01/08/2018
 

IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: AUGUST

Journalists taking photos from the scene of a blast outside the US Embassy in Beijing on July, 26. Credit: AFP/Greg Baker

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

Welcome to the IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on September 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.       Philippines: Journalists attacked, threatened & arrested covering strike

2.       Media plurality under threat with Australian merger

3.       A decade of activism with the IFJ

4.       Media under threat in lead up to Pakistan elections

5.       Liu Xiaobo’s widow leaves China for treatment

6.       Deadly month: Four journalists killed in AP

7.       HKJA launches annual press freedom report

8.       Kashmiri journalist summoned by NIA to Delhi

9.       Myanmar: Reuters journalists charged under Official Secrets Act

10.   Australian journalists barred from Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru

11.   Sri Lankan lawmakers intimidate journalists over NYT articles

12.   Editor attacked by pro-government mob in Bangladesh

13.   Information withheld following blast outside US Embassy in Beijing

14.   Journalists attacked investigating illegal sand mining in India

15.   Nepal: Spike in attacks on journalists

16.   Is Western media biased against China? – Global Voices

17.   CPJ condemns pre-election news censorship in Cambodia – CPJ

18.   RSF digital security scholarship – RSF

19.   Whatsapp Research Awards for Social Science and Misinformation - Facebook

 

1.       Philippines: Journalists attacked, threatened & arrested covering strike

Several journalists were attacked, threatened and arrested as they covered the strike of workers at the NutriAsia factory in Marilao, Bulacan in the Philippines on Monday, July 30. Rosemarie Alcaraz was covering the strike for Radyo Natin-Guimba when she was hit with a baton by a guard. Joseph Cuevas, a reporter of Kodao Productions, was confronted by guards and threatened as he covered the dispersal. During the dispersal, 19 people were arrested by police, including four journalists, Hiyas Saturay, Eric Tandoc, Avon Ang and Psalty Caluza from AlterMidya, and Jon Angelo Bonifacio of the UP Diliman publication Scientia.

Read more here.

2.       Media plurality under threat with Australian merger

Leading Australian media companies Fairfax and Nine announced a $4 billion merger, resulting in a new conglomerate under the name Nine. Under flawed government regulations on media ownership -- including the recent removal of the ban on single ownerships in print, television and radio platform – Australia’s level of media ownership concentration is already one of the highest in the world.

The merger has been condemned by the main Australian media workers union and IFJ affiliate, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), over its concern that it will harm democracy and diversity of voices in Australian media.

Read more here.

3.       A decade of activism with the IFJ

IFJ Asia-Pacific this week says goodbye to long-time activist and staff member Serenade Woo.  As the IFJ’s China Project Manager since the inception of the IFJ Press Freedom in China program in 2008, Serenade has worked tirelessly over the past decade, fighting for press freedom, better working conditions, access to information and freedom of association across Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. During her time, Serenade coordinated IFJ press releases and mapping across China, and led the IFJ’s submissions to the UN on China.

IFJ Acting Director, Jane Worthington, said: “Serenade has being an integral member of the IFJ Asia Pacific team, supporting the local media, monitoring and advocating and authoring the annual China Press Freedom Report. She is a brave, determined and inspirational activist who helped cement the IFJ’s role in the China region and she leaves an impressive legacy of monitoring media in China and the region. We’ll miss her greatly.” The IFJ thanks Serenade for her invaluable work over the past 10 years and wishes her the best on her future endeavors.

4.       Media under threat in lead up to Pakistan’s elections

In the lead up to the general elections in Pakistan on July 25, the IFJ raised concerns regarding incidents of pressure, intimidation and threat against media and journalists and urges the government to ensure freedom of the media and safety of journalists for the success of the democratic election.

Read more here.

5.       Liu Xiaobo’s widow leaves China for treatment

Just days before the anniversary of her husband’s death, Liu Xia, wife of Liu Xiaobo has been granted permission to travel to Germany for medical treatment. On July 10, Liu Xia boarded a plane in Beijing to travel to Germany to seek medical treatment. The news was released by a spokesperson from the Foreign Ministry, which said the travel was part of Liu Xia’s wishes. Liu, 57, has been under house arrest since 2009, when her husband was jailed for ‘inciting subversion of state power’. Liu was never charged with any crimes, and despite authorities saying she is a ‘free person’, she has been under heavy surveillance by the authorities. Due to her ongoing house arrest, Liu has been diagnosed with depression.

