01/02/2018
 

Asia Pacific Bulletin: February

Some of the faces of the journalists and media workers killed in the Asia Pacific region in 2017. (clockwise, top left) Bakshish Elahi (Pakistan), Joaqin Brinoes (Philippines), Kamlesh Jan (India), Gauri Lankesh (India), Hussain Nazari (Afghanistan), Zinullah Khan (Afghanistan), Santanu Bhowmik (India) and Abdul Shimal (Bangladesh). Credit: IFJ

Categorie:

Asia Pacific, News, News, ASIA PACIFIC, Campaigns, Reports, Events, Meeting, Workshop, Conference

Welcome to the IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on March 1, 2018 and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email ifj(at)ifj-asia(dot)org

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In this bulletin:

1.       IFJ Killed List Report: AP deadliest region in 2017

2.       IFJ to launch tenth edition China Press Freedom Report

3.       Myanmar: Reuters journalists face court under draconian Act

4.       Philippines: Govt revokes Rappler license

5.       Afghanistan: deadly weekend sees safety concerns of 2017 continue

6.       Causeway Bay owner disappears again

7.       Journalists facing defamation charges in the Maldives

8.       Bangladesh: drafts draconian Digital Security Act

9.       Pakistan shuts down radio station over content

10.   Nepal: Journalist investigating illegal sand-mining attacked

11.   SAMSN Blog: Ekneligoda, Sugirtharajan and 24th January

12.   Australia: provisions in National Security law threaten journalists

 

1.       IFJ Killed List Report: AP deadliest region in 2017

The IFJ launched its annual Killed List report for 2017 on January 31, documenting the cases of 82 journalists and media workers killed in the line of duty. The report, now in its 27th edition, marked the decline in the number of journalists killed on previous years, yet noted that the toll on journalism remains unacceptably high.

The Asia Pacific region recorded 27 killings in 2017, with 12 killings in Afghanistan, 6 in India, 4 in Pakistan and the Philippines respectively and 1 in Bangladesh. The report notes that for the Asia Pacific region, the statistical average is that a media worker is eliminated every ten days, and that of the 27 murders, 23 will go unpunished, in other words 9 out of ten.

The IFJ said: “There is no quick fix. That is all too clear. But because impunity leads to more murders and is a warning to the breakdown of judicial systems, the rule of law and democracy, there is a need for things to change. They must change.”

Read the report here, the IFJ statement here and SAMSN blog about the situation in South Asia here.  

2.       IFJ to launch tenth edition China Press Freedom Report

On Friday, February 2, the IFJ will release its 10th China Press Freedom Report on Friday, February 2, 2018. The IFJ’s “Ten-Year Edition: A Decade in Decline” documents the status of media freedom in Mainland China as well as Hong Kong and Macau.

From the optimism and hope for China leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where a more free and open media was promised by China’s leaders to the world, the IFJ reports that reality on the ground has been harshly different, with a continuing and disturbing decline to media freedom in both Mainland China and Hong Kong in particular.

Reflecting on a decade of close monitoring, the IFJ reviews the key issues and critical moments of the period, taking in  the election of Xi Jinping as President of China in 2013 and the Umbrella Movement – both of which heralded a further clamping down on the media. A Decade in Decline documents the rise of forced television confessions, enforced journalist disappearances, increased levels government censorship, ever increasing editorial interventions and directives on reporting, controls on foreign media and social media, as well as the imposition of an endless stream of restrictive orders and legislation working to repress and stifle China’s media.

Read more here.

3.       Myanmar: Reuters journalists face court under draconian Act

On December 12, Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, went missing after they had been invited to meet with police officers over dinner in Yangon. They were found a few days later in police custody, when police said they had been charged under the Officials Secret Act, a draconian colonial-era law, after two policemen handed them classified documents linked to the Rohingya refugee crisis. The two journalists were working for Reuters on the coverage of the refugee crisis in Rakhine State.

Media reports allege that sensitive records contained in the Myanmar Border Guard document included detailing security force numbers and the amount of ammunition used in a wave of attacks in late August. According to Reuters, they have been accused under Section 3.1 (c) of the act, which covers entering prohibited places, and taking images or obtaining secret official documents that “might be or is intended to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy”. The Official Secrets Act makes it unlawful to acquire and possess classified documents from the state and both journalists face up to 14 years in prison if convicted. The act dates from the colonial-era when Myanmar was part of the British Empire.

In early January, a bail application was denied for the two journalists. Court proceedings began on January 23 and remain ongoing.

The IFJ has joined calls for the pair to be released.

Read more here.

4.       Philippines: Govt revokes Rappler license

In early January, the Philippine government revoked the operating license for Rappler, one of the Philippines leading news website. The government claimed that the ruling was due to Rappler violating a provision in the country’s constitution restricting media ownership to Filipinos. However at his 2017 state of the nation address, President Duterte, who has been regular criticized by Rappler for his war on drugs, vowed to expose Rappler’s “American ownership”.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) led much of the national condemnation of the government’s ruling and along with other media groups organized a national day protest on January 26. The Black Friday for Press Freedom protest called on people to wear black and join the protest that day.

Read more here.

