IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: December 2014

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In this bulletin:

1.       IFJ End Impunity Campaign 2014

2.       IFJ Mission to the Philippines to commemorate fifth anniversary of massacre

3.       IFJ writes to Pakistan Prime Minister calling for end to impunity

4.       14th journalist murdered in Pakistan

5.       Thai journalist call for end to oppressive media laws

6.       Female employee assaulted by editor in the Maldives

7.       Cambodian journalist’s killers sentenced

8.       Indian journalist dies in car accident

9.       Media Rights Monitoring and Advocacy Training held in Kabul & New Delhi

10.   Gender safety in Afghanistan workshop

11.   Two witness of journalist massacre ambushed

12.   IFJ open letter to China’s judiciary over journalist trial

13.   SAMSN Digital Hub launches

14.   Indian journalist reinstated after court rules dismissal arbitrary

15.   Union representative attacked in Nepal

16.   SEAJU call investigation in Burmese journalist death

17.   SEAJU calls on President Jokowi to tackle impunity

18.   IFJ Research Study on gender nearing completion.

1. IFJ End Impunity Campaign 2014

The IFJ Asia Pacific ran a major campaign throughout November to raise aware to impunity for journalist attacks in our region. The campaign ran from November 2 to 23, launching on the inaugural UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. The 22-day campaign had its focus on Pakistan and the Philippines, the two worst countries for journalists in the Asia Pacific region, but also shared stories and actions from the region with affiliates right across the region taking part. The ’22 Days – 22 Stories’ campaign highlighted individual cases, stories and information on impunity including 'Impunity has many faces - #whatareyoudoing? #AbdullaYameen',  'How can we improve coverage of cases where killers of journalists get away with murder?',  Afghan journalists speak out against impunity,'A voice silenced: Gerry Ortega: A case study of impunity in the Philippines' and 'Impunity has denied us justice, says family of Saleem Shahzad'. We also released an infographic on the impunity issue in Pakistan.

IFJ affiliates also joined the #whatareyoudoing, which aimed at calling those in power to account. Using the hashtag and the names of leaders of countries to call them to respond or action on the issue of impunity. See some of the photos here, here and here.

2. IFJ International mission to the Philippines to commemorate fifth anniversary of massacre

The IFJ led an International mission to the Philippines with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) to mark the 5th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre, where 58 people died including 32 journalists as they were ambushed on a political convoy in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009. Since then, another 33 journalists have been killed and the mission called on the Aquino government to do more to counter the appalling record of journalist impunity in the country. The mission included representatives from the IFJ, NUJP, the Media Safety and Solidarity Fund, Australia’s MEAA, and the South East Asian Journalist Unions (SEAJU). The mission visited Maguindanao in the south of the Philippines to meet with local media and families of the 32 journalists who lost their lives in the massacre and joined them as they visited the site of the massacre and the cemetery in General Santos city where many are buried. In Manila the mission met with government officials, including the Justice Secretary Leila Di Lima to discuss the state of impunity in the Philippines and progress of the case against the perpetrators of the massacre. On the Sunday, the fifth anniversary, the mission attended the million candles vigil to remember the victims of the worst massacre of journalists in history. The report of the mission will be published one month on from the 5th anniversary – on December 23.

Read more here and here. See photos from the mission here.  

3. IFJ and SAMSN write to open letter to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

The IFJ and the SAMSN joined the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in  a National Day of Action Against Impunity in Pakistan on November 2. As part of the campaign against Pakistan’s dire state of impunity, the IFJ and SAMSN wrote to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, calling on him to recognize November 2 as a national and global day of action and to make concerted efforts to bring to an end to the country’s entrenched culture of impunity for journalist killings.

Horrifically this year, 14 journalists have been killed in Pakistan and many more threatened, intimidated and attacked. According to SAMSN, Pakistan is fast becoming the deadliest country for journalists, leading the world in killings this year – ahead of Iraq and Syria.

The joint letter, also signed by leading Pakistani journalists and activists, calls on the Pakistan Prime Minister to respond to a list of eight recommendations including urgent appointment of full-time federal and provincial special prosecutors dedicated to investigation cases of attacks against journalists; investigate into the cases of all journalists killed in Pakistan since 2000 and pursuit in the courts of their relevant provinces; the families of the targeted journalists be awarded appropriate compensation and financial assistance; ensure a passage of a law on media safety; and reforming the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) law, which governs the independent broadcast sector. Read the letter here and find the statement here.

