South Asia Media Solidarity Bulletin: MARCH

Credit: Aseem Trivedi

Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on April 15, 2017, and your inputs are most welcome. We encourage contributions to let others know your activities; to seek solidarity and support from SAMSN members for your campaigns and activities. To contribute, email Ujjwal Acharya at: [email protected] Please feel free to distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media. This e-bulletin and South Asia related content are available at the SAMSN Digital Hub:                               In this bulletin:

1.    IFJ Byte Back Campaign to combat online harassment

2.    Indian journalist released on bail after 17 months in jail

3.    Alarming closures and layoffs in Indian media

4.    Army personnel arrested for abducting journalist in Sri Lanka

5.    Sri Lankan President urged to expedite probes and end impunity

6.    Maldives journalists receive death threats

7.    Journalists attacked during political protests in Nepal

8.    Police inaction in suspicious ‘hit-and-run’ in Bangladesh

9.    Afghan Cameraman receives death threats

10.  SAMSN Blogs

a.    Sexually Explicit Abuses Land in my Inbox: Neha Dixit, India

b.    Sri Lanka’s RTI Law: Will the Government ‘Walk the Talk’? by Nalaka Gunawardene

11.  UNESCO Call for Proposals: Photographs on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity

12.  India: The media needs to rethink how it reports rape [The Wire]

13.  Maldives: Foreign journalists invited by government held up at airport

14.  Lankan organizations stand in solidarity with Maldivian media

15.  RSF opens first centre for the protection of Afghan women journalists

16.  India: Politician given four-year sentence in 2009 journalist suicide case

1. IFJ Byte Back Campaign to combat online harassment The IFJ and its Asia-Pacific affiliates on March 8 (International Women’s Day) launched a campaign highlighting the critical need to protect women’s right to voice freely and safely in the online space. Online harassment, trolling, abuse, cyber bullying and death threats have a disproportionate gender dimension. The IFJ has monitored the rising threat to women’s voices online and documented a pattern of abuse, particularly prominent in South Asia. These findings are backed by other research that shows that women are three times more likely to encounter abuse online than men. The IFJ Byte Back Campaign is intended to raise awareness to document, share information, and shame trolls; encourage support for all journalists to develop skills to combat threats online and support others; to drive media and government policy reform and to push for strong commitments by governments and online platforms to take strategic approaches to dealing with threats and abuse in a meaningful way. You all are invited to join the IFJ Byte Back Campaign by using the hashtags #DontTroll and #DefendMyVoiceOnline on your social media posts. For more information on the campaign, shareable videos and social media postcards, and resources regarding online harassment, click here for the South Asia campaign and here for IFJ statement on International Women’s Day.

2. Indian journalist released on bail after 17 months in jail

The Supreme Court of India granted bail to journalist Santosh Yadav after 17 months in prison on seemingly fabricated charges. The SC on February 27 granted bail to Yadav, a journalist for Hindi daily Navbharat in Bastar in Chhattisgarh state. He was arrested for alleged Maoist links in September 29, 2015 and charged in February 2016 with rioting, criminal conspiracy and associating with a terrorist organization. The journalist has denied all allegations and his family and friends believe the charges were fabricated to harass him for his writings on human rights abuses by the police in the conflict-ridden state.

More here.

3. Alarming closures and layoffs in Indian media

In January 2017, the Hindustan Times announced closure of four regional editions and three bureaus, sacking more than 100 journalists and media staff. Kolkata, Indore, Bhopal and Ranchi editions were closed down from January 9 while the newspaper shut down its bureaus in Allahabad, Varanasi and Kanpur, all in Uttar Pradesh. The decision was taken reportedly to move ahead with massive investments in the digitization program. The Hindustan Times also closed its Business Bureau terminating the services of around 40 journalists and media staff to syndicate business news to the publication’s business paper Mint.

In February 2017, Ananda Bazar Patrika (ABP) Group terminated the services of more than 120 journalists from Bengali daily Ananda Bazar Patrika and English daily The Telegraph. The journalists were served notices of termination with paltry compensation across bureaus in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and New Delhi. More here.

4. Army personnel arrested for abducting journalist in Sri Lanka

The Crime Investigation Department (CID) interrogated Major Prabath Bulathwatte, Sergeants Duminda Weeraratne and Hemachandra Perera and arrested them on February 20 over the 2008 abduction of and assault on prominent journalist Keith Noyahr.

Noyahr, an associate editor of the English-language weekly The Nation, was abducted and tortured after leaving his office in May 2008. Upon his release which followed intense advocacy from national and international organizations including the Free Media Movement (FMM), he fled the country with his family fearing for his life. He had written critical stories about the civil war with the rebel Tamil Tigers and commented upon the security situation. More here.

5. Sri Lankan President urged to expedite probes and end impunity

The Free Media Movement (FMM) Sri Lanka, has expressed its dismay over the statement made by President Maithripala Sirisena discouraging investigations into crimes against journalists by the security forces. President Sirisena on March 4 while referring to the allegations made against the security forces, stated that he would protect them. While speaking at the Palali Air Force Base, the President said such allegations are made by NGOs, referring to the latter in a derogatory manner. More here.

6. Maldives journalists receive death threats

Some Maldivian journalists received death threats over the coverage of government plans to develop an atoll. Raajje Television reported death threats against its staff to the Maldives Police Service (MPS) on March 2 after the station received phone calls threatening to kill journalists on the Faafu Atoll. The threat was received after the station dispatched a crew to Faafu atoll ahead of a state visit to the Maldives by the King of Saudi Arabia, who is expected to sign a controversial USD10 billion deal to develop the atoll.

