Asia-Pacific Bulletin: AUGUST

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In this bulletin:

1.       Movement to have defamation charges against Oki Raimundo dropped continues

2.       China: Online crackdown sees online sites shut down en-masse

3.       First executive order from new Filipino President guarantees FOI

4.       Right to Information (RTI) Bill passed in Sri Lanka

5.       Philippines sees impunity win!

6.       Media crackdown in Kashmir, India following on from civil unrest

7.       Inaugural Balibo Five-Roger East Fellowship announced

8.       Chinese magazine editorial team dismissed without warning

9.       Sri Lankan Journalist attacked by political supporters

10.   SAMSN Blogs:

a.       RTI in Sri Lanka – Nalaka Gunawardene

b.      In any Kashmir emergency, why is the Press always the first casualty? – Bismah Malik

c.       Trolls target India’s Media Women – Sujata Madhok

11.   MEAA: culture of sexism in media must be tackled

12.   Reflections on digital (in)security (Digital Rights Foundation)

13.   IFJ demands better contracts for AFP staff

14.   IFJ & EFJ: EU must hold Turkish President accountable for press freedom violations

15.   When oligarchs go shopping - RSF

16.   The IPC gets you where the story takes you

 

1.       Movement to have defamation charges against Oki Raimundo dropped continues

Despite efforts by the IFJ, SEAJU, CPJ, Freedom House and IFJ affiliates, the criminal defamation charges against Oki Raimundo have not been dropped. The Timor Leste journalist was charged with criminal defamation following a story published in November 2015 in the Timor Post, which reported that Prime Minister Araujo, in his previous capacity as advisor to the Minister for Finance, recommended the winning bid for a project to supply and install computer equipment to the new Ministry of Finance building in 2014.

On July 19, the IFJ, SEAJU, CPJ and Freedom House again wrote to the Timorese Prime Minister, in response to his letter, calling for the charges to be dropped. The letter said: “the Timor-Leste press law contains a provision which allows complaints to be addressed under criminal law. That, with great respect, is not the answer to this issue. The fact that the criminal law allows for the investigation and prosecution of journalists for inaccuracy or what may be regarded as unfair reporting points is, by itself, unacceptable in any modern democratic country.”

In addition to the new letter, the IFJ also released a report on press freedom and criminal defamation in Timor Leste, authored by IFJ legal representative and Australian Barrister, Jim Nolan. Read the report here.

Read more here.  

2.       China: Online crackdown sees online sites shut down en-masse

A recent crackdown by the Cyberspace Administration of China has seen several online news portals shut down.  According to Paper.cn, an online Shanghai-based news source, on July 24 the Cyberspace Administration of China accused several media outlets including Sina, Sohu, NetEase and Phoenix of violating Section 16 of the Provision on Administration of Internet News Information Service, which stipulates that only Government-approved online media outlets can produce original news coverage and reports. The office demanded four of the online outlets shut down or “clean up their programs”.

Read more here

3.       First executive order from new Filipino President guarantees FOI

The new Philippines’ President, Rodrigo Duterte, signed an Executive Order (EO) on Freedom of Information (FOI) in the Philippines on July 23. The EO marks a swift fulfilment of an election promise made by President Duterte, which guarantees FOI for all government offices under the executive branch. The EO enables Filipino citizens to request information regarding official acts, transaction or decisions as well as government research data used for policy development from government agencies. However, the EO does not cover the Philippines Congress or the judiciary due to the doctrine of the separation of powers. For those two bodies to be included, the legislature would have to enact an FOI Act.

Read more here

4.       Right to Information (RTI) Bill passed in Sri Lanka

After unanimous approval by Parliament on Friday, June 23 the Right to Information Bill was officially enshrined in Sri Lankan law. It includes provisions on the public’s right to know, assures access to information from government, public and local entities, as well as information held by organisations who receive significant funding from the government. The Ministry of Mass Media will be responsible for its implementation and will establish a Right to Information Commission to directly oversee the functions of the Bill. The IFJ and its affiliates the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) celebrate this continued progress towards press freedom in Sri Lanka.

Read more here.

5.       Philippines sees impunity win!

On Monday, June 27, Dennis Lumikid was convicted of the murder of Mati City broadcaster, Desiderio Camangyan, in 2010. Lumikid, a local police officer, was sentenced to a maximum of 40 years imprisonment for the murder of Mati City broadcaster, Desiderio Camangyan on June 4, 2010. Camangyan was a blocktimer for a program on Sunrise FM. He was hosting a local singing contest in a village in Manay, Davao Oriental in the southern Philippines when he was killed.

The IFJ and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) welcome this conviction as progress against impunity in the region. However, given that this conviction took six years and that journalists in the Philippines continue to face violence and oppression it is clear that huge challenges remain.

Read more here

6.       Media crackdown in Kashmir, India following on from civil unrest

On Saturday, July 16, Kashmir authorities banned the publication of all newspapers in Kashmir for three days, following police raids of media houses in Srinagar including the Greater Kashmir, Rising Kashmir, Daily Kashmir Images and Kashmir Observers. During the raids, police immediately halted the printing of editions and confiscated printed papers due for release. This is the first incident of a formal ban on the media by the state government of Kashmir & Jammu. On Saturday, the government also had all cable networks taken off air, but they were returned on Saturday evening. The incidents come after mobile internet services were suspended on July 8, and remain suspended.

The government spokesperson said that ‘the undesirable step was taken to ensure peace’, following unrest which left dozens dead, with clashes between security forces and protests over the killing  of militant leader Burhan Wani on July 8. However, editors called the ban an attack on the freedom of the press.

