Asia Pacific Bulletin: January

Welcome to the first IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin for 2019

Reuters journalist Wa Lone outside court in Myanmar during his trial for breaching the Official Secrets Act. Credit: Steve Tickner

Welcome to the IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on February 1, 2019 and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email [email protected]

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In this bulletin:


  1. IFJ & SEAJU launch first South East Asia Media Report: Underneath the Autocrats
  2. Asia Pacific remains deadliest region for journalists
  3. Appeal rejected for Myanmar Reuters journalists
  4. Journalist unions need to adapt to a digital ecosystem
  5. Bidding farewell to Ujjwal Acharya
  6. IFJ welcomes Ratna Ariyanti to AP team
  7. Sri Lankan unions launch petition to action on impunity
  8. Bangladesh: Internet throttled, journalists attacked during parliamentary elections
  9. State-owned media threatened in Sri Lanka
  10. Trolling is not part of the job
  11. HK govt must guarantee Access to Information in new legislation
  12. Pakistan: Over two thousand jobs lost as newspaper shuts
  13. Afghan radio director & owner abducted, driver killed
  14. Cambodia: Joint letter calls for charges against former RFA reporters be dropped - RFA



  1. IFJ & SEAJU launch first South East Asia Media Report: Underneath the Autocrats

On December 19, the IFJ and SEAJU launched the first South East Asia Media Report – Underneath the Autocrats: A Report into Impunity, Journalist Safety and Working Conditions. The IFJ’s major research into South East Asia’s media canvassed the views of nearly 1000 journalists and media workers across the region in 2018 and included extensive research into legislative controls hampering independent journalism, as well as asking questions of governments, media owners and other key players on journalist safety and working conditions. The IFJ-SEAJU survey found an overriding consensus on “poor wages and working conditions” as the dominant threat to journalists in the region.  This was followed by “censorship” and “targeted attacks”, while “legal issues” was the top safety concern for journalists, followed by “cyber-attack” and “threats”. The IFJ and SEAJU also established a country ranking system for both impunity and justice. As a whole the region scored 7 out of a total possible low score of 10, for both impunity efforts by South East Asian governments and the efficacy of their justice systems to deal with attacks and threats to journalists.

Read more here and read the report here.  


  1. Asia Pacific remains deadliest region for journalists

On December 31, 2018 the IFJ published its 29th Killed List, documenting the 94 journalists and media workers killed in 2018. The IFJ list for 2018 paints a situation of an on-going safety crisis for journalists, highlighted by the cruel murder of the Washington Post columnist and Saudi national, Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. This was the latest in a series of devastating attacks on media professionals, including the multiple bomb attacks which turned Afghanistan into a killing zone for journalists and the reign of violence by organised crime in Mexico which remains firmly trained on journalists.

In the Asia Pacific region, 32 journalists were killed in 2018, making it the deadliest region. Afghanistan topped the global list with 16 murders; India was fifth with 7, followed by Pakistan with 5. The Philippines has 3 journalists killed during the year.

IFJ President Philippe Leruth said: “Once again, the IFJ is asking United Nations' Members States to adopt at their general Assembly the Convention on the security and protection of journalists which the IFJ presented to diplomatic missions at the UN in New York last October. This Convention, supported by the profession as a whole, is a concrete response to crimes committed against journalists in full impunity.”

See more here


  1.  Appeal rejected for Myanmar Reuters journalists

On January 11, a Myanmar court rejected the appeal of Reuters’ journalist Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo who were charged under the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to 7 years in jail in 2018. The pair were detained in December 2017, after they were set up by police with a promise of ‘official leaked documents’. This followed their extensive investigation into war crimes against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Northern Rakhine State, specifically the September 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingyan men and boys, with strong allegations that connected responsibility to the Myanmar army leadership.

During sentencing in September, the Myanmar judge Ye Lwin, in his sentencing, denounced both Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo with his disparaging comment that the reporters “tried many times to get their hands on secret documents and pass them to others. They did not behave like normal journalists."

