Asia Pacific Bulletin: May

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In this bulletin:

1.       The Road to Resilience documents the state of press freedom in South Asia

2.       World Press Freedom Day 2016: The Right to Know

3.       Two hacked to death in less than one month in Bangladesh

4.       International media call for Timor Leste PM defamation case to be dropped

5.       Myanmar journalist among group that wins 2016 Pulitzer Prize

6.       Ming Pao editor abruptly fired

7.       Bangladeshi editor arrested for sedition

8.       Australian journalists’ metadata accessed by authorities

9.       IFJ & SAMSN launch digital security campaign

10.   Photojournalist attacked in Nepal

11.   Press freedom continues to deteriorate in the Maldives

12.   ‘Panama Papers’ censored in China

13.   SAMSN Blog: Where is Bangladesh heading?

14.   Out-spoken journalist arrested in Nepal

15.   Freedom of Press 2016: Freedom House releases annual report

16.   CPJ release report on gender discrimination in the media

17.   Philippines union holds safety workshops ahead of national election

18.   Australian union launches campaign: #vote4pressfreedom

 

1. The Road to Resilience documents the state of press freedom in South Asia

Tomorrow, May 3, the IFJ, SAMSN and UNESCO will launch the annual South Asia Press Freedom Report 2016. The report entitled, The Road to Resilience: Press Freedom in South 2015-16, documents the state of press freedom in South Asia over the past 12 months, highlighting the challenges and the success stories from across the region.

The 2016 report, which is the 14th annual report published by the IFJ and SAMSN. This year’s report includes capsule reports from Chhattisgarh, India, Kabul and Kunduz, Afghanistan and a detailed report on the situation for bloggers in Bangladesh. The report also includes a breakdown of the culture of impunity across South Asia and a detailed update on the state of gender and media, including the situation of online harassment for women journalists.

The IFJ said: “There is no doubt that the media of South Asia is on a critical journey. It is a path that is full of hope for a new and emerging future, but it is also one loaded with challenges – both to the craft of journalism and to the way media workers operate day to day in the field through the stories they tell and the dangers they confront.”

For an embargoed copy of the report, please email the IFJ (alex.hearne@ifj-asia.org).

 

2. World Press Freedom Day 2016: The Right to Know

Tomorrow, May 3, marks World Press Freedom Day 2016. WPFD is an important annual event to celebrate press freedom and advocate for better press freedom nationally, regionally and globally. UNESCO is marking the day with a 3-day meeting in Helsinki, Finland with the overarching theme Access to Information and Fundemental Freedoms. The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, in her message for the Day, said: “At this time of turbulence and change across the world, including new challenges that require global cooperation and action, the need for quality information has never been so important—this requires a strong environment of press freedom and well-functioning systems to ensure the people’s right to know.”

 

In the Asia-Pacific regions, various activities are taking place:

·         IFJ & SAMSN are launching the annual South Asia Press Freedom Report, The Road the Resilience in New Delhi, India with support from UNESCO.

·         FMM in Sri Lanka is holding a panel discussion An independent media regulatory commission: towards a free and socially responsible media on May 4.

·         FNJ in Nepal is holdings it Annual General Meeting, with 1,700 central council members to discuss different issues including press freedom. The event will also launch Press Freedom Report 2016, which documents press freedom violations in Nepal in 2015.

·         NUJT and TJA in Thailandwill celebrate WPFD with a one day event What do the people get from press freedom? The event is being organised the raise awareness about the importance of press freedom

·         MAV In Vanuatu will host a one-day event – Your Right to Information that saves lives –the event will be held on WPFD and aims to highlight the importance of RTI and include a training component for local journalists

·         TLJA and TLPU In Timor Leste will host a half-day workshop on press freedom and criminal defamation

·         In Indonesia – a large two-day event if being held to discuss online journalism and press freedom

·         In Australia – the MEAA, along with the IFJ AP and the Walkley Foundation will host the annual Press Freedom Dinner on May 6. The event is important to raise much-needed funds for the Media Safety & Solidarity Fund (MSSF) which supports activities across the Asia-Pacific

·         E Tu in New Zealand will host its annual press freedom debate on May 5 to raise money for MSSF

 

If you want more information of events or want to tell us about your event, please email the IFJ (alex.hearne@ifj-asia.org).

 

3. Two hacked to death in less than one month in Bangladesh

In two separate attacks, a secular blogger and an magazine editor were hacked to death in Bangladesh in April, with both incidents sparking country-wide protests and demands from the government for action.

On April 6, Nazimuddin Samad, a 28-year-old online activist and secular blogger, was murdered when assailants attacked him with a machete and shot him in the head at around 8 pm. He was rushed to Mitford Hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival.Samad was a law student and regularly used Facebook posts to denounce religious extremism, and express secular opinions. In one post on his Facebook he wrote, "I have no religion".

