IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: January 2015

Welcome to the <st1:personname w:st="on">IFJ Asia</st1:personname>-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on February 1 2015, and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email [email protected]

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In this bulletin:

1.       World’s journalists unite to condemn brutal attack on Charlie Hebdo in France

2.       IFJ Killed List for 2014: 118 journalist killed – Asia-Pacific most murderous

3.       IFJ work across the region in 2015

4.       First Asia-Pacific journalist killed - Filipino broadcaster gunned down on way to work

5.       Australian Peter Greste and colleagues mark one year in Egyptian jail

6.       Pakistani journalist and wife survive attack

7.       Election violations and violence reported in Sri Lankan Presidential Elections

8.       Nepal’s Supreme Court upholds sentence in journalist rape case

9.       Afghan journalist dies following suicide bomb attack

10.   SEAJU calls on Malaysian Government to support press freedom

11.   Macau Government continues to deny journalists entry

12.   Indonesian editor in blasphemy case

13.   Journalist killed for reporting in Odisha

14.   Pakistani journalist face multiple attacks during political protests

15.   Press freedom still under threat in Indonesia

16.   Police withdraw protection for senior Pakistani journalist leader

17.   Ampatuan Massacre witness ambushed

18.   British journalist convicted of contempt in Bangladesh

19.   IFJ Research Study on Gender and Media in Asia Pacific

20.   SAMSN Digital Hub is live


1. World’s journalists unite to condemn brutal attack on Charlie Hebdo in France  

Following the brutal killing of 12 people, including 10 media workers in France, the world’s media and people globally have condemned this horrific attack and joined massive rallies and vigils to support press freedom. Two men stormed the offices of French satirical-weekly Charlie Hebdo on January 7 and shot staff during an editorial meeting at 11.30am in the worst journalist assassination since 2009’s Ampatuan Massacre in the Philippines. The killed included Stephane Charbonnier; editor, Jean Cabut; cartoonist, Georges Wolinski; cartoonist, Bernard Verlhac; cartoonist, Philippe Honore; cartoonist, Bernard Maris – economist, Elsa Cayat; columnist, Mustapha Ourrad; copy editor, Michel Renaud; visitor, Ahmed Merabet; police officer and Frank Brinsolaro; police officer.

Across the Asia Pacific region, journalist unions and associations united in their condemnation of the attack. Read the powerful message of support from affiliates across the region here.

Vigils were also held in many places including Nepal, Hong Kong and the Philippines. See images of the vigils and actions here.

Cartoonists around the world have also put their talents to work in opposing the brutal affront to freedom of expression. See more here.

In Sydney, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance held a condolence book signing tribute. You can sign the book online here.

Read more here and here.

2. IFJ Killed List for 2014: 118 journalists killed – Asia-Pacific most murderous for journalists

On December 31, the IFJ released its annual killed list of journalists and media workers directly targeted or killed while performing their jobs. The figures for 2014 saw a rise in the number of journalists killed to 118, an increase of 13 from 2013. The Asia Pacific region topped the global list with 35 targeted deaths for the year. Within the region, Pakistan topped the global list with 14 deaths, followed by Afghanistan with 9. The culture of impunity that partners the continued killing of journalists further challenges press freedom and journalist safety in country. The IFJ will publish its full Killed List report for 2014 at the end of January. Read more here and here.

3. IFJ work across the region in 2015

The IFJ will continue working across the region with a number of projects. The UNDEF South Asia project will enter its second year and with the launch of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) Digital Hub last year will work on secure communications and digital training for journalists across South Asia. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry will also continue their support of SAMSN into 2015. Our project with LO-TCO which focuses on building stronger unions for stronger media will continue across numerous countries in the region including Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Timor Leste and Vanuatu. The IFJ will also launch their UNESCO IPDC Pacific project this year, which will look at working conditions, ethical challenges and press freedom in Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. The NED China Press Freedom project will enter its final year and continue building on strengthening press freedom in China.

