IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: June

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In this bulletin:

1.       SAMSN launches 2015 press freedom report, The Freedom Frontier

2.       Sri Lankan unions call for better working conditions

3.       Join the IFJ petition to end sedition law in Malaysia

4.       China’s National Security law under scrutiny

5.       Murder in Bangladesh – third blogger brutally killed

6.       Al Jazeera crew harassed at Chinese protest

7.       Peshawar journalist displaced by police harassment

8.       Delhi government promotes defamation against media

9.       Burmese soldiers acquitted of journalist murder

10.   Call for Indonesian government to guarantee media freedom

11.   Sri Lankan human rights activists attacked at May Day rallies

12.   Reporting through Nepal’s crisis

13.   Growing the media in Timor Leste

14.   The long road home for Sri Lanka’s exiled journalists

1. SAMSN launches 2015 press freedom report, The Freedom Frontier

On May 7, the IFJ and SAMSN launched the 13th annual South Asia Press Freedom Report, The Freedom Frontier: Press Freedom in South Asia 2014-15. The report documents the state of press freedom across the South Asia region and media violations over the 12 month period. This year’s report explores the frontlines shaping and thwarting ongoing efforts to build a robust media environment across the region and, for the first time, features capsule reports on conflict zones and outlines the devastating toll on journalists in regions such as Balochistan and Khyber Pakthunkhwa in Pakistan, Kashmir in India and Sri Lanka’s North and East.

Read more here.

2. Sri Lankan unions call for better working conditions

The IFJ and its affiliates Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) called on the country’s new government to open up discussions about improving working conditions for journalists to rebuild the country’s media. The IFJ visited Sri Lanka as part of a week-long media assessment mission to follow-up on the state of the media since the January 8 Presidential elections. The IFJ  has earlier visited Sri Lanka in late March and met with journalists around the country to discuss the issues affecting their working conditions, professional and safety. During the visit, the delegation were promised action on Freedom of Information and media reform.

During the most recent discussions, both FMM and SLWJA said a number of positive steps had been made in the government’s media reform agenda but urgent work was still needed. Both organisations highlighted issues relating to journalists joining and being active in unions, support for returning exiled journalists, training and professionalization as well as the much-needed RTI Act.

Read more here.

 3. Join the IFJ petition to end sedition law in Malaysia

The IFJ has launched a global petition calling for all charges of sedition against Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar to be dropped. The petition is part of a global campaign, which is being supported by 41 international freedom of expression organisations through a letter to Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Rajib Nazak calling for the abolishment of the Sedition Act (1948).

On May 20, Zunar’s case was in court in Malaysia but was adjourned until July 7 pending a constitutional challenge against the Sedition Act by Dr Azmi Sharom. Zunar faces a potential 43 years imprisonment for the charges following a tweet and cartoon he published in February. Over the past 12 months, the Malaysian government increasingly used the Sedition Act as a tool of suppressing free speech across Malaysia and increased its reach into the online space.

Sign the petition here and read more here and here.

 4. China’s National Security law under scrutiny

Following the second reading of China’s National Security Law, the IFJ has reiterated its concern for the law which sets out a framework for increased controls on the country’s internet infrastructure. The second reading of the law which was released earlier this month emphasizes what it calls “sovereignty in the national internet space” and to prevent the spread of “harmful moral standards” online. The IFJ’s concerns centre on the potential for it to infringe upon fundamental human rights in China.

The IFJ has called on NGO’s and international organisations to submit their opinions to the National People’s Congress by June 5.

Read more here.

5. Murder in Bangladesh – third blogger brutally killed

On April 12, Ananta Bijoy Das was brutally murdered by an armed group near his home in Sylhet in north-eastern Bangladesh. Das is a well-known blogger who regularly wrote for Mukto-Muno (free mind) blog, which was run by US-Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy who was also brutally murdered this year in Dhaka in February. Das was attacked by four men with machetes who reportedly chased him attacking his head and body. He died on arrival at hospital.

Das is now the third blogger to be killed in Bangladeshi in as many months as freedom of expression in the online space continues to come under attack in the country.

Read more here.


