IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: February

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In this bulletin:

1. IFJ releases China’s Great Media Wall: The Fight For Freedom

2. Deadly start to 2016 – ten journalists killed in one month

3. IFJ launches 2015 Killed List

4. Court disruptions during proceedings on Sri Lanka journalist’s disappearance

5. Convictions in Bangladeshi bloggers’ murder

6. IPMI calls for action to protect freedom of expression in Indonesia

7. Human Rights lawyer handed suspended sentence in China

8. Bangladeshi journalist hacked to death

9. Journalists attacked in north-eastern China

10. Suspects in media workers murder arrested in Pakistan

11. ARY News offices attacked in Pakistan

12. Journalists attacked in Indonesia

13. French journalist harassed in China, press card denied

14. Indonesia denies visa to foreign journalist

1. IFJ releases China’s Great Media Wall: The Fight For Freedom

On January 30, the IFJ launched its eighth China Press Freedom Report, China’s Great Media Wall: The Fight For Freedom. The 2015 report is an annual analysis of press freedom and the ever increasing challenges, obstacles and challenges for journalists and media workers in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

“Propaganda, censorship, surveillance, intimidation, detention, brutality and attacks and televised ‘confessions’ have become go-to tools for the government as they tighten their grip on the media and the press in 2015,” the IFJ said.

China’s Great Media Wall: The Fight for Freedom documents the broader issues impacting the work of local journalists and media workers across Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as foreign journalists and online media. For the first time, the report also includes an IFJ assessment on the number of jailed and detained journalist and media workers and documents 51 cases, some dating back to 2009.

Read more here, access the reports here and access the jailed list here.

The IFJ has also released a digital security resource to support journalists in China. The resource is currently available online in English, with a Chinese version to be released later this week.

2. Deadly start to 2016 – ten journalists killed in one month

January has seen a deadly start to 2016 for the Asia Pacific’s media community, with 10 journalists killed.  In Pakistan, two journalists were killed in the tribal province of Khyber-Pakhtunhkwa in Pakistan’s north-west. On January 19, Mehboob Shah Afridi from Aaj TV was killed in at suicide bomb attack at the Jamrud Check Point just outside Peshawar. The attack also resulted in deaths of at least a dozen others at the scene. Meanwhile on January 16, journalist Muhammad Umar was shot dead by unidentified assailants, near Niazi Chowk, Dera Ismail Khan, a city also in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

PFUJ monitoring documents at least 29 killings in the region since 2003.

In Afghanistan, eight journalists were killed in January, making it the deadliest country for the year thus far. On January 20, a van carrying at least 30 media staff of the TOLO TV-owned Kaboora Production was targeting in a suicide bomb attack, killing seven employees. The blast followed a series of threats issued against the TV company in late 2015. According to reports, seven members of the Kaboora Production, which produces content for TOLO TV, Lemar TV, Arman FM, Arakozia FM and TOLONews of the MOBY Media Group, were killed when the van was targeted in the bomb attack at 5pm at Darul Aman Road in south western Kabul. Reports say a suicide bomber rammed a motorcycle into the van before detonating a bomb. More than two dozen others, including women and children, were injured in the attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, following threats issued in October 2015.

The deadly month ended with the murder of Afghan journalist, Haji Mohammad Zubair Khaksar, a correspondent for the government-run Nangarhar TV and Radio network, in Surkhrod district, was shot dead by unidentified assailants as he was returning returning home from a private gathering. According to reports, Khaksar had received threats from Daesh.

The IFJ expresses condolences to the families and colleagues of the victims. The IFJ also demands immediate action from governments to ensure the safety of the media community.

Read more here, here and here

3. IFJ launches 2015 Killed list

In 2015, 109 journalists and media staff were killed in targeted killings, bomb attacks and cross-fire incidents, with another 3 killed in accidents. While the number is a small decline of the previous years figures, 2015 saw an increase in targeted terrorist attacks against journalists. Asia-Pacific was the third deadliest region, with 21 killings, a sharp decline following a drop in violence in Pakistan.

In the region, India and the Philippines were the deadliest countries, with 6 and 7 deaths respectively.

Later this month, the IFJ will releases its 25th Killed List report.

Read more here and here.