IFJ affiliates should emails IFJ Asia Pacific acting director and let us know of their needs for support, actions or training. (jane.worthington(at)ifj-asia.org)

4. First Asia Pacific journalist killed - Filipino broadcaster gunned down on her way to work

The Philippines became the first country in the Asia-Pacific to witness a journalist killed in in 2015 – and the third globally.   Nerlita Ledesma, a 48-year-old radio journalist was gunned down as she waited for a ride to work. It is yet to be determined if her murder was related to her work.

Read more here.

5. Australian Peter Greste and colleagues mark one year in Egyptian jail

December 29 marked one year in jail for Al Jazeera staffers Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. The trio were arrested on December 2013 and subsequently charged with ‘distorting the country’s image abroad’ and ‘fabricating news to aid the Muslim Brotherhood’. In June 2014, they were sentenced with between seven and 10 years.

On January 1, 2015 the three journalists launched their appeal against their convictions and the IFJ continues to lobby on their case.

Read more here.

6. Pakistani journalist and wife survive attack

Pakistan journalist, Zeeshan Shamsi and his wife survived an attempted attack on their lives on December 22, when they were indiscriminately fired upon while travelling in a car from Sialkot to Islambad. Although Shamsi was unhurt in the attack his wife was shot twice in the chest. The pair were also robbed.  

Read more here.

7. Election violations and violence reported in Sri Lankan Presidential Elections

On January 8, Sri Lanka held their Presidential elections in which incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa was historically defeated by Maithripala Sirisena. In the lead-up the election there was an escalation of violence as well as reports of misuse of state-owned media. There were also numerous reports of state media openly calling people to vote for President Rajapaksa.

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), a local election monitoring report recorded 237 ‘major incidents’ and 183 ‘minor incidents’ of election violence, including dozens of assaults, intimidation and damage to property. IFJ affiliate FMM has proposed the government support freedom of information with the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act, work in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Press Institute, investigate Sri Lanka’s long-standing cases of impunity, support the development of an independent media and abolish censorship and self-censorship.

Read more here and here.

8. Nepal’s Supreme Court upholds sentence in journalist rape case

After a seven year ordeal, the Nepal Supreme Court sentenced a man on December 18 for the rape of a female journalist. Yadav Ghimire was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered him to pay a Rs, 15,000 fine to compensate the victim for the rape dating back to 2008. The case had been through a number of courts however the original decision was revered in 2009 by the appellate court and the accused with released in 2010. With support of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) legal desk, the defendant took to the case to the Supreme Court.

The victim said at the end of the trial, “In these seven years, I had to quit my profession. I was threatened several times. I was forced to leave the country for almost 15 months. I went through mental trauma. However, I never gave the hope for justice.”

Read more here.

9.  Afghan journalist dies following suicide bomb attack

In Afghanistan, our colleagues sadly reported that a journalist injured in the suicide bomb attack on the Estiqlal High School died in hospital on December 20 from his injuries. The journalist, Zubair Hatami was at the school on December 11 watching a theatre show when he was injured along with 20 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Read more here.

10. SEAJU calls on Malaysian Government to support press freedom Following the recent meeting of the South East Asia Journalists Unions (SEAJU), the regional group of trade unions called on the Malaysian Government to repeal the 1984 Printing Press and Publication Act, describing it is offensive to the constitutional right to freedom of speech. Read more here.

11. Macau Government continues to deny journalists entry

In early December, prior to the 15th anniversary of the handover of Macau to China ceremony, two journalists reported been denied entry into the territory under the guise that they ‘posed a threat to internal security’. This blocking of journalists came prior to the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to celebrate the anniversary.

Entry issues reported were not confined to Macau, with the Central Government of China refusing to issue a visa to several UK civil servants wanting to visit Hong Kong.

Read more here.

12. Indonesian editor in blasphemy case

The chief editor of the Indonesian English-daily the Jakarta Post, Meidyatama Suryodiningrat wasnamed as a suspect for religious defamation on December 11. The allegation was a result of a cartoon published in July by the newspaper which offended a number of Muslim groups.

