IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: AUGUST

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In this bulletin:

1.       A loss for democracy: Liu Xiaobo dies in custody

2.       Journalists across the Maldives attacked by police

3.       Pakistani authorities harassing journalists in Islamabad

4.       Hong Kong: Media censored during Presidential visit

5.       Nepali TV channel sealed in India

6.       IFJ launches campaign to #EndImpunity in Mexico

7.       Journalist arrested in Nepal

8.       China’s control on the internet continues to grow

9.       #JournosAgainstShutdowns – A Google Hangout

10.   SAMSN Blog: Renewed hoped for media staff, India – R. Rajendra Prabhu

11.   Turkish court frees seven jailed journalists

12.   Press freedom concerns in Australia with new ministry – MEAA

13.   Online speech and Bangaldesh’s ICT Act – Global Voices Advox

14.   Q&A on Pakistan’s UN Review: IFEX & Pakistan Press Foundation


1. A loss for democracy: Liu Xiaobo dies in custody

On Thursday July 13, just two weeks after his diagnosis was made public, Chinese democracy advocate and writer, died in hospital in China. Liu was serving nine years in prison for ‘subversion of state power’ as one of the authors of the democracy manifesto ‘Charter 08’. In late May, Liu was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and granted medical parole. He was transferred to the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang. In late June, his diagnosis was made public, raising questions about why the government had not revealed his diagnosis earlier.

The IFJ, Freedom House and RSF wrote to the President of China to demand Liu’s immediate release to travel overseas to seek medical treatment. However, pleas were unanswered.

Following his death, the IFJ said: “The Chinese government has tirelessly worked to silence Liu, with his death serving as a stark reminder of the dire conditions those who speak out against the government face and live with. The actions of the Chinese government against Liu, and the other 60 other journalists and media workers jailed in China, show the lengths they will go to, to silence and suppress freedom of expression, opinion and movement.”

Read more here.

2. Journalists across the Maldives attacked by police

At least seven journalists – four from Sangu TV and three from Raajje TV – were arrested and a number of others roughed up by the Maldives police on charges of 'obstructing the duties of a law enforcement officer' on July 26. The media reported damage to the camera and other equipment while the videos showed that police used excessive and unnecessary force against the journalists reporting the rally organized on the 52nd Independence Day of the Maldives.

The arrested journalists were later released. They were Mohamed Wisam, Murshid Abdul Hakeem and videographer Ahmed Mamdhooh of Raajje TV, and Adam Janah, Ahmed Riffath, Mohamed Shanoon, and Abdullah Yamin of Sangu TV.

Read more here.

3. Pakistani authorities harassing journalists in Islamabad

Saba Bajeer of Channel 24 TV and Aitzaz Hassan of DawnNews were manhandled and illegally detained for an hour by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) where they were on assignment to report an arrest. The FIA had brought Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Chairman Zafarul Haq Hijazi for a medical check-up after his arrest. Bajeer took photos using her cell-phone when FIA official approached her, grabbed her by the arm and asked her to delete the photos. The FIA official then started pushing Hassan, on whose suggestion Bajeer had proceeded to delete the photos. Hassan's mobile phone and cards were then snatched.

The journalists were taken to an empty room of the PIMS and detained for an hour without giving them access to phone. They were released after other journalists at the venue protested. Hassan had filed an application with the police for legal action against the harassment.

Read more here.

4. Hong Kong: Media censored during Presidential visit

On June 30, the Programme Staff Union of the Radio, Television of Hong Kong (RTHK) reported that a popular satire program ‘Hardliner’ was removed from the original program schedule by the Hong Kong Television Broadcasting (TVB). According to an Apple Daily report, the RTHK spokesperson said that RTHK had received a stop notice from TVB, ordering them to stop the airing of the program, using breaking news as the reason. When RTHK questions TVB about the re-scheduling, TVB proposed to air the program the next day on July 1. RTHK opposed the date change, and eventually TVB agreed to the program being aired early on June 30, on a different channel. According to the clauses in the free-to-air license which RTHK broadcasts under, the licensee has a duty to allocate a certain number of hours to broadcast programmes produced by the public broadcaster.

In a separate incident, a number of foreign journalists and camera crew were harassed and verbally assaulted by an anti-democracy group at a rally on June 30. According to several videos posted on social media, the journalists were covering the rally at the Star Ferry at Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. There were competing groups at the Ferry, with pro and anti-democracy groups assembling in the same place.

Several people were restrained by Hong Kong police as they tried to get close to the hotel when President Xi Jinping was staying. The people were trying to approach to President regarding the medical condition of dissident Liu Xiaobo. During the incident, according to HK01, Avery Ng, the Chairperson of the League of Social Democrats was beaten by a police officer. In the report, a journalist took several photo of the incident which occurred in a marker police car. A police officer also stopped the journalist from photographing the incident.