In a separate incident, Hassan Mohamed and Hassan Moosa of the Maldives Independent were held overnight and released at 10 am on March 2. The police refused to let them contact their families or editors. A police officer looked through their notes and photos before they were released. More here.

7. Journalists attacked during political protests in Nepal

Shital Sah, the former treasurer of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) who runs the local Radio Janakpur in Dhanusa district in southern Nepal, was attacked near the station when he was on his way home on February 22. He sustained an injury on his head and needed treatment.

Suresh Yadav of Nagarik daily was also harassed in the same incident. Similarly, cameraperson Surendra Kumar Kamati of Mountain TV was subjected to harassment by the police for taking photographs of the policemen during the protest in Siraha. More here.

8. Police inaction in suspicious ‘hit-and-run’ in Bangladesh

Senior reporter of Daily Observer Mamunur Rashid was severely injured in what appears to be a suspicious ‘hit-and-run’ accident in Kawran Bazar on February 12. A microbus with tinted glass sped towards and hit Rashid’s motorbike.

Rashid is a noted crime reporter and had written several stories on organized crimes and drug dealers. More here.

9. Afghan cameraman receives death threats

Mahmmod Naimi, a cameraman of Ariana News, received death threats from Shaker Shinwari, the manager of Sher Ali hospital, when he inquired about the hospital services on February 16. Naimi said that he went to the hospital for filming after receiving complaints about the lack of medical services in the hospital. The officials of the hospital refused to allow him to film and when he returned to his office, Shinwari threatened him over the phone. More here.

10. SAMSN Blogs

a. Sexually Explicit Abuses Land in my Inbox: Neha Dixit, India

No woman writer, journalist or artist is untouched by attacks by online trolls. In the past, I have had dedicated forums strategising about how I should be beaten “black and blue” when I reported on Khap panchayats. I have also received rape threats, often describing how thorny sticks or sharp metal rods should be shoved inside my private parts when I wrote about bride trafficking in North India… When this is the response for a watertight story, it can be unnerving for a reporter. Trolling can, in many cases, intimidate reporters enough to shut them up. Read more.

b. Sri Lanka’s RTI Law: Will the Government ‘Walk the Talk’? by Nalaka Gunawardene

Sri Lanka’s new Right to Information (RTI) Law, adopted through a rare Parliamentary consensus in June 2016, became fully operational on 3 February 2017. From that day on, the island nation’s 21 million citizens could exercise their legal right to public information held by various layers and arms of government.

One month is too soon to know how this law is changing a society that has never been able to question its rulers – monarchs, colonials or elected governments – for 25 centuries. But early signs are encouraging. Read more.

11. UNESCO Call for Proposals: Photographs on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity

UNESCO is inviting professional photographers from all over the world to send a sample of their best photographs illustrating journalists while doing their job and in particular on the safety of journalists and impunity for crimes against them.

UNESCO is looking for images that illustrate journalists working in different situations, for example, international and/or local journalists covering demonstrations, trials, major public events, investigations on corruption, citizen journalists, journalists  embedded with police or the military, journalists reporting from a conflict zone, journalists in protected vehicles or in front of media houses with protection or any other case in which journalists, including women reporters, are at work in sensitive situations. More here.

12. India: The Media Needs To Rethink How It Reports Rape [The Wire]

The media has the power to influence how an incident of rape is perceived through the manner in which stories are constructed. It has a responsibility to use that power well. But recent weeks have put the spotlight on the shameful fact that not only does India remain unsafe for women, but also that Indian media organizations are in urgent need of a crash-course on how to report cases of rape, sexual assault and other incidents of gender-based violence. Read more here.

13. Maldives: Foreign journalists invited by government held up at airport

Three foreign journalists who arrived on an invitation from the Maldivian government were threatened with deportation for seeking to enter the country without undergoing a mandatory vetting process. A deputy editor from Climate Home, a writer from The New Scientist and a freelancer from The Guardian were held at the Velana International Airport for three hours after immigration officials learned that they were journalists. Read more here.

14. Lankan organizations stand in solidarity with Maldivian media

Nine Sri Lankan organizations called for Maldivian authorities to ensure the safety of the media while condemning “the rising wave of threats” against journalists. AFRIEL (Association for Peace and Love), Groundviews, Maatram, Rights Now Collective for Democracy, South Asia Women in Media-Sri Lanka, Transparency International Sri Lanka, Women and Media Collective, Vikalpa and Young Journalists Association called on authorities “to take all necessary steps to guarantee the safety of the media.” The group further urged the Maldivian government to “provide the environment to carry out their duties unhindered and without fear.” Read more here.

15. RSF opens first centre for the protection of Afghan women journalists

On the eve of International Women's Day, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announced the opening of Afghanistan’s first centre for the protection of women journalists. The Center for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ) is the first Afghan organization to be created by and for women journalists. Its aim is to assist and protect women journalists, especially those working in remote parts of Afghanistan, who are more vulnerable. Read more here.

16. India: Politician given four-year sentence in 2009 journalist suicide case

Former MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) Ram Kishen Gujjar and two others, convicted by an Ambala court on Tuesday in connection with the suicide of a journalist Pankaj Khanna, were sentenced to four-year jail-term on March 2. They were also asked to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of the deceased journalist. Khanna, a journalist of Naraingarh, had committed suicide on June 10, 2009 and in his suicide note, the journalist had alleged that Gujjar and two of his associates had harassed and humiliated him. Read more here.


SAMSN is a group of journalists’ trade unions, press freedom organizations and journalists in South Asia that work together to support freedom of expression and association in the region. For further information on SAMSN, visit: 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 [email protected]