The PFUJ and its affiliates across Pakistan also held rallies, awareness lectures, and candle vigils in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Hyderabad, DG Khan, Bahawalpur, Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Hafizabad, Gujrat and Abbottabad to mark the UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.

4. 14th journalist dies in Pakistan

Jewan Arain, a journalist of Dharti TV, was killed in Ghambat Khurha, Sindh, in Pakistan’s Southeast, on November  5. According to reports, a group of people opened fire on him when he was on the way to his office at about 3pm. He died at the scene as a result of his injuries.

The motive behind the killing has not been established, however, other journalists in Sindh believed it was related to his profession and staged a protest demanding the killers’ arrest.

With the 14th assassination in 2014, Pakistan leads its global death toll as the most dangerous country for journalists and media workers, outranking Syria and Iraq in journalist killings. More here.

5. Thai journalists call for oppressive media laws to be revoked

Thai journalists have called from the oppressive media laws, that have been in place since the declaration of Martial Law by the Thai Army in May, to be revoked. Since May the country’s media have been under continued pressure, which is stifling press freedom in the country. More than 100 websites and 15 radio stations have been shut down by the military government under the guise of ‘keeping law and order’.

The South East Asian Journalists Union (SEAJU) and the IFJ also joined Thai journalists and unions is calling for an improvement to the media situation in Thailand. In a joint statement SEAJU and the IFJ called an increased respect for journalists’ right to form and join unions and the urgent need for improvement to the state of press freedom in the country.

Read more here and here. 

6. Female staffer assaulted by editor in the Maldives

Adam Haleem, editor of VNews online was arrested on November 11, after CCTV footage surfaced showing him assault a female employee. The footage showed Haleem grab the female who fell onto the stairs before another employee intervened to stop the attack.

Haleem was arrested and remanded in custody for five days. Following his arrest his employer terminated his contract. It was reported the assault was due to personal matters and the female victim did not receive serious injuries.

Read more here.  

7. Cambodian journalist’s killers sentenced

The killers of Suon Chan, a Cambodian journalist murdered in January have been sentenced to 13 years in jail and ordered to each pay the family five million riel (USD 1,250) compensation. Five of the killers were charged in absentia, as they have been missing since the murder earlier this year.

Chan was murdered following a report he published on illegal fishing in Kampong Chnang. His murder is part of concerning pattern the IFJ has documented, with increasing violence against Cambodian media workers in 2014.

Read more here.

8. Indian journalist dies in car accident

Shivam Bhatt, a 24-year-old reporter with Zee News, died in a car accident on November 20 in Barwala, Haryana in north eastern India. He was in Haryana covering the arrest of the controversial preacher Rampal. The other occupants of the car were injured in the accident, and remain in hospital in a stable condition.

Following the death, the Haryana Government released a statement announcing compensation of IRs 500,000 for his family.

Read more here.

9. Media Rights Monitoring and Advocacy Training held in Kabul & New Delhi

The IFJ Asia-Pacific organized the media rights monitoring and advocacy workshops as part of the new South Asia Media for Democracy project supported by UNDEF, in Kabul, Afghanistan and New Delhi, India in November.

The workshop in New Delhi, on November 6 and 7, was hosted by the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) with representatives of the All India Newspaper Employees Federation (AINEF), the National Union of Journalists – India (NUJ-I) and the Journalists Association of Bhutan (JAB); and journalists from Kashmir, Assam, Arunanchal Pradesh, Orissa, and Chhatisgarh participating to discuss journalism and media rights situation in India’s troubled states.

The IFJ with the Afghan Independent Journalist Association (AIJA) held a Media Rights Monitoring and Advocacy workshop on November 5 and 6 with the Media Rights Monitoring. The workshop was attended by journalists from across the country including men and women.

10. Gender safety in Afghanistan workshop

The IFJ Asia-Pacific organized a gender safety training workshop as part of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) supported by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, in Kabul, Afghanistan on 3rd and 4th of November.

The workshop was hosted by the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA) and one of the South Asia Gender Representatives, Dilrukshi Handunnetti from Sri Lanka was the trainer for the workshop.

The workshop was attended by male and female journalists from across the country, and focused on issues such as violations of journalist rights, violence and harassment against women journalists, including attacks against women as well as reporting on sexual harassment and violence against women.

11. Two witnesses of journalist massacre ambushed

A few days before the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre in the Philippines, two witnesses were ambushed and one was killed. Denniz Sakal and Sukarno ‘Butch’ Saudagal we travelling to Sharrif Aguak in Maguindanao, in the same region as the massacre took place five years earlier, to meet with lawyers and formalize their testimonies.