5.       Afghanistan: deadly weekend sees safety concerns of 2017 continue

On January 20 and 21, three separate incidents across Afghanistan raised concerns for the deteriorating safety situation for media across the country.

On January 21, a Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) vehicle was attacked by an armed group travelling in Nangrahar after covering an event attended by the district governor. In the attack, the driver was killed, while journalist Baz Shinwary and cameraperson Mohamad Rafiq were seriously injured receiving several bullets.

In a separate incident, an armed group burnt down Radio Saday-e-Adalat destroying all equipment and the building in capital Firuzkoh of Ghor province, central Afghanistan. No one was injured in the attack.

The two incidents occurred the day after the Intercontinental Hotel, one of Kabul’s safest buildings, was attacked by armed militia. The attack saw 18 people killed and the hotel taken over for several hours.

Read more here.

6.       Causeway Bay owner disappears again

Gui Minhai, the owner of Hong Kong-based Causeway Bay bookstore and publisher of Mighty Current Media, was abducted by plain-clothed officials from a train he was travelling on just outside Beijing on January 20. Gui was travelling with Swedish diplomats when the incident occurred.

Gui’s whereabouts and detention remain unclear; however he had been released on October 17, 2017, following two years in prison for a traffic violation in Ningbo. Following his release, Gui had stayed in Ningbo, but there were reports he wanted to relocate to Germany.

The IFJ had joined international calls for the Chinese authorities to immediately release Gui, and guarantee his freedom of movement.

Read more here.

7.       Journalists facing defamation charges in the Maldives

Islamic preacher Sheikh Nasrullah Musthafa lodged a defamation case against five journalists of Mihaaru daily and the media group VMedia over news reports. The stories referred to the preacher’s arrest for illegally sending four individuals on Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in November 2017. The court ordered the preacher’s release a day after his arrest, but charged him for sending four people to pilgrimage without permission or proper arrangements.

The 5 reporters from Vnews and Mihaaru were summoned to court for a dispute resolution hearing on defamation charges.

8.       Bangladesh: drafts draconian Digital Security Act

Bangladesh’s Council of Ministers met on January 29 and approved the draft of Digital Security Act 2018, designed to combat ‘growing cybercrimes that are affecting many public and private organisations’. The draft will be now presented to the Jatiya Sangsad – the unicameral parliament for approval, where the ruling Awami League party holds a strong majority, and it is expected to pass.

The draft act seeks to repeal controversial Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act that deals with defamatory or other harmful contents online which has been used to silence critics and journalists. However, journalists and rights activists believe that the new draft is draconian and gags freedom of expression.

Read more here

9.       Pakistan shuts down radio station over content

Pakistan’s Interior Ministry ordered the close down of the office and the operations of Radio Mashaal, a Pashto language broadcaster linked to the US-funded Radio Free Europe (RFE), on recommendations of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), according to a report. The ministry said that as per an ISI report, the radio airs programs ‘against the interests of Pakistan and in line with hostile intelligence agency's agenda’.

The notice sent to the radio stated that the programs aired include ‘portraying Pakistan as a hub of terrorism and safe haven for militant groups, propagating Pakistan as a failed state in terms of providing security to its minorities, presenting the Pasto-speaking minority as being disenchanted with the state, and distorting facts to incite people against state and its institutions’.

The Czech-based RFE first began Radio Mashaal services in FATA in 2010 as ‘an alternative to the growing number of extremist radio stations in the region’.

Read more here

10.   Nepal: Journalist investigating illegal sand-mining attacked

On January 15, a group of five assailants attacked Sudip Kaini, a correspondent of Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post dailies at Abu Khaireni while he was reporting on the illegal sand extraction in the Marsyangdi River that endangered local settlements.

The assailants manhandled the reporter, snatched away his camera and cellphone, and deleted photos threatening him not to reveal the incident. Kaini sustained a neck injury and was rescued by local residents.

Read more here.

11.   SAMSN Blog: Ekneligoda, Sugirtharajan and 24th January – by Ruki Fernando

For several years, the Free Media Movement (FMM) of Sri Lanka and free expression advocates have dubbed January as “Black January”. This was in the context of a large number of journalists killed, disappeared, assaulted, as well as attacks on media institutions – all in January.

24th is one such black day in January. The Trincomalee based Tamil journalist Subramaniyam Sugirtharajan was shot dead on 24th January 2006. The Colombo based Sinhalese cartoonist and journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda disappeared on 24th January 2010.

Read more here

12.   Australia: provisions in National Security law threaten journalists

Several provisions in the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's government plans to submit soon to the federal parliament have raised fears about their impact on media freedom in Australia because they are poorly conceived and drafted. One of its biggest flaws is its expanded definition of espionage, which would consist not only of communicating classified information but also receiving and possessing it.

Fifteen Australian media organisations, including IFJ affiliate MEAA, wrote to the Australian government warning them that the foreign interference laws could undermine freedom of the press and see journalists end up in jail.

The joint submission to a parliamentary committee claims existing security laws already undermine the media's ability to keep Australians informed about national affairs. The companies warn the proposed laws would criminalise all steps of news reporting and put journalists at a "significant risk" of jail time for possessing information that is in the public interest.

Read more here and here.

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