South Asia Media Solidarity Network Monthly Bulletin

Welcome to the e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on June 15, 2014, and your inputs are most welcome. We encourage contributions to let others know what you are doing; to seek solidarity and support from other SAMSN members; and to find out what others are doing in the region.

To contribute, email: ifj@ifj-asia.org

SAMSN is a group of journalists’ trade unions, press freedom organizations and journalists in South Asia that have agreed to work together to support freedom of expression and association in the region. SAMSN was formed at a meeting of these groups in Kathmandu, Nepal, in September 2004. The group agreed to stand in solidarity and work together for media reform, for an independent pluralist media and to build public respect for the work of journalists in the region.

For further information on SAMSN, visit: www.ifj-asia.org/page/samsn.html 

Please feel free to distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media. 

In this bulletin:

1.    The Campaign For Justice: Press Freedom In South Asia 2013-14

2.    South Asia Celebrates World Press Freedom Day 2014

3.    IFJ Calls For Task Force To Investigate Media Murders In Pakistan

4.    Journalist Detained Without Charges In Afghanistan

5.    Journalist Shot Dead In Pakistan

6.    Senior Pakistani Journalist Hamid Mir Survives Murder Attempt

7.    Pakistani Journalist Missing In Afghanistan

8. Editor Forced To Resign As Sri Lankan Media Campaign For Right To Information

9.    Federation Of Nepali Journalists Elects New Executive Committee

10.  British Journalist Faces Contempt Charges In Bangladesh

11.  Pakistan Denies Visa Extension To Indian Journalists

12.  Pakistan Remembers the Media’s Struggle In 1970s

13.  Bangladeshi Journalist Beaten Up

14.  Eight South Asian Journalists In RSF’s 100 Information Heroes

1.    The Campaign For Justice: Press Freedom In South Asia 2013-14

The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14 released The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) launched the twelfth annual press freedom report for South Asia, ‘The Campaign for Justice’, together with UNESCO as part of its activities marking World Press Freedom Day 2014.

The report was launched at a UNESCO function in New Delhi by IFJ Asia Pacific Advisor Sabina Inderjit. Produced in partnership with IFJ affiliates in the region and members of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN), the report provides an annual report card on the situation of press freedom, media rights and other development relevant to media in South Asia.

The 2014 report also highlights two pressing issues of concern, impunity over crimes against journalists and gender equity for the growing number of women journalists working in the region. The report can be accessed online here and the PDF version can be downloaded here. The press release on the report is here.

2.    South Asia Celebrates World Press Freedom Day 2014

The IFJ affiliates and the SAMSN partners in South Asia marked 2014 World Press Freedom Day by organising various programs and issuing statements in support of freedom of expression, media rights and free press.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and its affiliate unions held rallies and seminars throughout Pakistan to celebrate World Press Freedom Day.

The PFUJ held its federal executive committee meeting, a seminar and a rally in Lahore. The seminar was participated by 2,800 journalists and the Federal Minister for Ports & Shipping Kamran Michael, Provincial Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah and other Members of Parliament. The PFUJ also honored 150 journalists with ceremonial awards to commemorate their services for the freedom of press and tireless work.

Also, a three-day All Pakistan Women Journalists Convention was organised at the Lahore Press Club, which concluded with a declaration that condemned attacks on journalists and demanded economic rights of employees, including decent wages and insurance cover.

The Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) launched a public campaign to put pressure on the government and opposition parties to adopt the Right To Information Bill. Sri Lanka is the only country in South Asia that does not have a Right to Information Act. The Free Media Movement (FMM) outlined a very fearful situation for media and called on government to ensure press freedom to strengthen democracy.

The Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) organised a round table discussion on press freedom at the National Press Club, Dhaka. Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu and the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser Iqbal Shobahan Chowdhury attended the discussion. View photos here.

In Nepal, the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) held a press freedom rally in Kathmandu with hundreds of journalists participating. The Freedom Forum awarded NepalNews.com with the annual 'Courageous Journalism Award'.