The criminal case comes as the issue was handled by the Indonesian Press Council in July. The IFJ and Aliansi Juralis Independen (AJI) have strongly condemned the case against the editor.

Read more here.

13. Journalist killed for reporting in Odisha

A local journalist was killed when he was attacked with sharp weapons on his return home from work in Bikrampur in Odisha in eastern India. Police said that his murder was directly linked to his work after he published a number of reports about child labour practices in a local factory.

Read more here.

14. Pakistani journalist face multiple attacks during political protests

Following a number of protests by the opposition party, Pakistan Teheek-e-Insaf, led by Imran Khan, a number of journalists were attacked and restricted from performing their duties as they covered the events. Journalists faced hostile protesters forcing them onto the roof of their vans, disrupted their reporting and shouted loud and abusive insults. Vans were also pelted with water bottles. Female journalists were also attacked, in one instance Sidra Dar was pelted with stones and water bottles and when she took shelter in her van the protesters came and tried to drag her out. In another instance a female journalist was reporting from the protests and when she wouldn’t stop reporting she received a number of death threats.

The IFJ wrote to Imran Khan expressing serious concerns over the ongoing and repeated incidents of violence and abuse against journalists and media workers.

Read more here, here and here.

15. Press freedom still under threat in Indonesia

The International Federation of Journalists was part of an international delegation that visited Indonesia in early December to discuss press freedom, freedom of speech and expression. The delegation met with journalists and freedom of expression groups in Jakarta and Bali as well as Indonesia’s Communications and Technology Minister, Rudiantara. The delegation said that time for action was now and that the criminalisation of online speech, climate of impunity for attacks on journalists and the concentration of media ownership are key areas of concern.

Read more here  and the mission’s recommendations here.

16. Police withdraw protection for senior Pakistani journalist leader

The Lahore-based President of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Rana Azeem had his police protection withdrawn by the Pakistani police in December amid new threats to his life. Azeem, who has been a target of threats for a number of years had his house fired upon in September and was threatened in January 2014.

Read more here.

17. Ampatuan Massacre witness ambushed

On December 10, Datu Salibo Ahmad Baganian Ampatuan, former mayor of Maguindano was ambushed and attacked on his Army-escort convoy on the boundary of Guindulungan and Talayan, near Maguindanao in the southern Philippines. He was attacked 17 days after the fifth anniversary of the massacre which saw the murder of 58 people, including 32 journalists.

Read more here.

18.  British journalist convicted of contempt in Bangladesh

On December 2, the International Crime Tribunal found that Dhaka-based British journalist David Bergman on contempt for questioning the official death toll of the 1971 liberation war. The court found that a blog and two articles written by Bergman ‘hurt the feelings of the nation’ and fined him USD65 or a week’s imprisonment.

Read more here.

19. IFJ Research Study on Gender and Media in Asia Pacific

Since July 2014, the IFJ has been conducting a research study on gender and media in the Asia Pacific region. The project, supported by UNESCO and UNWomen, which included a survey component, interviews and case studies has been conducted in seven focus countries; India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malaysia and Vanuatu. The study will investigate the situation of women at work in the media, the challenges, obstacles and needs; the number of women in senior and decision making positions and the issues that affect this representation; the role that unions, associations and women’s networks could and do play and expectations of their actions; and best practice case studies of campaigns, media workplaces and coverage and representation of women.

The final report which will include core recommendations will go forward for presentation at the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in March 2015.

20. SAMSN Digital Hub is live

The South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) Digital Hub is now online at http://samsn.ifj.org.  It is a central repository of South Asia-related media issues, press statements and resources; and also the one-stop website for news and updates.

The SAMSN Digital Hub features an ‘attack on media’ map, campaigns, photo galleries of the SAMSN events, activities of IFJ Asia-Pacific and journalists unions in the region, a blog for the journalists around the region to write about their experiences of media and related issues.

We welcome your submissions for the Digital Hub. All the affiliates and partners of the SAMSN are requested to send in any material they want to publish in the Digital Hub to ifjsouthasia(at)gmail(dot)com Visit the SAMSN Digital Hub here .