Read more here.


  1. Journalist unions need to adapt to a digital ecosystem

‘Journalist unions need to adapt to the digital ecosystem and become inclusive to digital media workers to remain strong and relevant’ was one of the key messages from the two day workshop of the union leaders and digital media activists from the Asia pacific region. The meeting held in Bangkok on November 3 and 4, explored the growing issues that unions need to address in order to adapt to the changing media industry and to ensure the protection and regulation of digital media.

Read more here.


  1. Bidding farewell to Ujjwal Acharya

This month IFJ’s South Asia coordinator Ujjwal Acharya bids farewell to the IFJ after five years developing and strengthening the IFJ’s monitoring and advocacy work in this important region for journalist unions. Ujjwal first joined the IFJ team to lead its work for South Asia under the UNDEF Media for Democracy project in 2014. Under his lead, Ujjwal continued to support the development of the SAMSN network as a leading regional voice on journalist rights and freedom of expression issues. He was also a pivotal driver of the launch of the IFJ’s SAMSN Digital Hub as the central portal for journalist advocacy in the region. He also led IFJ’s digital advocacy and safety initiatives and trainings and represented the IFJ at missions in Sri Lanka and Nepal and facilitated trainings and meetings across South Asia.

Ujjwal said: “The job was personally very satisfying because of the ability to work for the cause of journalists in South Asia who continue to work despite the risks. I made so many friends and I am proud of them. I would like to thank them, and my IFJ colleagues for the supported extended to me.”

Ujjwal leaves to take up an exciting role with BBC Nepal but will remain connected to the IFJ’s advocacy efforts in the region and on issues affecting Nepalese journalists in particular.

Asia Pacific Acting Director, Jane Worthington, said: “Ujjwal is a great loss to the IFJ AP team. South Asia remains one of the most challenged regions for journalists globally but Ujjwal has taken on this monumental task with professionalism, unwavering commitment, resilience and respect. He is a dedicated activist and friend to many in our industry. We wish him all the very best for his next professional chapter.”


  1. IFJ welcomes Ratna Ariyanti to AP team

The IFJ is pleased to welcome Indonesian journalist and activist Ratna Ariyanti into a new role for the IFJ as South East Asia Coordinator. Ratna is an experienced journalist working at a number of leading Indonesian newspapers, and an important leader and keen activist for AJI Indonesia, at its Jakarta branch and for the past five years as a member of its national executive. Ratna brings with her a wealth of journalism skills, strong organising credentials as a union leader and advocate on journalist rights and gender equality as well as a wealth of experience in developing new strategies for journalists organisations in both monitoring and journalism development. Ratna has experience with research, editing and writing, as well as project coordination. She has recently worked with AJI and the IFJ on several projects including the Indonesia chapter for the South East Asia Media Freedom Report and AJI’s National Youth Program.

We are thrilled to welcome Ratna to the IFJ AP team and to develop IFJ’s work in South East Asia. This is a testament to the strong development of the SEAJU network over recent years, including the development of the report – Underneath the Autocrats: A Report into Impunity, Journalist Safety and Working Conditions – that has been supported by UNESCO.


  1. Sri Lankan unions launch petition to action on impunity

IFJ affiliates the Free Media Movement, the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association and FMETU, along with several other local media union and associations have launched a petition calling on the UN Sri Lanka Resident Coordinator to demand answers from the Sri Lankan government on failures to properly investigate outstanding cases of impunity in Sri Lanka.

The petition will be presented to the UNRO on January 29, 2019.

You can sign the petition here.


  1. Bangladesh: Internet throttled, journalists attacked during parliamentary elections

During parliamentary elections in Bangladesh on December 30, 2018, all 3G and 4G internet services were shut down and journalists were attacked.

