Asia Pacific Bulletin: September

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In this bulletin:

1.       IFJ counts the days: Journalists missing without a trace

2.       Political reporter killed in eastern India

3.       Press freedom breakthrough in Myanmar

4.       Press freedom win: Journalist released on bail after months in detention

5.       Impunity win in the Philippines a decade on

6.       Two journalists killed in suicide blast in Pakistan

7.       Criminal defamation now legal in the Maldives

8.       Philippines Senator accuses media of poor reporting on govt policy  

9.       Prominent HK columnists abruptly suspended

10.   Bangladeshi journalists arrested for ‘false news’ report

11.   FoE set back with Pakistan cybercrime law officially passed

12.   Journalists removed from court in India

13.   IFJ condemns criminal defamation charges against Timor Leste journalists

14.   Bangladesh websites shut down en-masse

15.   TV offices attacked by political cadres in Pakistan

16.   The IPC gets you where the story takes you

1.       IFJ counts the days: Journalists missing without a trace

August 30 marked International Day for the Victims of Enforced Disappearances and the IFJ Asia Pacific and its affiliates raised awareness for the 11 journalists missing in the region. Collectively, the missing journalists from Australia, the Philippines, the Maldives, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka have been missing for 46,134 days.

The IFJ said: “Enforced disappearances are aimed to spread terror and fear. These 11 cases are indicative of the endemic impunity problem for attacks against journalists in the Asia-Pacific. The lack of progress in the cases only increases the suffering and loss; and serves to stifle press freedom in communities and societies more broadly.”

See more from the IFJ campaign here and view the IFJ monitoring record, Without A Trace here.

Join the campaign and ensure the missing don’t become a forgotten statistic, by using the #WithoutATrace #IFJMissing on social media  

2.       Political reporter killed in eastern India

Kishore Dave, the bureau chief of Jai Hind, a local vernacular daily at Junagadh in Gujarat, eastern India, was murdered in his office by unidentified assailants on Monday, August 22. Dave was stabbed in the chest multiple times as he sat as his desk finishing a report. He was alone at the time of the murder and was found later by an office assistant. Police have arrested three people in connection with the murder.

Read more here.

 

3.       Press freedom breakthrough in Myanmar

On Monday, August 1, a new bill was put forward to the lower house of Myanmar’s Parliament, which would repeal the controversial Emergency Provisions Act (1950). The bill was drafted and put forward by the Lower House Bill Committee, with Committee chair, Tun Tun Hein arguing that the bill was used by previously governments to stifle political dissent and thus should be abolished.

The Emergency Provisions Act (1950) was originally enacted under Myanmar’s first Prime Minister, U Nu, in response to the civil war that started after the country’s independence. The Act bans content that would “affect the morality or conduct of the public or a group of people in a way that would undermine the security of the Union or the restoration of law and order.” Article 19 noted that the Act was one of the most frequently used laws, with journalists, media workers, human rights defenders, trade unionists and activists facing lengthy prison terms, when they were convicted under the Act.

Read more here.  

 

4.       Press freedom win: Journalist released on bail after months in detention

Shafik Rehman, a veteran Bangladeshi journalist and editor, was granted three months bail by the Supreme Court in Dhaka on August 31. The ruling came after Rehman spent more than four months in detention without charge. Rehman was arrested for attempting to abduct and murder Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son Sajeeb Wazed Joy in the USA, yet to date, no charges have been laid against him. Rehman has been in detention since his arrest, including the prison hospital after his health deteriorated. He had previously been denied bail by the High Court, and according to his family was placed in solidarity confinement in prison.

On August 16, the IFJ, Reprieve, Index of Censorship, Reporters Without Borders and 21 other international press freedom organisations had written a joint letter demanding the immediate release of Rehman. The joint letter that was sent to Bangladeshi Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Anisul Huq, called for Shafik’s immediate release on the grounds that after more than three months since his arrest, he has been detained without charge and his health is deteriorating.

Read more here.  

 

5.       Impunity win in the Philippines a decade on

On August 11, the former-Lezo mayor, Alfredo Arcenio was found guilty of homicide over Hinolan’s murder. Judge Sylva Paderanga of the Regional Trial Court Branch 16 in Cebu City sentenced Arcenio to 14 years in jail and ordered him to pay Hinolan’s family PHP 237,500 (USD 5,000) in damages. On November 15, 2004, Henson ‘Boy’ Hinolan, the director and commentator for Bombo Radyo in Kalibo, on Panay Island in the central Philippines, died, two days after he was shot several times by unidentified gunmen. An arrest warrant for Arcenio was activated in 2006; however he eluded arrest for more than 12 months. 

In 2012, the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons was established to coordinate all government efforts to address media and extra-judicial killings and related cases. In 2014, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who heads the Inter-Agency, told the IFJ and NUJP that the Agency had 100 priority cases – 54 of which were determined as media-related killings. Hinolan’s murder was one of 54 media-related priority cases.

Read more here.

 

6.       Two journalists killed in suicide blast in Pakistan

A huge suicide attack at a civil hospital in Karachi killed two journalists and dozens of others on August 8. The blast left 53 dead including, 30 year old Shahzad Khan, a cameraman with Aaj TV, and 26 year old Mahmood, a cameraman of Dawn News and injured over 30 others including, Fareed Ullah, a reporter with Dunya News. The journalists were at the scene covering the mourning of advocate Bilal Anwar Kasi, who was shot dead earlier in the day when the blast went off.

Read more here.  