Read more here

6.       Deadly month: Four journalists killed in AP

On July 20, AFP driver Mohammad Akhtar was killed in a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, which left a total of 25 people dead. Akhtar was on his way to work when the attack, which has been claimed by the Islamic State group, was perpetrated in the surroundings of the Hamid Karzai International Airport. The attack targeted supporters of Afghan Vice President, Abdul Rashid Dostum, who were welcoming him on his return from exile.

On July 20, Filipino broadcaster Joey Llama was gunned down on his way to work. Llama, a blocktimer for dwZR radio station, was leaving his home at 4am on Friday morning, on his way to host his program at 5.30am. According to local reports, he was shot 14 times by assailants.

On July 23, Journalist KK Saji and driver Bibin Babu, working for the local television Mathrubhumi News, died on assignment after their boat capsized in the Kariyar river. The victims, part of a four-member crew of the Mathrubhumi TV News were returning from a reporting assignment in Mundur, an area completely cut off from the mainland due to floods, where they had to cover the conditions of monsoon-affected people in a relief camp.

Read more here, here and here.

7.       HKJA launches annual press freedom report

On July 29, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) launched its annual press freedom report, an overall assessment of the state of freedom of the press and speech in Hong Kong. The 2018 edition of the report, Candle in the wind-National Security law looms over diminishing freedoms highlights the increasing challenges to press freedom and free speech in Hong Kong, through five chapters. 

Chris Yeung, chairperson of HKJA, said: “Hong Kong people increasingly feel the “China factor”, shrinking the room for free speech and free press” and “a knife hanging over the heads of Hong Kong people”.

Read more here

8.       Kashmiri journalist summoned by NIA to Delhi

India’s federal National Investigative Agency (NIA) summoned Kashmir Observer daily’s Srinagar-based journalist Aqib Javed Hakim to New Delhi and questioned him on July 14 and 15 over an interview, relating to a sedition case registered against a woman separatist leader.

The IJU said that the NIA summons of Aqib Javed Hakim amounted to an attack on the freedom of the press and meant to intimidate journalists in Kashmir who were already working under difficult circumstances.

Read more here.

9.       Myanmar: Reuters journalists charged under Official Secrets Act

After almost seven months in detention, a court in Myanmar charged two Reuters journalists with obtaining secret state documents. According to Reuters, on July 9, Yangon district judge Ye Lwin charged reporters Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, with breaching the Official Secret Act which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. Both journalists pleaded ‘not guilty’, which they have maintained since they were arrested on December 12, 2017. Judge Lwin filed charged against both journalists under section 3.1 (c) of the Act, which follows on from the prosecutions allegations that Wa and Kyaw obtained the secret documents with the intention to harm national security.

Read more here.

10.   Australian journalists barred from Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru

As Nauru prepares to host the Pacific Island Forum in September, it announced on Monday, July 2, that it would block the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from attending and covering the Forum. A statement by the Nauru Government on Monday said it has blocked the ABC from covering the Forum, and is refusing to issue its journalist visas because of allegations of interference in its politics, bias and false reporting.

The IFJ President, Philippe Leruth wrote to President Waqa urging him to reconsider the ban. In the letter, IFJ president Philippe Leruth said: “The role of the media is to hold those in power to account with free and fair reporting. However, decisions such as these violate the basic universal principles of press freedom and only go to harm the image of Nauru on the world stage.”

Read more

here and here and read the IFJ letter here.   

11.   Sri Lankan lawmakers intimidate journalists over NYT article

Following an investigation by the New York Times  over Chinese ownership of a Sri Lanka port, Sri Lankan lawmakers have taken aim at two local NYT journalists with a campaign to discredit them and attack their families. On Monday, July 2, Sri Lanka lawmakers, who are allies of former Sri Lanka President Mr Rajapaksa, held a press conference that was televised. They claimed that the two NYT journalists, Dharisha Bastians and Arthur Wamanan were working on behalf of the current government to malign Mr. Rajapaksa. The news conference followed a social media campaign to discredit the journalists and attack their families. Mr Rajapaksa’s family supported the social media campaign, with his son, Nimal Rajapaksa a current member of parliament, reposting claims that Ms. Bastians and the main author of the ports investigation, the Times correspondent Maria Abi-Habib, had been paid to write the piece by Sri Lanka’s current government.

International editor of the NYT, Michael Slackman called the claims false and in a statement said the Times article was rigorously reported and accurate, and criticized the lawmakers’ news conference.

