IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: December

Welcome to the IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on January 13, 2015 and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email [email protected]

Please distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media.

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ifjasiapacific

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific

Join the IFJ Asia-Pacific mailing list here

In this bulletin:

1.       Asia Pacific affiliates mark #EndImpunity campaign

2.       IFJ Asia-Pacific launches Without A Trace

3.       Gao Yu released on medical parole following sentence reduction

4.       #orangetheworld campaign calls for end to violence against women and girls

5.       Six years on: Justice denied in the Philippines

6.       Two Pakistan journalists killed in November

7.       IFJ joins International Delegation calling for action on media freedom in Indonesia

8.       Fears for press freedom in the Maldives with State of Emergency

9.       Digital campaigns launch across South Asia

10.   Paramilitary forces issues directive for Nagaland media

11.   IFJ hosts two workshops in Bangladesh

12.   Hong Kong journalist barred from covering APEC Summit in the Philippines

13.   IFJ Blog: Disappearances of journalists in Sri Lanka: lessons learned

14.   Filipino broadcaster shot dead

15.   Indonesian affiliate hosts media festival

16.   Hong Kong court halts media reporting on Hong Kong University

17.   Indian media petition for release of two journalists


1. Asia Pacific affiliates mark #EndImpunity campaign

On November 2, the IFJ launched its annual #EndImpunity campaign calling for action to end impunity for crimes against journalists. The 2015 campaign has been the most successful to date, with affiliates across the region taking a stand to demand action from local governments and media organisations. The IFJ Asia-Pacific campaign focused on the issues impacting on press freedom and journalist safety across the region. The IFJ campaign ran from November 2 until November 23, and focused on India, Pakistan and the Philippines, where government authorities have consistently failed to display a genuine commitment to ending impunity and to bringing perpetrators and masterminds to justice. Week 1 of the campaign called the governments of India, Pakistan and the Philippines to account.Week 2 featured the launch of Without a Trace: Media workers missing in the Asia-Pacific. Week 3 focused on the Philippines, which remains one of the world’s worst impunity havens for attacks against media workers.The IFJ campaign also called on the governments of Cambodia, Nepal and Thailand to respond to the UNESCO Director-General’s report The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity, which they have so far failed to do.

Across the region affiliates launched their own campaigns and activities to demand action to end impunity. In Pakistan, the PFUJ wrote a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the PFUJ and affiliated units also carried out different activities to mark the UN International Day to End Impunity, including discussion sessions in Lahore, a candlelight vigil to honour departed colleagues in Karachi, and similar functions in Peshawar, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Hyderabad, Bahawalpur and Abbottabad. In Timor Leste, the Timor Lorosa’e Journalists’ Association (TLJA) held a seminar on media law and the journalistic code of ethics in Dili, attended by many military, police and government officials. In Indonesia, AJI held a two-day media festival, including a photo exhibition on impunity in Indonesia. In Nepal, FNJ launched Without A Trace with an event attended by government ministers and local media. In Sri Lanka the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association held a candle-light vigil on November 23 to call for an end to impunity. On December 7, the National Union of Journalists (India) will end a month long end impunity campaign with a protest at parliament in New Delhi.

Read more here and here

2. IFJ Asia-Pacific launches Without A Trace

Across the Asia Pacific region, there are 10 journalists missing, with the oldest case dating back to 1975. On November 16, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Asia-Pacific launches Without A Trace: Media workers missing in the Asia-Pacific, an online record highlighting the stories of 10 media workers who remain missing in the region. To date, their cases are unsolved and largely uninvestigated by authorities. The campaign focuses on the cases of Juanita Nielsen (Australia), Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla (Maldives), Joey Estriber (the Philippines), Prakash Singh Thakuri, Chitra Narayan Shrestha, Milan Nepali, Madan Paudel (all of Nepal), and Prageeth Eknaligoda, Subramaniam Ramachandran and Vadivel Nimalarajah (all of Sri Lanka). 

You can visit Without A Tracehere.

The IFJ Asia-Pacific also launched an online petition with the list, calling on governments to sign and ratify the UN Convention for the Protection for All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. You can sign the petition here.


3. Gao Yu released on medical parole following sentence reduction

On November 26, following a one-day closed-door appeal trial, veteran Chinese journalist, Gao Yu had her seven year sentence reduced to five years. Then shortly after the decision was handed down by the High Court of Beijing, Gao Yu was released on medical parole.

On April 24, 2014, 71-year-old, Gao Yu was arrested in Beijing on charges of illegally obtaining state secrets and sharing them with foreign media. Gao was subsequently charged and held in detention until her closed-door trial in November, 2014. During the trial, the prosecution presented a televised confession by Gao Yu. However during the trial, Gao disclosed that police had coerced her to give the confession after they threatened to arrest her son. In April 2015, Gao Yu was sentenced to seven years in jail. More recently, Gao Yu’s lawyers had applied for medical parole for Gao after it was revealed that she is suffering from a number of illnesses including heart disease, high blood pressure and Meniere’s disease, as well as discovering an abnormality in her lymph node. She was also diagnosed with dermatosis, however medical parole has been denied twice.