3.    IFJ Calls for Task Force to Investigate Media Murders in Pakistan

On World Press Freedom Day, the IFJ joined international calls for the government of Pakistan to set up an independent task force to investigate the increasing number of brutal attacks that are wreaking havoc on the country’s media community.

The IFJ urged the Pakistani government to bring an end to impunity for violence against journalists and to ensure that the perpetrators of these acts answer for their crimes and face the full weight of justice. The IFJ call followed a spate of appalling attacks in the country since the turn of the new year that have caused the death of seven media workers dead, while countless others have been intimidated, threatened and abused. More here.

4.    Journalist detained without charges in Afghanistan

Syed Rahman Bekore, a local reporter stationed at Kunar province for the Waqt News Agency is being unlawfully detained by an Afghan state agency. He was arrested on April 27 along with a Deutsche Welle reporter Abdullah Nezami and another local in Jalalabad without a warrant. 

While the other two were released after a matter of hours, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) has kept Bekore in custody in an undisclosed location for two weeks without charge. His family and colleagues have not been provided any information about his situation. More here. 

5.    Journalist Shot Dead in Pakistan

Shahzad Iqbal, 28, a correspondent for SAMAA TV and editor of a local newspaper, was shot dead in Mianwali of Punjab Province on Tuesday, April 23. He was travelling to his office with his brother on a motorcycle when unidentified armed men intercepted them and opened fire. Iqbal was shot multiple times and died on the way to hospital.

Iqbal had been working in journalism for over seven years for various media outlets. An initial police investigation has indicated that the motive for the attack may stem from a personal feud. More here. 

6.    Senior Pakistani Journalist Hamid Mir Survives in Murder Attempt

Renowned anchor of Geo News TV Hamid Mir, 47, survived a murder attempt in Karachi on Saturday, April 19. Mir was attacked on a busy road as he left Jinnan International Airport on his way to his office. He was chased down by a car and two motorcycles and was shot at three times. Mir sustained injuries to the lower part of his body.

Mir hosts a political talk show on Geo News TV and writes regular columns. He is an esteemed journalist with a long standing as a newspaper reporter and editor. Mir was banned in 2007 and 2008 from appearing on Pakistan television for his criticism toward the government. His family accused military’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI for the attack. More here.

In the aftermath, Pakistan Ministry of Defence requested that the government shut down the country’s largest television news station, Geo TV. On Tuesday, 22 April, in the first action of its kind, the Ministry requested that the government invoke media regulations to shut down Geo TV, accusing the station of running a “vicious campaign” against the ISI. More here.

7.    Pakistani Journalist Missing in Afghanistan

Faizullah Khan, a reporter for ARY News TV based in Karachi, went missing in Afghanistan where he is believed to have travelled to interview Taliban leaders. He is suspected of being detained by a state security agency in Afghanistan. A week before his disappearance, he had informed his supervisors that he would go to Peshawar and to tribal areas for some high profile interviews. Khan was transferred to Islamabad from Karachi after he was added to the hit list of terrorist organisations following the murder of journalist Wali Khan Babar in January. More here.

8.    Editor forced to resign as Sri Lankan media campaign for Right to Information

Saman Wagarachchi, a media rights activist, was forced to resign as editor of Lakbima national newspaper due to political pressure exerted on the newspaper’s management by political leaders on May 8. The owner of the newspaper Thilanga Sumathipala is a member of the Parliamant of Sri Lanka and had conceded that he had been put under pressure to remove Wagarachchi. Wagarachchi was appointed the editor of Lakbima in June last year after returning from a ten-year stay in the USA.

Last month, on April 9, he was detained and questioned for three hours by the criminal investigation bureau of police for the publication of a satirical photo caption. More on his resignation here and the police questioning here.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) launched a campaign on the eve of World Press Freedom Day on May 2 to put pressure on the government and the opposition parties to adopt the RTI Bill. Sri Lanka is the only country in South Asia that does not have a Right to Information Act. More here and here.