6. Al Jazeera crew harassed at Chinese protest

An Al Jazeera television crew were harassed by members of a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team as they covered large protests in Linshui county in Guang-an, Sichuan. The incident took place on the second day of the protest as police tried to disperse the protesters. One media worker was forced to the ground, while a second was struck on the back and his camera and tripod confiscated. The equipment was later returned but all footage was deleted.

Read more here.


7. Peshawar journalist displaced by police harassment

Rasool Dawar, a Peshawar-based GEO TV journalists was forced to leave the region following a number of incidents involving police. The latest incident this month saw Dawar detained by police for a number of hours under ‘extremely torturous conditions’. It was the second intimidation this year. Dawar said that he had to leave the region as he no longer felt safe to continue his work in Peshawar. In a letter to government and non-government agencies on May 4, Dawar said: “Their threatening attitude and ‘advice’ to leave the town for some times, prompted me to shift to Islamabad.”

Read more here.


8. Delhi government promotes defamation against the media

The National Union of Journalists, India (NUJI) has condemned a recent circular shared by the Delhi Government encouraging defamation action against critical news reports. The circular issued on May 6 advised government staff to “lodge a complaint if they came across any news item which damages the reputation of the chief minister or the government, so that further action can be taken.”

NUJI said that the circular was an attempt by the government to curb press freedom and called for its immediate withdrawal.

Read more here.


9. Burmese soldiers acquitted of journalist murder

Two unnamed soldiers were acquitted this month by a closed military court in Myanmar. The soldiers were facing charges in relation to the shooting murder of Myanmar journalist, Aung Kyaw Naing (Par Gyi) last year. Aung Kyaw Naing was murdered in suspicious circumstances in September last year, with the military reporting he was shot as he tried to escape its custody. However, when his body was exhumed from a shallow grave, it showed signs off torture including broken ribs, a cracked skull and five bullet wounds.

Read more here.


10. Call for Indonesian government to guarantee media freedom

On May 10, Indonesian President Joko Widodo came through on an anticipated election promise when he announced that foreign journalists were now free to travel to Papua and West Papua. However, following the announcement, the co-ordinating minister for politics, law and security, Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, said journalists would still require permits have to pass a screening process and would not be allowed to do anything that would “discredit Indonesia”.

AJI and the IFJ have called on the government to ensure the action is implemented concretely in the country’s eastern-most province while raising ongoing concerns for international journalists and local media in the troubled region where spying, shadowing and minders are common.

Read more here.


11. Sri Lankan human rights activists attacked at May Day rallies

Two Sri Lankan human rights activists were attacked while attending May Day rallies in the Kirullapona Lalith Athulathmudali in Colombo on May 1. Dr Nimal Ranjith Devasiri and Dr Kumundu Kusum Kumara were allegedly targeted by pro-Rajapaksa supporters, who allegedly claimed they were responsible for the former president’s defeat in the January 8 presidential election.

Police offered protection to both men and escorted them away from the rallies.

Read more here.


12. Reporting through Nepal’s crisis

On April 25, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, devastating the country. More than 8,000 people have died across the 39 regions affected, with a further 8 million people believed impacted and displaced. Through the tragedy, Nepal’s media have persevered and continued to report and tell the stories of their people. Some media outlets have had to report under tents as buildings were damaged, while others have worked out of cars.

Read their more on their stories on the SAMSN Blog


13. Growing the media in Timor Leste

Timor Leste has enjoyed 10 years of media freedom, guaranteed by the country’s constitution. However last year, the government introduced the new Press Law which has now put a grey cloud over the state of media freedom in the country.

Read the update from IFJ affiliate, Asosiasaun Jornalista Timor Lorosa'e (AJTL) as it discusses the challenges facing Timor Leste’s media.


13. The long road home for Sri Lanka’s exiled journalists

Sri Lankan human rights activist Ruki Fernando canvases the challenges for Sri Lanka’s exiled journalists wanting to return home. Following the January 8 presidential elections, the government has encouraged exiled journalists to return to Sri Lanka without fear of persecution. The IFJ understands as many as 80 media workers fled the country during rule of Mahindra Rajapaksa.

However, as Fernando highlights, it is not that simple.

Read more here.