Read more here.


4. #orangetheworld campaign calls for end to violence against women and girls

On International Day to End Violence Against Women and Girls (November 25) the IFJ joined the global campaign #orangetheworld on the issue of violence against women working in the media. Specifically, this year the IFJ is calling on journalists and their unions to raise awareness and take action against gender violence, highlighting the damaging and rapidly increasing incidents of cyber-bullying and threats online.

The IFJ AP noted that the challenges for female media workers across the Asia Pacific far exceed those experienced by their male counterparts. As journalism expands further into the digital realm, so does the scope for threats, and so November 25 was used to call for action across the region from governments, media organisations and unions.

Read more here. Follow the campaign online using the #orangetheworld


5. Six years on: Justice denied in the Philippines

November 23 marked six years since the Ampatuan Massacre in the southern Philippines. The Ampatuan Massacre remains the single deadliest attack on journalists in the world, with 32 media professionals among the 58 people slaughtered. Since 2009, there has been strong local and international condemnation and campaigning to bring those responsible to justice, and demand adequate compensation for the victims and their families. To date, four witnesses have been killed; however what is arguably even more disturbing is that since the Ampatuan Massacre, 42 journalists and media workers have been murdered in the Philippines. This chilling continuity clearly demonstrates that the culture of impunity remains ingrained across the Philippines, with journalist safety virtually nonexistent. This year alone, 8 journalists have been brutally murdered simply for exercising their duties. In 2014, to mark the fifth anniversary of the massacre, the IFJ and NUJP led a mission to the massacre site, to meet with the families and government ministers, and demand action. During the meetings with the government officials in Manila, the International Mission demanded action on the investigations, labelling the Philippines an ‘epicentre of impunity’ for journalist killings in the intervening years, noting how the deaths now outnumber the massacre.

Read more here and read the IFJ report Ampatuan Massacre: Five Years On 


6. Two Pakistani journalists killed in November

On November 3, one day after the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, senior journalist Dr Zaman Mehsud from KP/FATA in northern Pakistan was murdered. Mehsud was murdered as he travelled to his home in Tank City and shot by unidentified gunmen. He was shot five times and died shortly after arriving at the local hospital. Shortly after his death, the Taliban claimed responsibility stating that they targeted Mehsud for his writings against them.

Two weeks later on November 22 Hafeez-ur-Rehman was killed near his home when he was shot by two people on a motorcycle. Rehman had been working as a journalist for over 12 years, and was employed with Neo TV. He had also been publishing his own daily, Asia, until earlier this year.

Read more here and here


7. IFJ joins International Delegation calling for action on media freedom Indonesia

From November 8 to 14 the IFJ joined the International Partnership Mission to Indonesia (IPMI) which travelled to Indonesia to meet with journalists, government and civil society representatives to review the media environment one year on since its first visit in December 2014.During this visit, the Mission held meetings in Jakarta and Makassar, Sulawesi, and conducted a fact-finding visit to Jayapura, Papua, in eastern Indonesia. The mission coincided with the release of Human Rights Watch report Something to Hide? and the long-awaited release of two British journalists who have been detained in Indonesia for five months.

The IPMI said in a statement today: “In a region where the press is under sustained attack, Indonesia has a leadership role to play in defending media freedoms,” the mission said. “There has been little demonstrable progress following the recommendations offered by the mission a year ago and despite significant interventions by local civil society organisations. The government of President Widodo should do more to advance media freedom and protect journalists,” said the mission.

Read more here.


8. Press freedom fears in the Maldives with state of emergency

On Wednesday November 4, a state of emergency was declared across the Maldives. On November 6, the Maldivian police raided Sangu TV, a private television station, in connection with a YouTube video allegedly threatening President Abdulla Yameen. They removed every computer hard disc and the company’s archive system, which ultimately forced the station to stop its broadcasting. The YouTube video showed three masked men issuing a death threat against the president. Police suspected the video was uploaded from the TV station, a claim that the Sangu TV denied. In a separate incident on November 6, pro-opposition Raajje TV suspended coverage of political affairs, stating that ‘the threat to freedom of expression and freedom of the media has been immense’ after the declaration of emergency. A journalist of Raajje TV was also briefly detained on November 6, with videos and photos of the arrest going viral on the Internet; however the police denied his detention.

Read more here.


9. Digital campaigns launch across South Asia

Under the UNDEF South Asia Media for Democracy project, IFJ affiliates and SAMSN members have launched digital campaigns. In Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement (FMM) has launched a campaign Free Expression for All which aims to raise awareness about impunity in Sri Lanka, put pressure on the government to introduce to the RTI Bill and address issues of sexual harassment in the workplace. See more here.  

In India, the National Union of Journalists (India) have launched a month-long campaign Demand enactment of the Journalist Protection Act. The campaign aims to create awareness and put pressure on the government to provide statutory protection for physical and professional safety of journalists. The campaign includes a protest on December 7. For more details go to the NUJ(I) website: http://www.nujindia.com/

In Nepal, the Nepal Press Union launched a campaign on Raising awareness for professional and physical safety of journalists. The campaigns aims to develop an online safety resource and create awareness of safety issues and concerns. The campaign launches on December 12 and will run until February 2016.


