Journalists Harassed as They Celebrate World Press Freedom Day Across Asia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has concerns for freedom of expression in Asia following a series of reports that the media continues to suffer from acts of oppression and assault.

World Press Freedom Day celebrations on May 1, 2006 were marred by the harassment of journalists in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Philippines.

“It is deeply ironic that World Press Freedom Day saw the arrest and assault of so many of our colleagues. These incidents highlight the continual violation of press freedom and expression in the region, “ said IFJ president Christopher Warren.

Maldives: International press freedom monitors assaulted
Three international press freedom monitors were assaulted by riot police, and at least six others were arrested, following a government crackdown on World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Male, Maldives.

Vincent Brossel from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Thomas Hughes from International Media Support and Sadaf Arshad from the South Asia Press Commission (SAPC), were in the Maldives as part of an international delegation currently assessing the state of the media in the country.

Arriving at a World Press Freedom Day celebration hosted by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the delegation were assaulted by riot police and members of the National Security Service and Minivan News sub-editor, Nazim Sattar, who was translating for the delegation was arrested.

The incident is likely to cause the government acute embarrassment. Only hours before the assault, the government chief spokesperson, Mohamed Hussain Shareef, had met with the delegation in Colombo, Sri Lanka in an attempt to counter mounting international criticism over press freedom violations in the Maldives.

IFJ Asia-Pacific program manager, Laxmi Murthy joined the international mission on May 5.

Sri Lanka: Female journalist arrested at UNESCO Word Press Freedom Day conference
A female Tamil journalist was arrested and remanded on suspicion of association with terrorist activities, while reporting at a UNESCO conference on World Press Freedom Day, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Police at the entrance of the conference allegedly arrested Sivaramya Sivanathan, a relief announcer for the state owned Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC), when she couldn't produce an invitation for the conference, despite producing her SLBC identity card.

According to witnesses, a number of other journalists were able to enter the event without producing invitation cards.

Pakistan: Journalists call for the release of captured colleague in mass rallies
At World Press Freedom Day rallies across Pakistan, media workers demanded the recovery of missing journalist Hayatullah Khan and the withdrawal of cases against journalists, vowing to defend freedom of expression.

Hundreds of media personnel participated in the World Press Freedom Day rallies in Karachi, Hyderabad, Rawalpindi-Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Faislabad, Abbottabad and Quetta.

Whilst the police did not allow them to stage any demonstrations, the Federal Minister of State for Information Tariq Azeem met the protesting journalists and assured a resolution to their concerns.

These protests follow a series of campaigns organised by the PFUJ and APNEC.

Philippines: Armed Forces restrict media access to their general headquarters
Barely 24 hours before the annual World Press Freedom Day began on May 3, 2006, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) released a memorandum imposing restrictions on reporters' access to the military's general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The order stated only media representatives with accredited Public Information Office-Defence Press Corps (PIO-DPC) identification cards would be allowed inside the camp on days when there were no scheduled press conferences or media advisories.

Kison warned that those who failed to follow the requirements would be promptly ushered by the Military Police to the PIO.

This further restriction on information comes after the Supreme Court has found recent actions by the government against media organisations, such as warrantless arrests, raids on offices and prohibitions on street protests, to be unconstitutional.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries around the world