Read more here.

12.   Editor attacked by pro-government mob in Bangladesh

Mahmudur Rahman, the editor of opposition-aligned Amar Desh daily, was brutally attacked by a pro-government mob outside the court in Kushita, western Bangladesh on July 22. Rahman was attacked by more than 100 people allegedly affiliated to Bangladesh Chhatra League, the youth wing of governing Awami League, on the court premises in Kushtia after he was granted bail in a defamation case filed for his remarks about the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Several defamation cases have been filed against him for his remarks in a seminar in Dhaka in December 2017. Although Rahman was granted bail around noon, he was confined in the courtroom due to presence of the mob outside the court; and when he finally came out, the mob attacked him and his car. He sought shelter in an advocate’s room where he was beaten. He was rescued by the police. Rahman chose not to treat his injuries in Kushita for fear of his life and flew to Dhaka.

Read more here.

13.   Information withheld following blast outside US Embassy in Beijing

Information following an explosion outside the United States Embassy in Beijing on July 26 has raised questions about access to information in China, after key details were withheld by authorities. On Thursday, July 26, there were a series of incidents, including an explosion outside the USA Embassy in Beijing. According to reports, a women attempted self-immolation, and in a second incident, a man tried to blow himself up. The police quickly arrived and took the man away. A few hours later, the Foreign Ministry held a press conference regarding the incident. However, the information from the Ministry did not align with the information released by the USA Embassy, which said the incident occurred right outside the Embassy, and the blast was from a bomb.

Read more here.

14.   Journalists attacked investigating illegal sand mining in India

Journalists Sandeep Kumar and Neeraj Bali of News18 TV were attacked in Jalalabad in Punjab, India on July 30 while reporting on the illegal sand mining. Journalists Kumar and Bali, after receiving a tip off, had gone to the site to investigate illegal mining when they were surrounded by a mob who attacked them and damaged their video equipment. Both suffered head injuries and their video equipment was damaged.

Read more here.

15.   Nepal: Spike in attacks on journalists

In mid-July, there was a spike in incidents of attacks on journalists in Nepal while covering demonstrations. On July 21, five journalists were attacked by Nepal police officers while they were covering clashes between the police and demonstrators near the Parliament in Kathmandu. On July 18, LB Devkota of Kantipur daily and Prakash Upadhyay of AP1 TV sustained minor injuries after an attack by the police while they were covering the clashes between police and demonstrators supporting Dr Govinda KC’s hunger strike in Jumla, Karnali. On July 22, journalist Bidur Katuwal, the joint secretary of FNJ Udayapur district, was threatened by Baldev Chaudhuary, the mayor of Triyuga Municipality, Devi Kumar Chaudhary, the vice-mayor, and Provincial Assembly member Sunita Chaudhary over a report.

Read more here

 

16.   Is Western media biased against China? – Global Voices

China has asserted from time to time that Western media, especially the liberal ones, are biased against China. This topic has also been raised on question-and-answer platforms such as Quora. There, people are debating whether there is a bias, and those who believe there is are asking whether this has been done with malicious intent.

Read Global Voice’s findings here.

17.   CPJ condemns pre-election news censorship in Cambodia - CPJ

The Information Ministry on July 28 ordered local internet service providers to block 17 websites--including Voice of Democracy, The Phnom Penh Post, and the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia--for 48 hours ahead of the election because their coverage was perceived as "provocative" and "very political," according to news reports that quoted the ministry's director general of information and broadcasting, Phos Sovann.

Read more here

18.   RSF digital security scholarship – RSF

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Germany is launching a new scholarship program in response to the increasing digital surveillance of journalists worldwide, supported by the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises. The program aims to give media professionals from war and crisis areas the chance to take time out in Berlin and train them in digital security. The first four scholarships are now being advertised. Journalists from all over the world can apply.

Read more here.

19.   WhatsApp Research Awards for Social Science and Misinformation – Facebook

Through its WhatsApp Research Awards, Facebook is offering “a competitive set of awards to researchers interested in exploring issues that are related to misinformation on WhatsApp,” providing funding for proposed research efforts seeking to explore “information processing of problematic content,” “election related information,” “network effects and virality,” “digital literacy and misinformation,” and the “detection of problematic behavior within encrypted systems.” Rewards are for up to $50,000 per proposal and offers recipients an invitation to attend two workshops held in Menlo Park, CA, with travel costs covered. Researchers with PhDs are strongly preferred.

Read more here.  

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