IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: September 2014

Welcome to the IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on 1 October, 2014, and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email [email protected]

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In this bulletin:

  1. East Timorese and Australian journalists campaign against media law
  2. French journalists arrested in West Papua, Indonesia
  3. Myanmar journalists train future leaders
  4. Maldives media still searching for answers on Ahmed Rilwan
  5. Sunil Jayasekara death threats: IFJ/IFEX demand action in Sri Lanka
  6. South Asian Unions condemn the brutal murder of James Foley
  7. Women in Asia-Pacific media the focus of new IFJ research
  8. Filipino journalist survives assassination attempt
  9. TV presenter slaughtered in home
  10. 3 killed in Balochistan, Pakistan
  11. Situational Report from Bhutan
  12. Chinese cartoonist online accounts shut down for dissent
  13. Afghan authorities expel US journalist
  14. Indian unions calls for wider discussion on media ownership discussions
  15. FJ Impunity Campaign
  16. IFJ and IPDC Strengthening media and journalism ethics in the Pacific 

1. East Timorese and Australian journalists campaign against media law

The IFJ and Australian and New Zealand journalists have formed a united front  to protest East Timor’s controversial new Press Law,  due to come into effect this month. The law has received widespread criticism since it was first proposed in August 2013 and just last week had a number of elements declared unconstitutional by East Timor’s Court of Appeal.

The law will require journalists and media as being accredited by the Press Council, which will mean part-time, student and freelance journalists could be barred from work. Fines and potential legal action against journalists will also be included in the laws, while foreign journalists would also require Government authorisation to work in country.

The IFJ along with a number of Australian journalists and media have started a campaign calling for the withdrawing of these laws. Sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/stop-east-timor-press-law and use the hashtag #NotoEastTimormedialaw on social media

Read more here.

Australian foreign correspondent Mark Davis discusses the implications of the new laws in this month’s IFJ Blog: “Don’t let East Timor’s media be silenced”.Read more here.

2. Two French journalists remain detained in West Papua, Indonesia

The IFJ, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the French Union of Journalists (SNJ, SNJ-CGT, CFDT-Journalists) and Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) have together called on Indonesian authorities to immediately release two French journalists, Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat, arrested in West Papua in August.

This week the IFJ and the French Union of Journalists (SNJ, SNJ-CGT, CFDT-Journalists) issued a letter to SBY calling for the release of the two journalists who were arrested in Wewena, West Papua along with three members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) on August 6. According to reports they were working on a documentary about the separatist movement but were arrested for entering the country on tourist visas. The pair have been charged with violating immigration law but are also potentially facing charges of subversion for being involved with armed criminal groups from the OPM. Generally journalists who report on tourist visas are deported.

In its letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the IFJ said: “We seek your urgent intervention to bring an end to the unacceptable impasse in this matter and call on you, the President of the Republic of Indonesia, in your final weeks as President to order the immediate release of Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat and allow their safe and secure passage home.”

Read more here and here. 

Support the online campaign by using the hashtag #FreeThomasandValentine

3. Myanmar journalists train future leaders

New IFJ affiliate, the Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA) recently completed the first of two union leadership training workshops, supported by LOT-CO. As the first training hosted by MJA since the IFJ’s leadership training of trainers last year, Burmese journalists led the local workshop with women and men journalists in Mawlamying, the capital of Mon State in Southeastern Myanmar.

The training focused on strengthening unions, identifying issues and activists and organizing around them along with important communication and negotiating skills for the leadership.

The second workshop will be held this weekend (September 6-7) in Mandalay, again run by MJA trainers.

4. Maldives media still searching for answers on Ahmed Rilwan

Four weeks after his disappearance, journalists and the media in the Maldives are still searching for answers regarding the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla. The Minivan News journalist was last seen in the early morning of August 8, on a ferry travelling to Hulhumale Island, from the capital of Male. He has not been seen or heard from since.

It is widely believed in media circles that Rilwan was abducted, with neighbours reporting screams before seeing a man fitting his description being forced into a vehicle 20metres from his apartment.

Rilwan’s family and colleagues believe his disappearance is work related, as he had recently being working on a number of religious pieces. His disappearance comes at a time of increased tension in the Maldives with a spike in threats against journalists.