4. Court disruptions during proceedings on Sri Lanka journalist’s disappearance

During the court proceedings into the disappearance of Sri Lanka journalist and cartoonist, Pragetth Eknaligoda, monk Galabodaatthe Gnanasara, a leader of the Buddhist group, Bodu Bala Sena, entered the Homagama Magistrate Court, and started shouting at the officials and lawyers, and according to reports also threatening Eknaligoda’s wife, Sandya Eknaligoda.

Prageeth, who disappeared in January 2010 in Colombo, two days before the Presidential election, for which he was campaigning against the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The case was re-opened in March, 2015 by Sri Lankan President Sirisena. In August 2015, a number of military intelligence members were charged with his abduction.

Gnanasara surrendered to the Homagama police, where he was arrested on charges of allegedly threatening Sandya Eknaligoda at the court premises. According to reports, Gnanasara will be remanded until February 9. Following his arrest, over 200 monks gathered outside the court house protesting the leader’s arrest. A number of the protesters blocked the road preventing the prison bus from leaving the premises.

Read more here and visit the IFJ Missing Journalist list Without A Trace which documents the cases of 10 missing journalists and media workers in the Asia Pacific. 

5. Convictions in Bangladeshi bloggers’ murder

On December 31, 2015, the Dhaka Special Trial tribunal handed 2 death penalties and several jail terms to the perpetrators of the murder of Rajib Haider. The tribunal sentenced to death Md Faisal Bin Nayem alias Dweep and absconding Redwanul Azad Rana. Rana was considered as the mastermind of the murder while Nayeem attacked Haider with a meat cleaver. Maksudul Hasan alias Anik was given a life term sentence, Md Ehsan Reza alias Rumman, Nayem Sikdar alias Iraj and Nafis Imtiaz were given 10-year jail each, five-year imprisonment were granted to chief of militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) Mufti Jashimuddin Rahmani and Sadman Yasir Mahmud was given three years in prison.

Haider, a blogger and activist calling for the execution of Islamist leaders for crimes committed in the 1971 independence war of Bangladesh, was hacked to death on February 15, 2013 near his house at Mirpur.

Read more here.

6. IPMI calls for action to protect freedom of expression in Indonesia

Following a week long missing to Indonesia in November 2015, the International Partnership Mission to Indonesia released its observations and recommendations calling on the Indonesian government to guarantee and protect freedom of expression in the country.

The International Partnership Mission to Indonesia, which included members from international human rights and freedom of expression organisations, including the IFJ and South East Asian Journalist Unions (SEAJU), visited Indonesia from November 8 to 14, 2015. The IPMI travelled to Indonesia to meet with journalists, government and civil society representatives to review the media environment one year on since its first visit in December 2014. During this visit, the Mission held meetings in Jakarta and Makassar, Sulawesi, as well as conducted a fact-finding visit to Jayapura, Papua, in eastern Indonesia.

Read more here and read the recommendations here.  

7. Human rights lawyer handed suspended sentence in China

On December 22, Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent human rights lawyer was found guilty of "inciting ethnic hatred" and "picking quarrels and provoking troubles" through his online comments. The court sentenced Pu to three years in prison but said the sentence would be suspended. According to local reports, including Xinhua, during sentencing Pu had "acknowledged the reality of his crimes", apologised, and expressed acceptance of his sentence. According to his lawyer Mo Shaoping he will be able to leave immediately.

During Pu’s trial last week foreign journalists, activists and foreign embassy representatives were forced to leave the court, as only state-owned media were allowed access to the court room. Australian journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald Philip Wen was pushed by someone believed to be an agent from the security bureau as he was trying to report during the trial.

Read more here.

8. Bangladeshi journalist hacked to death

On December 23, unidentified assailants hacked Bangladeshi journalist, Mashiur Rahman Utsho, to death after tying him to a tree in an isolated place in Dharmadas area on Dhaka-Rangpur Highway.

Police officers recovered the body on 24 December and confirmed that the death was the result of a planned murder with killers hitting the journalist with sharp weapons in the head and hands. The police is trying to recover the cell phone, motorbike and digital camera the killers took away from the slain journalist.

Read more here.

