TV channel, in a statement, denied the allegations and said: “This is a blatant political attack on the freedom of the press… The search by the CBI is only a witch-hunt against independent media.” Read more here.

13. SAMSN Blogs on #JournosAgainstShutdowns

a. Internet: Oxygen for Journalism, by Saadullah Akhter (Pakistan)

Pakistan is ranked among the deadliest countries for journalists, but with adequate use of the internet, journalism is managing to survive. Journalists can file stories online without getting in harm’s way. This is particularly so in remote and inaccessible conflict prone-regions such as Balochistan. Read more.

b. E-curfews: Killing hope in Kashmir, by Faisul Yaseen (India)

The internet clampdown also hits the quality of our opinion pages as our edit and op-edit page editors are not able to get the articles and features of the columnists and responses of the readers. As a result, at the time of communication curfew, the overall content of our newspaper gets hit. Read more.

c. Invisible bars, by Sam Jahan (Bangladesh)

Shutting down the internet is self-destructive. As online activist Imran Sarker asks, “Would you cut off your head if you have a migraine?” Read more.

d. Royal Kill-Swith, an interview with Prateek Pradhan (Nepal)

Prateek Pradhan, editor-in-chief, baahrakhari.com, recalls the Nepal King’s absolute communication clampdown in Nepal more than a dozen years ago, and discusses the lessons learned. Read more.

e. Crucial Link, by Ujjwal Acharya (Nepal)

Musings about how life – professional, social and personal – is utterly cramped in the absence of access to the internet, necessitating a strong pushback to attempts to shut it down. Read more.

14. The New Normal Of Living With No Internet In Kashmir (Feminism in India)

“Today, the mobile network ban has become the most predictable thing in Kashmir, which means on any given day, anyone in Kashmir needs to be ready with the alternatives. Despising my mobile in the past, today I possess four sim cards from different networks, one of which I use routinely and three of which happen to be my backups. Yet when internet was banned following the killing of Hizb commander Sabzar Bhat, I was again left with no option to access the internet,” says Arshie Qureshi. Read more.

15. Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age (UNESCO)

UNESCO released new comprehensive study of changes that impact on legal frameworks that support protection of journalistic sources in the digital age. While the rapidly emerging digital environment offers great opportunities for journalists to investigate and report information in the public interest, it also poses particular challenges regarding the privacy and safety of journalistic sources. These challenges include: mass surveillance as well as targeted surveillance, data retention, expanded and broad anti-terrorism measures, and national security laws and over-reach in the application of these. Read more and download it here.

16. Maldives Under UN Scrutiny for Blogger's Death, Quashing Dissent (VOA)

More than 30 Western countries at the U.N. Human Rights Council called on the Maldives to thoroughly investigate the death of a prominent blogger and to guarantee space for activists and political opposition. Yameen Rasheed, who denounced Islamist extremism and state corruption, was found stabbed to death in late April. The Maldives government denies targeting any critic unfairly and President Abdulla Yameen has condemned Rasheed's murder, vowing to bring the perpetrators to justice. But Britain, in a joint statement read out on behalf of countries including the United States, said strong guarantees in the Maldives constitution of freedom of expression were being "increasingly curtailed." Read more.

17. Pakistan govt is digging own grave by muzzling online freedoms (Daily Times)

The ongoing campaign against digital media is an extension of the established patterns of how the state – including elected government – can muzzle free speech.  It seems that the leadership is abusing the cyber crime law and relevant legal regimes for political victimization with the intent to harass political activists. In plain words, the ongoing crackdown is a violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan. It is incumbent on PM Nawaz Sharif to order an end to this operation, as it is simply unacceptable in a democracy. Read more.

18. Female journalists defying taboos and braving death threats in Afghanistan

The country’s first female-run radio station was looted and its staff persecuted but, despite the risks, women in the media are making their voices heard. Read more.

***

SAMSN is a group of journalists’ trade unions, press freedom organizations and journalists in South Asia that work together to support freedom of expression and association in the region.

For further information on SAMSN, visit: https://samsn.ifj.org/us/

If you have information on a press freedom violation or matters relating to media freedom and journalists’ rights in South Asia, contact staff at IFJ Asia-Pacific so that action can be taken. To contribute to this bulletin, email ifjsouthasia(at)gmail(dot)com 

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