 

7.       Criminal defamation now legal in the Maldives

After decriminalising defamation in 2009, on August 9, the Maldivian Parliament passed the Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act with 47 members voting in favour and 31 voting against. The act was presented to Parliament for voting despite international condemnation against the new legislation. The law criminalizes defamatory speech, remarks, writings and actions and empowers the state authority to shut down media for its ‘defamatory’ contents. The law includes a fine between MVR 25,000 (US$1,621) to MVR 2million (US$130,000) or up to six month of imprisonment for slander, remarks or content that threatens national security or breaches social norms. Individual journalists found guilty face fines between MVR50, 000 (US$3,242) and MVR150, 000 (US$9,727), while a decision can only be appealed once the fine has been paid.  In addition, journalists could be forced to reveal sources of information, which contradicts the Article 28 of the Maldives Constitution.

Read more here.  

 

8.       Philippines Senator accuses media of poor reporting on govt policy  

Since the announcement of the new anti-drug policy in the Philippines, more than 2,000 alleged drug dealers and traffickers have been killed across the country. On August 22, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano alleged that the Philippines’ media were exaggerating the number of killings, as part of the government’s anti-drug campaign and trying to negatively impact on the campaign. Senator Cayetano specifically targeted ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer accusing them of negatively reporting on the administration for headlining the growing outrage of the killings as well as broadcasting a daily ‘kill list’.

The NUJP strongly disputed the claims and allegations made by Senator Cayetano, noting that on August 18, Philippines National Police (PNP) director general Ronald dela Rosa had presented statistics, which the media were using in their reporting.

Read more here.  

 

9.       Prominent HK columnists abruptly suspended

Dr Joseph Lian, a prominent columnist and the former editor of the Hong Kong Economic Journal (HKEJ) wrote a column for HKEJ on July 25 about Hong Kong independence. Four days later, Dr. Lain reported that he received a suspension notice from Alice Kwok Yim Ming, the editor-in-chief of the HKEJ. The suspension, which took effect on August 1 was claimed to be in response to a content revamp of the opinion page. However, this is not the first time that “restructuring of page content” has been used by the HKEJ editor as an excuse for suspension, following the Occupy Movement in 2014. Following the movement, veteran columnist, Edward Chin, was asked to stop writing after he openly supported the Occupy Movement.

Read more here.

 

10.   Bangladeshi journalists arrest for ‘false news’ report

On Monday, August 8, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) from the Bangladesh Police arrested editor Shadat Ullah Khan, executive editor Maksudul Haider Chowdhury and newsroom editor Pranto Polash of online news portal banglamail24.com at the offices in Nayapaltan, Dhaka following a story addressing rumours that Sajeeb Wazed Joy, the son of Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, had been killed. The arrest came after members of the RAB visited the banglamail24.com offices on the evening of August 7, to investigate the published articles. The RAB has filed a case against the journalists under the ICT Act, which has received widespread criticisms.

Following the arrests, the Press Information Department cancelled all temporary and permanent press accreditation cards for nine journalists from banglamail24.com, without providing a reason.

Read more here.

 

11.   FoE set back with Pakistan cybercrime law officially passed

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) 2016 was passed in Pakistan’s parliament on Thursday, August 11, despite widespread criticism from opposition parties, stakeholders and media groups for the provisions which many believe will curb freedom of expression in Pakistan. Particular criticisms focused on the vague wording in the bill, which is open for misinterpretation, restrictions on freedom of expression online and access to information. Criticisms also focused on the sweeping powers granted to the state authority to conduct surveillance on citizens. Many argued that the provisions of the law could specifically be misused to target journalists’ sources and whistle-blowers.

Read more here.

 

12.   Journalists removed from court in India

On Saturday, July 30, local police in Kerala barred journalists from reporting at the City Court on the long running Ice Cream Parlour sex scandal case. The case relates to an illegal brothel where it is believed a number of politicians frequented, which has been marred with accusations of obstructions to proceedings by those in power. The police forced the journalist out of the court room and off the court premises. As they forced the journalists away, journalists and crew from AsiaNet TV were arrested and detained for a number of hours at the local police station. Although the police defended their actions, saying they were acting on ‘court orders’, the court denied ordering any restrictions on media personnel.

Journalist Binnu Raj of AsiaNet TV said: “I along with the others was pushed, manhandled and removed and taken to the police station in a police vehicle.”

Read more here.

 

13.   IFJ condemns criminal defamation charges against Timor Leste journalists

The IFJ wrote to Timor Leste Prime Minister, Mr. Rui Aria de Araújo on August 22 demanding the criminal defamation charges against Oki Raimundos and the former editor of the Timor Post be immediately dropped.

The letter is the third written by the IFJ to the Prime Minister since April 2016.

Read more here.

 

14.   Bangladesh websites shut down en-masse

On August 4, the Bangladesh Telecommunications and Regulatory Commission (BTRC) ordered all International Internet Gateway service providers in Bangladesh to block access to 35 websites, including pro-opposition Sheersha News and Amar Desh Online, a news site of a pro-opposition Bengali daily that was shut down in 2013 following government’s cancellation of its license. The BTRC said they were blocked ‘for making objectionable comments about the government’.

Read more here.  

 

15.   TV offices attacked by political cadres in Pakistan

ARY News TV station offices were attacked by the cadres of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) political movement on August 22, with furniture, equipment damaged and vehicles set alight. According to news reports the violent storming of the station was carried out by MQM supporters Qaumi after their leader Altaf Hussein, currently in exile in London, incited them to attack TV stations during a speech criticizing media for not giving due coverage to their week-long hunger strike against the government’s crackdown against MQM, delivered over the phone and relayed by loudspeakers.

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.