The South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) joined the IFJ in calling for police to expediate the search for Rilwan and deploys all necessary resources.

There is an online campaign supporting the search for Rilwan, http://findmoyameehaa.com/ and the hashtag #findmoyameenaa is also being used.

5. Sunil Jayasekara death threats: IFJ/IFEX demand action in Sri Lanka

The Asia-Pacific and global community has been deeply concerned for the well-being for prominent Sri Lankan journalist Sunil Jayasekara after he become the target of a series of death threats in August.

Jayasekara received numerous death threats from anonymous numbers following a media conference hosted by FMM condemning the role of government agencies in cancellations of workshops on digital media security for journalists of Jaffna.

The IFJ, South Asian Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLJWA) united to condemn the death threats and together with IFEX launched a twitter campaign supporting Jayasekara. Take action and use the hashtag #CondemnThreatSL

Read more here and here.

7. South Asian Unions condemn the murder of James Foley

The horrendous murder of US photojournalist James Foley shocked the world’s media when it was broadcast via the internet on August 19. Following the news of his assassination by ISIS, South Asia’s journalists unions united to collectively condemn his murder in Syria and calling for immediate action against the perpetrators. The unions denounced the action as “an affront to journalism globally” and highlighted the dangerous conditions that journalists across the world, and particularly in the Middle East face every day.

Read more here.

8. Women in Asia-Pacific media the focus of new IFJ research

A groundbreaking new research project into women’s experience in the media in the Asia-Pacific began this month. Supported by UNESCO and UNWomen, the study has begun rolling out in in Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu.

The research will look at the number of women in senior and decision-making positions and the issues that affects this representation, the role that unions, associations and women’s networks play in advancing women as well as finding best practice case studies from across the region.

The findings of the research will be presented in March 2015 at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, in New York.

Researchers and IFJ affiliate unions are currently collecting surveys from men and women in the participating countries, the preliminary findings of which will be presented at The Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Beijing +20 Review in Bangkok in November. For more information on the surveys and if you would like to take part, please email Alexandra Hearne at the IFJ at [email protected]

Read more here.

9. Filipino journalist survives assassination attempt

On Tuesday 26, Filipino broadcaster Orlando Navarro was shot in the back just 15 meters from his house in Barangay Pantal, Dagupan City on the island of Luzon. Navarro, who is the host of two shows and officer-in-charge for dwIZ station was immediately taken to hospital and underwent surgery to remove the bullet.

The IFJ strongly condemned the attack and called on Filipino President Benigno Aquino to take urgent and drastic measures to address the horrendous record of journalist assassinations in the country.

In a recent interview with IFJ affiliate National Union of Journalists Philippines (NUJP), Navarro said his “recent exposes on illegal drugs in his village may have spurred the attempts to silence him.”

Read more here.

10. Bangladeshi TV presenter slaughtered in home attack

The brutal murder of Bangladeshi TV presenter Maolana Nurul Islam Farooqi, in Dhaka of Wednesday August 27 has deeply disturbed Bangladesh’s media community. Farooqi who was the host of two shows on ‘Channel i’ television was slaughtered in his home when more than a dozen youth entered the house on the premise of talking about the Hajj pilgrimage. In the attack, Farquooi’s family were also tied and bound by the youth before he was killed.

The IFJ joined the Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF) in deploring the murder and has called for immediate action in the arrest of the killers. According to reports, Farquooi had received death threats prior to his murder due to his outspoken opposition for militancy in Bangladesh.

Read more here.

11. Situational Report from Bhutan

New IFJ affiliate, the Journalists Association in Bhutan (JAB) recently released its Situational Assessment of Journalists in Bhutan recently, surveying 90 journalists working in 16 media organiations and 29 former journalists. The aim of the assessment was to identify challenges and constraints facing journalists The media environment was identified as extremely bad by most journalists, they said that the lack of government support, absence of quality journalism and censorship were the main causes.

Passang Dorji, president of the JAB said ‘The study is the first of its kind and its findings could be used as a point of departure to work toward building a strong, healthy, responsible and responsive press in the country.”