While on April 25, Zulhaz Mannan, the editor of Bangla-language LBGTI magazine Roopbaan, Bangladesh’s first LGBTI magazine, was brutally killed along with another LGBTI activist when assailants stormed his residence in Dhaka’s Kalabagan area. According to The Guardian, Mannan and Fahim were attacked when a gang of six men posing as couriers to gain access to Mannan’s apartment. Mannan then took the men upstairs, where he and Fahim were fatally hacked and shot. Media reports claim that IS have claimed responsibility for the killing, but this is disputed by the Bangladesh government.

Samad is the seventh blogger to be killed in Bangladesh in the past three years.

Read more here and here.  

 

4. International media call for Timor Leste PM defamation case to be dropped

International media, including the IFJ, SEAJU, CPJ and Freedom House have joined together to call on Timor Leste Prime Minister, Dr. Rui Maria de Araújo, to drop the criminal defamation case brought against local journalist Oki Raimundo and the Timor Post through Lourenco Vicente Martins. In a letter sent to the Prime Minister on April 22, the groups highlights the implications for the case for Timor Leste’s press freedom, noting that such actions will weaken the view of the country’s media freedom in the eyes of the international community.

Read the letter here and more here.   

 

5. Myanmar journalist among group that wins 2016 Pulitzer Prize

Associated Press journalist, Esther Htusan, was part of a team of four journalists who received the Pulitzer Prize for their work in exposing serious labor abuses being practiced in the Southeast Asian fishing industry, which in turn prompted industry-wide reforms and won the freedom of some 2,000 slaves.

Htusan is the first female Myanmar journalist to win the renowned award.

Read more here.

 

6. Ming Pao editor abruptly fired

On April 20, Keung Kwok-Yuen, the reputable executive chief editor of Ming Pao, had his employment terminated with immediate effect. Keung had worked at Ming Pao for over a decade. Shortly after the dismissal, Chong Tien Siong, the chief editor said that the decision was based on the declining economic environment of the media industry. Chong said the company was looking to reduce costs through redundancies and Keung was one of the selected staff. However, the decision has received widespread criticism. The Ming Pao Staff Association said that it felt “extremely angered and dissatisfied” by the decision and that the termination was ‘rough’.

The IFJ, HKJA and several other local independent media associations and unions issued a joint statement expressing shock and concern over the decision. The joint statement said that the excuse for Keung’s termination was unconvincing, given the suddenness of the move. The joint statement said it was concerned that the company was concealing the truth and would have a negative impact on the staff.

Read more here .

 

7. Bangladeshi editor arrested for sedition

Shafik Rehman is a well-known, pro-opposition journalist and editor in Bangladesh, who was arrested on April 16 on charges of sedition. According to authorities, Rehman was arrested on charges filed in August 2015, relating to the alleged attempts to abduct and murder Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's son Sajeeb Wazed Joy, who lives in the US.

Rehman has a long history in the media and currently edits the Bangla weekly, Mouchake Dhil, as well as producing and hosting Lal Golap (Red Rose), a program on Bangla Vision TV. He has also been acting as convener of the international affairs sub-committee of the BNP's sixth national council held recently in Dhaka. He is also considered an adviser to the BNP chief. Prior to his current roles, Rehman was based in the UK, working for various media outlets including the BBC. He also worked as the speech writer Khaleda Zia, the prime minister's arch-rival. In 1984, Rehman founded the weekly, Jai Jai Din. The weekly was known for its critical commentary of former military ruler Hussain Mohammad Ershad, who banned the magazine forcing the journalist into exile. In 1991, with the fall of Ershad, the weekly resumed publication. It was later turned into a national daily in 2006 and Rehman became the editor until he was allegedly forced to sell its ownership in 2008 during the military-backed caretaker government.

Read more here.  

 

8. Australian journalists’ metadata accessed by authorities

In February 2016, Australian journalist Paul Farrell from the Guardian learned that the AFP had created a file of 200 pages while attempting to identify and prosecute Farrell's confidential sources in news reports he wrote on Australia's asylum seeker policies. According to the Guardian article published today, the AFP confirmed they had sought to access Farrell’s metadata, particularly to uncover and prosecute his confidential sources.

Farrell lodged a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner under the Privacy Act. Through the course of the investigation it become clear that the AFP has sought ‘subscriber checks’, which is a request to telecommunications companies for access to information they may hold on a particular person.

MEAA CEO, Paul Murphy said: "It comes down to this: journalists writing legitimate news stories in the public interest now have police trawling through their private metadata all because a government agency is embarrassed about a leak.”

Read more here.

 

9. IFJ & SAMSN launches digital security campaign

The IFJ along with SAMSN have launched the Digital Security for South Asia's Journalists campaign, running from April 7 to May 15, 2016. The regional campaign is the culmination of the digital campaign works we have done in 2015 under the UNDEF project, bringing together SAMSN members and the media community across South Asia to campaign on digital security.

Read more here.

 

10. Photojournalist attacked in Nepal

Kabin Adhikari, a photojournalist with online news outlet onlinekhabar.com was attacked on April 10, in Kathmandu by local police. Adhikari was physically attacked by police as he photographed the arrest of protesters inside the government’s main administrative premises, the Singha Durbar. Police grabbed Adhikari around the neck and was beaten with boots and lathis (a heavy iron-bound bamboo stick) for documenting the arrests. He sustained minor injuries and had to seek treatment at a local hospital.

