IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: November

Photo: Journalists from Asia Pacific at the IFJ-SEAJU meeting in Bangkok launch findings from IFJ-SEAJU research into impunity, working conditions and safety for journalists in South East Asia. Credit: Ujjwal Acharya/IFJ

Welcome to the IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on December 1, 2018 and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email [email protected]

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In this bulletin:

  1. IFJ marks #IDEI calling for change and action
  2. India: two journalists killed in last than 24 hours
  3. Good news story: Japanese journalist abducted in Syria, released
  4. Political crisis in Sri Lanka raises concerns over media safety
  5. SEAJU calls for criminal case to be dropped in Indonesia
  6. Pakistan: Journalist killed after reporting on drug mafia
  7. Upcoming elections in Afghanistan raise safety concerns for media
  8. Media implicated in India’s #MeToo
  9. New broadcasting bill endorsed in Bangladesh
  10. FCCHK VP visa renewal refused
  11. Myanmar: Three Eleven Media journalists arrested over report
  12. Timor Leste: Editor dismissed over role on Press Council
  13. Press Trust of India sacks 297 staff in one day
  14. SAMSN Blog: Bringing #MeToo to its logical finale
  15. A Free Speech Impunity Indicator launches in India on IDEI

  1. IFJ marks #IDEI calling for change and action

Today, on International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the IFJ and its affiliates across the world have called for change and action to guarantee the safety of journalists worldwide.

Launching the global campaign, the IFJ called for its initiative for a UN Convention on impunity to be endorsed and supported by organisations and governments, taking a stand to stamp out impunity.

As part of the global campaign, the IFJ highlighted the state of impunity in some of the most dangerous countries including: Afghanistan, Malta, Mexico, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to IFJ figures, 75 journalists have been killed in 2018, 30 of which took place in the Asia Pacific region. Afghanistan is the deadliest country, with 16 journalists and media workers killed this year.

At the IFJ-SEAJU Journalism Under Threat meeting in Bangkok, the IFJ and South East Asia Journalist Unions (SEAJU) launched the preliminary findings from the regional survey on safety, impunity and working conditions for journalists. The findings highlighted that 1 in 2 journalists feel insecure because of their work, 44% say media freedom has further declined in their country and 55% said impunity was a major problem or epidemic in their country. The survey findings are part of a wider project, and the full results will be launched on December 14, 2018.

See more from how IFJ affiliates are marking IDEI here

See more on the IFJ UN Convention here

See more on IFJ-SEAJU impunity & safety research here

Download the IFJ-SEAJU research infographic here

  1. India: two journalists killed in less than 24 hours

Just days before International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists two journalists were brutally killed in India, raising serious concerns about government efforts to guarantee the safety of the media.  

On October 30, videojournalist Achyutananda Sahu was killed as he covering preparations for upcoming state elections in Chhattisgargh. Sahu was part of a media team from government-run Doordarshan, embedded with local police. He was killed from crossfire when the group came under attack from a Maoist militant group.

Chandan Tiwari, a journalist with Aaj News was last seen on Monday, October 29 in the Chatra district of Jharkhand. Early on Tuesday, Tiwari was found unconscious in the jungle and rushed to hospital where he was declared deceased. According to investigations Tiwari had lodged two police complaints over threats he had received with police.

Read more here.

  1. Good news story: Japanese journalist abducted in Syria, released

On October 24, Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda was released, three years after he was abducted in Syria. Jumpei Yasuda was abducted in June 2015, after travelling from Turkey to Syria to report on the country’s civil war. According to BBC, Yasuda was held by the al-Qaeda-linked group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which was once known as al-Nusra Front. He was released on Wednesday, October 24 and arrived back in Tokyo on Thursday. He returned to Japan to celebrations from his family, but was also widely criticised online for his reckless behavior. 

Read more here.

  1. Political crisis in Sri Lanka raises concerns over media safety

Newsrooms of the state-owned media in Sri Lanka were targeted and editorial staff harassed following the controversial appointment of former president Mahinda Rajapaksha as the new Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena on October 26, 2018.

According to reports, a group of SLPP loyalists within ANCL barged into the layout section of the Daily News on October 26 night and changed the layout telling that they were acting under orders from the PM’s office. Similarly, the staff at the Sunday Observer, were pressured to publish a story of Rajapaksa being sworn in, and warned not to report any stories regarding Wickremesinghe. Senior journalists at the paper had tweeted protest against it.

Read more here.

  1. SEAJU calls for criminal case to be dropped in Indonesia

Indonesialeaks, an online collaborative whistleblower platform, has been accused of publishing a non-credible report and one of the founders, president of the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) has had a criminal case brought against him.

Following the publication of the reports, news quickly spread on social media, with many trying to discredit the investigation. Some of the media outlets have DDoS (denial of services) attacks on websites, taking them offline for several hours.

On October 23, a criminal report was filed against Abdul Mannan under the Indonesian Penal Code and remains ongoing.

Read more here.

  1. Pakistan: Journalist killed after reporting on drug mafia

Pakistani journalist Sohail Khan was shot and killed just days after filing a story about drug mafia on October 16, 2018. Sohail had just left the District Police Office (DPO) in Haripur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa when he was shot at several times. He died at the scene. He was at the DPO filing an application for protection after receiving multiple death threats following his report on drug mafia in Pakistan.

Read more here.