Read more here.

5. Nepali TV channel sealed in India

Police raided the office of Nepali-language satellite TV channel, ABN, on July 22 night, asked the employees to vacate the office stopping the broadcast and sealed it acting on the complaints lodged by Darjeeling district cultural and information department. The police accused that the employees of the media house shared the news about the ongoing demonstrations in Facebook after telecasting the news instigating the agitators to turn more violent. The channel is also accused of telecasting objectionable news and programmes, according to a report.

Read more here.

6. IFJ launches campaign to #EndImpunity in Mexico

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), representing 600,000 professionals in the world, has launched a solidarity campaign with the Mexican journalists, Opens external link in new windoweight of whom have been killed so far this year.

We are asking our 180 affiliates, as well as all the journalists and human rights defenders worldwide, to send a Opens external link in new windowletter addressed to Peña Nieto to the Mexican embassies in their countries.

The more the stronger. Show your solidarity, demand justice, Opens external link in new windowjoin our campaign!

Read more here.

7. Journalist arrested in Nepal

Chakka Bahadur Malla, district correspondent for Image Channel TV, was arrested and was taken into custody by the police. He was in the process of registering a case with the police after he was attacked along with four municipal officials of the Budinanda Municipality on July 13. A gang attacked them near the district headquarters. Malla had received injuries and was recovering when he was arrested after a police complaint was registered against him.

Read more here.

8. China’s control on the internet continues to grow  

On July 25, the chief engineer of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, during a press conference, avoided answering any questions about rumours that authorities had directed telecommunication firms to shut down unregistered VPN service providers by February 1, 2018. Rumours have been rife in recent weeks, that the three largest telecommunications firms in China, China Mobile, China Unicorn and China Telecom, will be forced to shut down unregistered VPNs by authorities.

China had started increasing its attempts to control access to information online and the rights of the people online in February 2017. The China National Internet Information Office and other departments, including the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced, at that time, that they would conduct a public consultation to review all internet service providers, including VPNs. At the same time, the Community Party of China issued new guidelines to all officials on how to use social media, which explicitly said that no ‘negative energy’ should be dispersed online.

Read more here.

9. #JournosAgainstShutdowns – A Google Hangout

To close the IFJ-SAMSN #JournosAgainstShutdowns Campaign against Internet Shutdowns, the IFJ coordinator a google hangout with Ujjwal Acharya, Lubna Jerar Naqvi, Nadia Sharmeen, Apar Gupta, Nalaka Gunawardena and Laxmi Murthy. The hangout discussed how internet shutdowns affect freedom of expression and discuss what can be done to counter the phenomenon.

Watch the video here

10. SAMSN Blog: Renewed hoped for media staff, India – R. Rajendra Prabhu

The Supreme Court of India on June 19, 2017, delivered a verdict in a long-pending case concerning journalists and non-journalist employees of newspapers on the implementation of the Majithia Wage Board. While interpretations of the order by the bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi varies, here we present a review of the verdict by veteran journalist R Rajendra Prabhu, prepared for the National Union of Journalists (India).

Read more here.

11. Turkish court frees seven jailed journalists

A Turkish court ordered the release of seven suspects in the trial of 17 journalists and executives from the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet on Friday 28 July. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) join their affiliates TGS, TGC and DISK Basin-IS in welcoming the decision and call on the Turkish authorities to release all other journalists currently imprisoned. The next hearing is listed for 11 September. The trial, which began on Monday 24 July, involved 17 Cumhuriyet journalists and executives wrongfully accused of secretly supporting the PKK – a militant Kurdish organisation and FETO, the group allegedly responsible for last year’s failed coup.

Read more here.

12. Press freedom concerns in Australia with new ministry – MEAA

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union and industry advocate for Australia's journalists, is deeply concerned by the concentration of surveillance powers in a new super "Home Affairs" ministry without any adequate external oversight.

MEAA believes the corralling of several government agencies with poor records for observing and respecting press freedom and transparency into one giant bureaucracy, raises profound concerns.

Read more here.  

13. Online speech and Bangaldesh’s ICT Act – Global Voices Advox

Over the past four months in Bangladesh, more than twenty journalists have been sued under a controversial law prohibiting digital messages that can "deteriorate" law and order, "prejudice the image of the state or person," or "hurt religious beliefs."

Although its authors may have intended for this part of the law to be used sparingly, it is now routinely used to suppress freedom of speech and harass writers, activists, and journalists, often for their comments on social media.

Read more here.

14. Q&A on Pakistan’s UN Review: IFEX & Pakistan Press Foundation

Pakistan was reviewed for the first time by the UN Human Rights Committee on 11 and 12 July. RIDH spoke to the Secretary General of the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) and the Campaigns and Advocacy Coordinator at IFEX about the examination in regard to freedom of expression issues in the country.

Read more here.