9.    Federation of Nepali Journalists Elects New Executive Committee

The Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) elected a new executive committee during its 24th general assembly on May 3 and 4. Dr Mahendra Bista was elected the president for three-year tenure alongside Khil Bahadur Bhandari and Anita Bindu (vice-presidents), Ujir Magar (general secretary), Prabhat Chalaune, Sangita Khadka, Dharmendra Karn and Dhurba Lamsal (secretaries) and Surya Mani Gautam (treasurer).

Meanwhile, Nepal’s president Dr Ram Baran Yadav inaugurated the new central office building of FNJ built at the Media Village, Kathmandu with government support.

The IFJ and the South Asia Media Solidarity Network congratulate the new committee and wish them a successful tenure.

10.  British journalist faces contempt charges in Bangladesh

David Bergman, a British national working for the New Age daily, is facing trial for allegedly demeaning the International Crimes Tribunal’s dignity in his personal blog.

On May 12, when he presented himself at the Tribunal, Bergman was given one additional month to outline why he should not be punished under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act-1973 for making ‘derogatory comments’. Bergman has maintained that his commentary was ‘fair criticism’. The Tribunal initiated the proceedings of the contempt charges on April 17. More here.

11.  Pakistan denies visa extension to Indian journalists

Pakistan declined to renew the visas of the only two Indian journalists based in Islamabad. Meena Menon of the Hindu newspaper and Snehesh Philip of Press Trust of India were informed by the Ministry of Information that their visas wouldn't be renewed and were asked to leave. The two Indian journalists have been working from Pakistan since August 2013.

Pakistan and India have an agreement that each is allowed two journalists in each other's capital: one from a newswire and the other from a newspaper. There hasn't been a Pakistani journalist in Delhi since 2011. The Press Club of India and other media rights organisations have condemned the denial to renew the visas. More here.and here.

12.  Pakistan remembers the media’s struggle in 1970s

Pakistani journalists unions on Tuesday May 13 remembered the struggle of journalists for the freedom of the press during Pakistan’s Martial Law in the 1970s.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journaists (PFUJ) celebrated the ‘Azm Day’ marking the anniversary of May 13, 1978, when three senior journalists were lashed in public and imprisoned for opposing the Martial Law imposed by General Zia-ul-Haq after a military coup. Haq had arrested and imprisoned hundreds of journalists since the introduction of the law in July 5, 1977. At the height of the struggles, journalists Khanwar Naeem Hashmi, Nasir Zaidi and Iqbal Jaffri were punished publicly for their brave advocacy for freedom of expression.

13.  Bangladeshi Journalist Beaten

Shishir Morol, the special correspondent of Prathom Alo, was held captive for two hours and beaten up in a hospital on Tuesday, May 13. He was beaten and locked in a room for two hours by Dr Shafiul Azam and staff Sufian of the ZH Sikder Women’s Medical College Hospital in Dhaka. Morol was working on a news story that alleged that Dr Azam had been illegally working fulltime at two hospitals. The journalist went to hospital seeking Dr Azam’s comments.

Morol was admitted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University after police rescued him after calls from his colleagues.

14.  Eight South Asian journalists in RSF’s 100 Information Heroes

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published 2014’s list of ‘100 information heroes’ for World Press Freedom Day. The heroes are the individuals who have helped to promote the freedom to ‘to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’ through their courageous work or activism.

Eight journalists and activists from South Asia made to the list of 100 global information heroes. Those are editor M. V. Kaanamylnathan (Sri Lanka), journalist Mariyath Mohammed (the Maldives), journalist Tongam Rina (India), journalist Danish Karokhel and journalist and activist Najiba Ayubi (Afghanistan), editors Muhammad Ziauddin and Hamid Mir (Pakistan) and blogger Asif Mohiuddin (Bangladesh).

For more detail about the RSF’s 100 information heroes and to read the individual profiles, click here.

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If you have information on a press freedom violation or matters relating to media freedom and journalists’ rights in South Asia, contact staff at IFJ Asia-Pacific so that action can be taken. To contribute to this bulletin, email ifj@ifj-asia.org