  1. Upcoming elections in Afghanistan raise safety concerns for media

As Afghanistan prepares to go to the polls on October 20, concerns have been raised about the access that provincial journalists will have at polling stations. Several provincial journalists have raised concerns with AIJA as IEC have refused to distribute ‘coverage cards’ for the elections on Saturday, October 20. AIJA investigations found that not only have several local journalists not been granted cards, but that IEC officials had misbehaved towards local media. IEC officials had told the journalists to go to the IEC in Kabul to get their coverage cards, which is not a feasible solution.

Read more here.

  1. Media implicated in India’s #MeToo

Indian journalists speaking out against sexual harassment have reignited India’s #MeToo movement. Accusations have been levelled at reporters, senior editors and public officials over sexual misconduct on social media in the past week. At least two newspapers have launched investigations, while Hindustan Times’ chief of bureau and political editor Prashant Jha stepped down from management roles after screenshots of alleged text messages with a colleague were posted online.

Seven women wrote to the Times of India with allegations of sexual misconduct against its Hyderabad resident editor, KR Sreenivas, for unwanted touching, explicit messages and sexual propositions. According to the New York Times, Sreenivas is on a leave of absence to allow a free and fair inquiry and an independent committee has been set up to look into the matter.

Read more here.

  1. New broadcasting bill endorsed in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Government has endorsed the Broadcasting Bill in a cabinet meeting on Monday, October 15, raising concerns over restrictive provisions. Under the draft legislation, media outlets that publish material deemed to be ‘harmful to the country’s history and image, public interest or law and order’ will be punished with a maximum of seven years’ jail and a fine of BDT 50 million (USD 588,000). Under the draft legislation, a broadcasting commission would also be established to help ‘regulate the electronic media in keeping with the international practices and standard for ensuring objectivity, neutrality and accountability of mass media’. The broadcasting commission would be responsible for licenses for private media outlets, and under the proposed bill, airing materials that may pose threat to national security and sovereignty or may appear satirical to national ideology will be prohibited.

Read more here.

  1. FCCHK VP visa renewal refused

The vice president of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Victor Mallet, has had his work visa renewal refused, raising serious concerns about freedom of speech and the press on the island. Victor Mallet is the Asia news editor of the Financial Times, and the vice president of the Hong Kong FCC. On Friday, October 5, the Financial Times revealed that Mallet’s work visa renewal had been refused noting that “this is the first time we have encountered this situation in Hong Kong. We have not been given a reason for the rejection.”

In August, Mallet chaired a luncheon at the Hong Kong FCC which included a speech by pro-democracy activist Andy Chan. The Hong Kong and Chinese governments attempted to intervene and have the talk cancelled, but the FCC went ahead.

Read more here.

  1. Myanmar: Three Eleven Media journalists arrested over report

Police officers searched the Eleven Media offices on October 9 searching for three journalists over incitement charges. 12 police officers from Tarmwe Township Police Station arrived at the Eleven Media newsroom at 7pm. According to Frontier Myanmar they were looking for Ko Nayi Min and Ko Kyaw Zaw Linn, both editors in charge, and senior editor Ko Phyo Wai Win. The journalists were not at the office at the time and police waited almost two hours. They told the publishers that they would return at 10am on Wednesday. 

Tarmwe Township Police denied knowledge of the incident. Local media reported that the charges were related to a story published on October 8, about controversial business ventures of Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein. 

Read more here.

  1. Timor Leste: Editor dismissed over role on Press Council

Francisco Simões Belo, news editor of GMN received a letter from GMN information director Francedes Sun on September 27 stating that he was dismissed from his position because his role with the Press Council did not benefit GMN. The letter also said that Francisco could not concentrate on the GMN newsroom, while he was representing journalists at the Press Council.

Francisco was elected by TLPU members to represent TLPU on the Press Council. He has registered his case and mediation is due to begin on October 29, 2018.

Read more here.

  1. Press Trust of India sacks 297 staff in one day

A notice by PTI’s Chief Administrative Officer MR Mishra (dated Saturday, September 29), read: “The following employees whose names appear in the list displayed with this notice have been retrenched from the employment of the PTI with immediate effect.” The laid off staff are non-editorial and the management claimed that their posts - transmission supervisors, engineers, assistants and attenders, have become redundant.The Press Trust of India is regarded as India’s top news agency, run by an elected board of directors consisting of the country's top media house owners. The decision to retrench employees came immediately, rather the same day after a change in the PTI Board, with Mr N Ravi, former Editor of the Hindu, taking over as its Chairman.

Read more here.

  1. SAMSN Blog: Bringing #MeToo to its logical finale

While there are encouraging signs that the media world is taking note of the groundswell of opinion against workplace harassment, there is a greater need to discuss how the complaints will be handled, the transparency with which procedures will be laid down and the secure environment in which the complainants will be given an opportunity to depose, writes Geeta Seshu.

Read more here.

  1. A Free Speech Impunity Indicator launches in India on IDEI

A Free Speech Impunity Indicator put together by FreeSpeechCollective, an initiative of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists to monitor freedom of expression in India, tracks the status of investigation in each case. It is also a grim reminder of the tortuous, but dogged, resistance to the silencing of free speech, put up by families, friends and colleagues.

In other words, only one case has gone to trial…for the last 17 years. In three cases, the accused are either not arrested, or the main accused are absconding or are arrested but out on bail. In one instance, the main accused have been arrested.

See more https://freespeechcollective.in/

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