10. Paramilitary forces issue directive for Nagaland media

On October 25, the Colonel of the General Staff for Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force, issued a directive to six Nagaland-based media houses prohibiting the re-publication of press statements from banned organization NSCN(K). The directive said that ‘publication of press statements of a banned organization was complicit in the illegal activities of the banned organization’.

Responding to the notification, the editors stated that ‘the role of the media in an environment of conflict is a critical component in the search for peace and justice’. They also said that they were guided by a free, fair, forthright, sensitive and unbiased approach in the reports while fulfilling their roles against the backdrop of Naga history and reality.

Read more here.


11. IFJ hosts two workshops in Bangladesh

On November 24 and 25, the IFJ and the Bangladesh Nari Sangbadik Kendra (BNSK), supported the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hosted a two-day gender safety and equity workshop in Bangladesh. The workshop, which was attended by around 20 female journalists from across the country, discussed the challenges for women journalists in Bangladesh and provided practical tools and advice to overcome the challenges. See photos from the workshop here.

On November 25 and 25, the IFJ and SAMSN-member, the Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF), supported by Union to Union, hosted a two-day Digital Campaign Skills workshop. The workshop was attended by more than 25 journalists from across the country, with over 50% female participants. The workshop provided the participants with practical skills undertake a digital campaign. The workshop faced some challenges, with key social media channels including Facebook been blocked by the government in the days before. See photos from the workshop here


12. Hong Kong journalist barred from covering APEC Summit in the Philippines

On November 15, a Hong Kong-based journalist from Commercial Radio (CR) was barred entry to the Philippines. The journalist was travelling to the Philippines to cover the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, for which he had successfully registered prior to commencing his journey. According to Commercial Radio, the journalist was barred entry because of an incident at the 2013 APEC Summit, during which journalists questioned Philippines President Benigno Aquino III about a hostage situation in 2010. All journalists were forced to exit the venue after the incident, with a number of reporters being followed. According to reports nine Hong Kong journalists were backlisted by the Philippines government after the incident, including this particular CR journalist, even though he had not been present at the 2013 Summit.

Read more here.


13. IFJ Blog: Disappearances of journalists in Sri Lanka: lessons learned

Sri Lanka has three journalists listed on the IFJ missing journalist list, Without A Trace. For decades Sri Lanka has seen abductions and disappearances by state security agencies, becoming a part of the political culture. The second highest number of unsolved disappearances reported to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances are reported from Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan journalist, Sunanda Deshapriya, who in July returned to Sri Lanka after years in exile, discusses the challenges for enforced disappearances of journalists in Sri Lanka and the lessons learned.

Read more here


14. Filipino broadcaster shot dead

On Saturday October 31, radio broadcaster for local station dwIZ and columnist for the tabloid newspaper Bandera Pilipino, Jose Bernardo, was gunned down outside a restaurant in Quezon City. Bernardo was shot twice in the head and died at the scene. An employee of the restaurant was also shot in the chest by a stray bullet but is recovering in hospital. As well as being a broadcaster and columnist, Bernardo was the public information officer of the Northern Police District Tri-Media Organization (NPD-TMO), a group of media workers covering the northern Metro Manila police beat. According to witnesses, the assailant appeared to be waiting for Bernardo when he pulled out a handgun and shot him. The gunman boarded a waiting motorcycle and fled.

Read more here.


15. Indonesian affiliate hosts media festival

On November 14 and 15, AJI Indonesia hosted a two-day media festival in Jakarta to coincide with the IFJ #EndImpunity campaign. The festival included a number of talks, exhibition, films and discussions about media freedom in Indonesia. There was also a photo exhibition of Udin, an Indonesia journalist murdered over 20 years ago.


16. Hong Kong court halts media reporting on Hong Kong University

On 30 October, Hong Kong University (HKU) filed a temporary injunction order to the High Court of Hong Kong to forbid all media and “persons unknown” to publish or report confidential information about the HKU Council’s meetings. In the released information, the temporary injunction order also barred any media and persons to identify any HKU members including Council members, staff and students. The injunction was immediately criticised by local media organisations and journalist unions. The Hong Kong Journalists Association, Hong Kong Press Photographers Association, Ming Pao Staff Association, Next Media Trade Union and Radio Television of Hong Kong Programme Staff Union have issued a joint statement to question the action, stating that they believe it sets up a daunting precedent for further press freedom restrictions in the future.

Read more here.


17. India media petition for release of two journalists

Two journalists, Somaru Nag and Santosh Yadav, were arrested in July and September 2015, respectively, on the charge of supporting Maoists in Chhattisgarh in central India. According to reports, each of the journalists have faced custodial torture. In a petition lodged by local media to Mr Ajun Jaitley, the Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting, the petition is signed by over 100 local journalists and media workers, calling for the immediate release of the journalists and the Chhattisgarh state create a safe working environment for journalists.

For more information click here.