They were ambushed by six men, armed with high power weapons, who opened fire on them. Sakal died at the scene and Saudagal was hospitalized with injuries. Sakal is the fourth witness to be killed since the massacre took place in 2009.

At least four witnesses have now been killed in association with the massacre case – which is the worst single atrocity and slaughter of journalists in history.

Read more here.

12. IFJ open letter to China’s judiciary over journalist trial

Gao Yu, a veteran journalist who was arrested in April for allegedly ‘illegally obtaining state secrets’ in on trial in China. Her lawyer is arguing that Gao’s confession, obtained by the Procuratorate was done so by compelling Gao after threatening to prosecute her son.

The IFJ has written to the President of the Supreme People’s Court of China, Zhou Qiang and the Procurator-General of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Cao Jianming urging them to uphold the rule of law in Gao’s trial. In the letter the IFJ said: “We urge President Zhou and Procurator-General Cao to uphold Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution, which enshrines the people’s right to freedom of expression and the principle of the rule of law."

Read more here.

13. SAMSN Digital Hub launches

The South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) launched the Digital Hub, which will become a central repository of South Asia-related media issues, press statements and resources; and also a one-stop website for news and statements. The Digital Hub is part of the South Asia Media Solidarity for Democracy Project funded by UNDEF.

The Digital Hub aims to bring together SAMSN members to work in concert regionally to defend freedom of expression rights, media rights, right to information, and national and international frameworks, both in secure online and off-line environments.

The SAMSN Digital Hub features an attack on media map, campaigns, photo galleries of the SAMSN events, activities of IFJ Asia-Pacific and journalists unions in the region, a blog for the journalists around the region to write about their experiences of media and related issues.

We welcome your submissions for the Digital Hub. All the affiliates and partners of the SAMSN are requested to send in any material they want to publish in the Digital Hub to ifjsouthasia@gmail.com Visit the beta version of the SAMSN Digital Hub here.

14. Indian journalist reinstated after court rules dismissal arbitrary

272 media workers from The Hindustan Times who were dismissed from their jobs seven years ago have had the High Court term their dismissal as arbitrary and call for their immediate reinstatement, with back wages of nine years. The High Court said their dismissal was based on a fictitious transaction.

Indian unions, the National Union of Journalists, India and the Delhi Union of Journalists appauled the decision to reinstate and back pay the employees.

Read more here.

15. Union representative attacked in Nepal

Narayan Adhikari, a correspondent for National News Agency, journalist with Hamro FM radio and chairman of the Nepal Press Union district committee was attacked by two unidentified people on motorbike on November 20. Adihkari was near his home, after returning from work when he was attacked with sharp weapons. He sustained injuries to his arm and was hospitalised.

Read more here.

16. SEAJU call investigation in Burmese journalist death

The South East Asia Journalists Union (SEAJU) has called for an investigation into the death of Aung Kyaw Naing at the hands of the Burmese Army on October 4. The army did not issues news of the death until late October, when they said that Aung Kyaw Naing was shot dead by an officer as he tried to escape their custody. Following the news of his death and immediate burial, the President of Myanmar Thein Sein ordered the body be exhumed.

SEAJU said: “The attempt to cover up his murder echoes similar methods that have been brought into play throughout the region, where critical media are often depicted as obstacles to progress or even ‘enemies of the state.”

Read more here.

17. SEAJU calls on President Jokowi to tackle impunity

The South East Asian Journalists Union (SEAJU) has called on Indonesia’s new President, Joko Widodo to combat journalist impunity in Indonesia and investigate eight outstanding murder cases that continue with complete impunity. SEAJU also said that Jokowi must take firm action to stamp out the culture of violence against journalists, with 40 known attacks in 2013.

The statement said “President Joko Widodo and his government must make it clear that the murders of journalists do not go unpunished. Journalists killed without justice foster a culture of fear and impunity and obstruct Indonesia’s democracy.”

Read the statement here.

18. UNESCO Research Study on gender nearing completion.

The IFJ is currently completing the final stages of its Research Study on Gender and Media in the Asia Pacific , a project supported by UNESCO and UNWomen, with  India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vanuatu been the seven focus countries in the Asia Pacific. Stages one and two have been completed by the researchers which included an online survey, case studies and interviews from each country. Stage three is about to wrap which includes a national country report and content analysis from Sri Lanka and Nepal. 

The final report which will include core recommendations will go forward for presentation at the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in March 2015.