9. Journalists attacked in north-eastern China

The three journalists working for the Yangtse Evening Post and Modern Express Post tried to report on a protest in front of a local high school, following the discovery of a student’s body in a nearby river on January 10. Shortly after the protest, which was organized by the victim’s family, started, police arrived and immediately started detaining protesters. At the same time, some of the police focused on the journalists, ignoring their press cards and roughly forcing them into a police car.

According to the journalists, they were punched and kicked by police officers, following which they were detained for three hours for ‘provoking public order’.

Read more here

10. Suspects in media workers murder arrested in Pakistan

On January 5, two suspects in the 2014 murder of Express News staff, Aziz Khan, Khalid Khanand and Ashraf Arian, were arrested in Karachi. Tanver Nadim and Squib Ahmad Pasha, reportedly affiliated with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (a faction of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan) and claims that they had confessed the killing of the three media workers of Express News as well as police staffers in different attacks. 

Khan, Khanand and Arian were killed when four gunmen on two motorbikes approached the stationary vehicle they were in and opened fire through the window. The three men were shot multiple times from close range and died on the spot. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had claimed responsibility for the attack. 

Read more here

11. ARY News offices attacked in Pakistan

According to ARY News, unidentified attackers hurled a hand grenade at the Islamabad bureau office of ARY News, on January 13, also firing gunshots injuring a non-linear editor. Security guards retaliated swiftly forcing the attackers to flee away. The attackers threw pamphlets claiming that the Islamic State’s Afghanistan chapter carried out the attack ‘in reaction to the channels coverage of on-going operation Zarb-e-Azb’. Zarb-e-Azb is a joint military offensive being conducted by the Pakistan Armed Forces against various militant and terrorist groups.

Read more here.

 12. Journalists attacked in Indonesia

In two separate incidents, journalists in Indonesia have been attacked by local police. On December 1, Topilus B Tebai, editor of majalahselangkah.com, was covering the preparations to commemorate the declaration of West Papua independence in Nabire in West Papua. Topilus was taking pictures of police vehicle inspections at the Heroes Cemetery. A police officer, allegedly claiming to be a police leader, kept distracting Topilus. Shortly after two other officers came over to Topilus and stopped him, asking for his camera. The officers continued to question Topilus and one officer tried to kick the journalist. Topilus told the officers he was a journalist and showed his press card, however the officers then started yelling and demanded to speak with the editor-in-chief of majalahselangkah.com. Topilus protested against the officers’ actions, telling them that they were violating Indonesia’s press law. Officers told Topilus to delete the photos and that he shouldn’t be photographing the police operations. Five more officers approached Topilus and forcibly removed his camera. Police officers then kicked Topilus and forcibly removed him from the Heroes Cemetery.

In the second incident on the same day in Jakarta, Archicco Guilianno of ABC Australia and Step Vaessen of Al Jazeera were covering a rally organized by Papuan students in Jakarta when they were attacked and intimidated by local police. According to AJI police asked Guilianno to erase her footage of the rally, however when she didn’t immediately comply but identified herself as a journalist, she was beaten by an officer. Vaessen recorded the incident and was then requested by police to delete the footage, when she didn’t comply police forcibly removed the footage.

Read more here.

13. French journalist harassed in China, press card denied

French journalist, Ursula Gauthier, who was the China correspondent for French magazine, Le Nouvel Observateur (L’Obs), was harassed following an article she published in November 2015, regarding alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang. Following the article, on November 20, the Global Times published an editorial which said that Gauthier, was ‘seriously distorting the reality of Xinjing’, ‘bias’ and ‘lost the basis of common sense’ following an article she published on November 18.

Following the editorial, Gauthier received widespread criticism and harassment on social media.

She was forced the meet with government officials, who demanded an official apology. Gauthier refused to apologise and in late-December the government announced that her press card would not be renewed.

On December 31, Gauthier left China.

Read more here and in the 2015 China Press Freedom Report.

14. Indonesia denies visa to foreign journalist

Indonesia refused to issue a media visa to a French journalist who produced a documentary about alleged state-sponsored human rights abuses in the easternmost Papuan provinces. Cyril Payen, a Bangkok-based reporter for France 24 television, received notice of the denial from Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which did not give a reason. Payen spent a week reporting in Papua in July, two months after President Joko Widodo announced that his government would allow foreign journalists unrestricted access to the region. It is home to a low-level secessionist movement and one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines.

Read more here.