Read more here.

 

11. Press freedom continues to deteriorate in the Maldives

On April 3, the Maldivian media organized protests in the capital Male surrounding the declining state of press freedom in the country. During the protest, 19 journalists were arrested, as police used pepper spray and excessive force to end the demonstration. A number of journalists also had to be taken to hospital due to injuries sustained.The journalists arrested worked for local media outlets, including Haveeru, the Maldives Independent, Sangu TV, Raajje TV and Villa TV. They were arrested on charges of obstructing police duty, disobeying police orders and committing illegal actions. The journalists were released late on Sunday evening, after 10 hours of detention but have been ordered to appear at the police station on Monday, April 4 to give their statements.

On April 8, two Rajjee TV journalists Mohamed Wisam and Leevan Ali were served with summon notices on charges of obstructing the discharging of police duties last year. On November 2, 2015, they were arrested as they reported on the police and military attempts to defuse a bomb found near the Presidential Palace. Wisam was also arrested on March 25, 2015 during anti-government protests, and he is still facing charges for that incident.

Following the protest and subsequent arrests, more than 180 Maldivian journalists signed and presented a petition to the Maldives’ President demanding better press freedom and support for the media.

Read more here and here.  

 

12. ‘Panama Papers’ censored in China

In early April, more than 11 million documents, detailing the use of offshore holdings in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, were anonymously leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ launched an international investigation, now known as the Panama Papers. The documents revealed the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders, including members of China’s Communist Party elite. Relatives of President Xi Jinping as well as eight other members of the Communist Party, including members of the politburo standing committee were named in the papers.

Following the release of the leaked papers, media outlets across the globe have covered the story, yet in China the story remains largely unpublished. According to the China Digital Times, the provincial Cyber Administrative Office made an oral directive to local media that banned the publication of the papers. The directive also said that if media who had already published reports did not remove them immediately they would face harsh punishments.

Read more here.

  

13. SAMSN Blog: Where is Bangladesh heading?

The state of freedom of expression in Bangladesh is the worse it has ever been according to local journalist, Sam Jahan. Jahan discusses the issues and poses the question, where is Bangladesh heading is the latest SAMSN blog.

Read more here.

 

14. Out-spoken journalist arrested in Nepal

Kanak Mani Dixit, the 61-year-old founding editor of Himal Southasia and publisher of the Himal magazine, was arrested in Patan Dhoka, in southern Kathmandu, by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), a constitutional body to probe corruption by public institutions and officials. He was charged with accumulating millions of rupees as the Chairman of Sajha Yatayat, a transport cooperative with majority of shares with the government. Dixit called the arrest a vengeful act after he led the public protests against appointment of Lokman Singh Karki as the CIAA chief commissioner in 2013.

Read more here.

 

15. Freedom of Press 2016: Freedom House releases annual report

In late April, Freedom House launched its annual Freedom of the Press report, noting that press freedom have declined to its lowest point in 12 years, with only 13 percent of the world’s population enjoying free press. In the Asia-Pacific region the Maldives and Bangladesh saw the biggest decline in press freedom, falling 3 and 7 points respectively.

Read more here.

 

16. CPJ release report on gender discrimination in the media

The essays in the report challenge the various ways in which gender affects what we know about the world, and in particular the challenges women face in all societies to bring us the news. A number of other essays tackle the difficult question of what can be done.

Read more here.

 

17. Philippines union holds safety workshops ahead of national election

Throughout April, the NUJ Philippines (NUJP) has held a series of Security and Safety briefings for working journalists as they cover the lead up to the Presidential elections on May 9. The briefings are an attempt by the NUJP to secure the safety of the media in what is traditionally a very unstable time.
See more here.  

 

18. Australian union launches campaign: #vote4pressfreedom

In the Australian national election year 2016, the IFJ’s affiliate the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) is using the countdown to UNESCO World Press Freedom Day on May 3 to call on Australians to #vote4pressfreedom.

MEAA said: “We want to remind people of the importance of press freedom in a healthy functioning democracy, and put a spotlight on recent changes that are constraining press freedom in Australia.” These changes include telecommunications metadata retention laws, which allow government agencies to secretly hunt down journalists’ confidential sources, such as whistleblowers; and Section 35P of the ASIO Act, which has jail terms of up to 10 years for legitimate public interest reporting on ASIO special intelligence operations.

In the lead up to UNESCO World Press Freedom Day on May 3, MEAA is calling on members, friends, colleagues and followers to raise awareness for press freedom issues in our region. Other activities include the annual Press Freedom Australia Media Dinner, to be held on May 6, which raises funds for the Media Safety and Solidarity Fund to assist endangered journalists and their families and which funds press freedom campaigns in the Asia-Pacific. On the same day, MEAA will also release its landmark annual report into the state of press freedom in Australia. In 2016 the report is entitled: Criminalising the Truth, Suppressing the Right to Know. Go to https://www.meaa.org/campaigns/press-freedom/ for all the campaign details.