Read more here.

7.       Inaugural Balibo Five-Roger East fellowships announced

On August 1, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) along with Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA announced the recipients of the inaugural Balibo Five-Roger East fellowships. The four were chosen from six separate applications assessed by a selection panel in Australia. The inaugural recipients of funding from the fellowship, which aims to nurture the development of journalism in East Timor are:

Maria Zevonia F. Vieira, an independent film and radio documentary maker with a particular interest in land ownership, gender-based violence and youth unemployment/violence.

Jose Belo, Cristovão Alexandre da Costa, and Teodorico Aleixo Fernandes da Conceição, who will work together as an team investigating corruption and governance issues. Belo, a veteran investigative journalist and editor, will mentor the two younger journalists as well as produce his own work.

The Balibo Five-Roger East Fellowship has been established to honour the memory of the six Australian journalists murdered in East Timor in 1975, and to improve the quality and skill of journalism in East Timor.

Read more here.  

8.       Chinese magazine editorial team dismissed without warning

On July 12, he Chinese National Academy of Arts issued a notice stating that Jia Leilei, a review committee member of the State of Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Television and Film, would replace Du Daozheng as publisher of the political monthly magazine, Yanhuang Chunqiu. In addition, the statement also said that the entire senior editorial team was removed and replaced with a new team. The statement claimed that that the decision was made on June 27, however there were no consultations held with staff who were only made aware of the changes when they read the published statement.

Read more here.

9.       Sri Lankan Journalist attacked by political supporters

Daya Neththasinghe, an environmental journalist and features editor for Sathhanda newspaper in Sri Lanka, was assaulted on Tuesday, July 12. Supporters of politician Piyasena Gamage attacked the journalist at a temple in Neluwa, Galle while he was in a meeting concerning the environmental impact of a power plant. Several locals assisted Neththasinghe and took him to hospital.

Read more here.

10.   SAMSN Blogs

a)      RTI in Sri Lanka: It took 22 years, and the journey continues  - Nalaka Gunawardene

The Sri Lankan Parliament officially adopted the Right to Information (RTI) Bill as law on June 24. This decision comes after two decades of advocacy, false starts and setbacks. The Bill was almost passed in 2002 but an expedient President dissolved Parliament prematurely. RTI stood no chance during the authoritarian rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa from 2005-2014. However, the challenge is far from over. Decades of secrecy will now be drastically changed and public institutions will have to proactively disclose information to the public. While this is a milestone, the journey continues.

Read more here

b)      In any Kashmir emergency, why is the Press always the first casualty? – Bismah Malik

In light of the current unrest in Kashmir, marred by the worst violence the valley has seen in six years, questions about the freedom of press and journalists come to the fore yet again.

Read more here.

c)       Trolls target India’s Media Women – Sujata Madhok

Online stalking and trolling have now become serious problems for those who frequent social media. The web’s anonymity enables people to make outrageous allegations and threats without fear of repercussion, and those who face online abuse typically have no recourse to justice. Female journalists often bear the brunt of this abuse.

Read more here

11.   MEAA: culture of sexism in media must be tackled

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union for Australia's journalists,  has called for the culture of sexism in the media to be tackled, following sexist comments made on national radio. A recent survey commissioned by the MEAA's Women In Media initiative over more than 1000 media workers found an overwhelming sense that the media was still a "blokes world", where casual sexism and discrimination was rife. Read more here.

12.   Reflections on digital (in)security (Digital Rights Foundation)

Driven by the acute online harassment suffered by women in Pakistan, and stories of others murdered for having shared images or for merely owning a mobile phone, lawyer Nighat Dad set up the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) in 2012. She shares her thoughts on digital security after participating in a media summit in Palau, in March of 2016.

Read more here.

13.   IFJ demands better contracts for AFP staff

As of July 20, more than 3500 people have signed the IFJ petition, which is designed to place pressure on Agence France Presse (AFP) to abandon the newly proposed contracts for freelance photographers in numerous countries. The proposed contracts enable the company to use photographer’s photos and videos in any medium, language or form, and in any future products.

Become part of the campaign, take action v:shapesnow

14.   IFJ & EFJ: EU must hold Turkish President accountable for press freedom violations

As arrests of journalists and media closures continue, both the International and the European Federation of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ) call on the European Union to take additional steps to hold Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan accountable for press freedom breaches.  

Since the coup attempt to topple President Erdogan failed on 16 July, the IFJ and EFJ have been v:shapesrecording the number of arrests of journalists and media closures allegedly associated with the pro-Gülen movement that is accused of being behind the failed coup.  

The IFJ and the EFJ have launched a Solidarity Campaign with the Turkish journalists.

For more information on how you can help – click here.

15.   When Oligarchs Go Shopping - RSF

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released a report entitled “Media: When Oligarchs Go Shopping” on July 20. This report uses the term “oligarchs” to refer to billionaires who create or take over media empires to serve their business or political interests. The report describes the current situation of the media world in which journalism and freedom of information face an invisible wall of money and conflicts of interest.

Read more here

16.   The IPC gets you where the story takes you

The IFJ has launched an international campaign to promote the International Press Card (IPC), IFJ’s global press pass. The campaign highlights the importance of the card for journalists across the world, working to support their safety and recognition across the globe.

The IPC is available to all IFJ affiliate members and can give you access to EU and UN government officials, as well as assist in important and sometimes dangerous situations.

For more information visit the IFJ website here.