In the lead up to and on Election Day, the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) ordered the shutting down of 3G and 4G internet services. On December 27 they were shut for 10 hours, and on December 29, until the evening of poll day, services were taken offline.

On poll day, at least seven journalists were assaulted in Dhaka and Chattogram, while a number of journalists covering polls faced obstructions from activists of political parties and law enforcers. Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo of The Daily Star and Al Amin, a staff reporter of Chattogram-based online news portal, were attacked by the AL cadres while senior reporter of Bangla daily Manab Zamin Kafi Kamal was assaulted after casting his vote in Dhaka. Meanwhile, a private television station Jamuna TV claimed that was taken off the air on the eve of the election by the cable operators without any explanation.

Read more here.


  1.  State-owned media threatened in Sri Lanka

Supporters of the United National Party (UNP) gathered outside the state-owned Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL), also known as Lake House, threating security while demanding the removal of the posters of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on December 13. The incident took place after the Supreme Court’s’ ruling that the dissolution of the Parliament by President Maithripala Sirisena was unconstitutional. A group of UNP supporters also insisted that the management of Lake House must be returned to the UNP following the ruling. Police intervened and removed the UNP supporters.

Read more here.


  1. Trolling is not part of the job

To mark International Day on the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November, the IFJ launched a global survey which found that 66 % of female respondents suffered online trolling with the majority of them claiming that the harassment was based on their gender.

Read survey results here and testimonies here.


  1. HK govt must guarantee Access to Information in new legislation

In early December, the Hong Kong Law Reform Commission (LRC) launched a three-month consultation into the public’s access to information and the management of public records, which will feed into access to information legislation.

The HKJA issued a statement expressing concerns about the public consultation. The statement said that the consultation was “nothing but a tactic to further delay the introduction of two legislations that are crucial to the monitoring of public servants.” HKJA said that the recommendation from the Access to Information sub-committee was about turning the current non-mandatory code into legislation, without addressing the key inadequacies of the current code, particularly lack of an enforcement authority to monitor its implementation.

Read more here.


  1.  Pakistan: Over two thousand jobs lost as newspaper shuts

Pakistan’s largest publication house, the Jang Group of Newspapers, shut down five newspapers in various cities rendering hundreds of journalists and media workers jobless on December 16, 2018. The Jang Group announced the closure of Peshawar and Faisalabad editions of Jang daily and shut down its Karachi-based Urdu-language daily Awam and English-language Daily News along withLahore-based Urdu daily Inqibal without a prior notice to the employees. The PFUJ also noted that Century Publications’ Urdu daily Express had closed its bureaus in Sukkur, Quetta, Gujranwala and Multan while the Herald Group of Publication shut down Herald monthly. The PFUJ estimated the total job loss in all these closures to be around 2,500.

Read more here


  1. Afghan radio director & owner abducted, driver killed

Unidentified armed men abducted Engineer Zalmay, director and owner of the Enikass radio and television stations, after killing his driver on December 4 at Jalalabad, Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. Zalmay was kidnapped at 5 pm during a shopping trip. He was taken by a group of armed men who arrived in an armoured vehicle. His driver was shot and taken to hospital where he later died. The police arrived at the area soon after the incident and cordoned off the scene. Enikass is a popular media group in eastern Afghanistan near Pakistani borders where the ISIS, the Taliban and other terrorist groups have an active presence.

Read more here.


  1. Cambodia: Joint letter calls for charges against former RFA reporters be dropped - RFA

More than three dozen journalists in Cambodia published an open letter on January 10 urging the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to drop all charges against two former RFA reporters who have lived under police surveillance for more than a year while awaiting a trial for “espionage.” The 38 journalists said they affixed their names and thumbprints to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by RFA’s Khmer Service, “to express our concern over the seriousness of the charges” facing Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, who were taken into custody on Nov. 14, 2017 and charged with “illegally collecting information for a foreign source,” but released on bail nine months later.

Read more here.

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

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