Read more here.

11. Violence against media in Pakistan escalates as three more media workers killed

The assassination of two Balochistan journalists and a media worker in their office in Quetta marked another sorry month for Pakistan’s media as the country experienced another surge in media-directed violence. The IFJ and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) have condemned the targeted assassination of bureau chief Irshad Mustoi and his two colleagues at the office at MA Jinnah Road, Quetta, Balochsitan on Thursday August 28.

Mustoi, who was the Assignment Editor for ARY News in Quetta, Bureau Chief of Online News Agency and General Secretary of the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) was shot dead in, along with trainee reporter Muhammad Abdul Rasool and accountant Muhammad Younas. The three received bullets to the chest and head and died at the scene.

The PFUJ termed the deaths as targeted media killings, and said “This killing of BUJ office bearer is a strong and hidden message to intimidate the media across Pakistan.”

Read more here.

This week, further violence has erupted across Pakistan, directly linked to political protests by opposition parties PTI and PAT. During the protests, journalists and media workers were directly targeted in violent rampages. On August 30, anti-government demonstrators attacked the Geo News office in Islamabad, and on September 1, over 800 protestors stormed the PTV building holding staff hostage and forcing management to shut down the transmission of PTV News and PTV World.

The PFUJ will observe Black Day today against the atrocities against media. Protests will be held across Pakistan and black flags will hoisted by unions and press clubs.

Read more here.

12. Chinese cartoonist’s online accounts shut down for dissent

Wang Liming, a prominent online cartoonist known as biantai laijiao had his online accounts shut down on August 17 for posting a satirical cartoon of Hong Kong’s anti-Occupy Movement. Liming’s mainland microblog accounts, including weibo and WeChat, along with his online shopping account at Taobo were all targeted in the shutdown with The People’s Daily and Global Times published reports labelling him as a ‘pro-Japan traitor’.

Wang said “I think it might be pretty risky to go back home. If I go back, they might use my cartoons as an excuse to detain me.”

Read more here.

13. Afghan Government expels acclaimed US journalist

On August 20, US journalist Matthew Rosenberg was expelled from Afghanistan by the Government for refusing to name sources in a story about a plan by unnamed officials to seize power if the political crisis in Afghanistan continued.

Rosenberg, a New York Times Kabul-based journalist was originally barred from leaving the country and then ordered to leave within 24 hours. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that Rosenberg’s article was a sign of “meddling and interference of foreigners for destabilizing Afghanistan.”

IFJ affiliate Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA)’s president, Ketabullah Khpolwak Sapai, said: “We strongly condemn the expulsion of Matthew Rosenberg, and view it as a violation of Afghanistan’s media law. The due process was not followed, and the treatment of Rosenberg was illegal and a violation of Afghan laws.”

Read more here. 

14. Indian union calls for wider discussion on media ownership

The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has called for wider discussion on media ownership recommendations put forward by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of Indian (TRAI) on the Press Council of India Act (PCI). In a report published on August 21, TRAI suggested the formation of a single regulatory authority for all media, which is independent of the government, but manned by predominately eminent non-media persons.

The IUJ President SN Sinha said “We are demanding the government to amend the PCI Act, however the recommendation on appointment of predominantly eminent non-media person goes against the self-regulation of the media.”

The IFJ joined the IUJ stating “The standard around the globe is that press councils must comprise primarily of the industry they represent. India should be no exception if the press council is to fulfil its duties to the wider public.”

Read more here.

15. IFJ Impunity campaign

November will see the launch of IFJ’s annual impunity campaign, which coincides with the first International Day to End Impunity on November 2, and the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre on November 23.

The IFJ Asia Pacific is beginning the planning of its impunity campaign where we aim to focus on case studies from across the region that can work to highlight the impunity against journalists. We are currently calling on stories and suggestions from across the region that will help shape our campaign. Any suggestions should be sent to ([email protected])

16. IFJ and IPDC Strengthening media and journalism ethics in the Pacific

IFJ with support from UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communication will shortly begin a new project in the Pacific which will focus on working conditions, ethical challenges and press freedom in the region.

The project looks to identify challenges for media workers and journalists and support them in their work.