IFJ Asia-Pacific Bulletin: June 2014

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In this bulletin:

1.    IFJ Asia Pacific affiliates mark World Press Freedom Day 2014

2.    “Don’t become the story” - IFJ Asia Pacific launches new blog

3.   Two journalists gunned down in Philippines, Aquino toll hits 28

4.    Thai military tightens grip on media freedom under martial law

5.    Media repression in China in lead up to Tiananmen anniversary

6.    Another suspicious Bangladesh death paints grim media picture

7.    Pakistan’s media remembers its freedom struggles

8.    Indian foreign correspondents ejected from Pakistan

9.    IFJ concern for two journalists detained in Afghanistan

10.  Sri Lankan editor forced to resign as war on journalism persists

11.  Cambodia’s disturbing press freedom deterioration

12.  Pacific nations turn to censorship to silence dissent

13.  Asia-Pacific journalists remembered in Washington

14.  British national facing charges in Bangladesh

15.  IFJ training across the region

1.    IFJ Asia Pacific friends and affiliates mark World Press Freedom Day 2014

On UNESCO World Press Freedom Day, Saturday May 3, the IFJ’s Asia Pacific affiliates marked the occasion with events, forums and activities across the region. For a full list of affiliate events for WPFD2014 see the bulletin on the IFJ Asia Pacific website.

 2.    “Don’t become the story” - IFJ Asia Pacific launches new blog

Gender safety in the Asia-Pacific is the focus of the first Asia-Pacific blog on <cite>www.ifj.org/regions/asia-pacific/</cite>

We are pleased to launch the blog with an article titled “Don’t become the story” by Lubna Jerar Naqvi from the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ). Naqvi, who is head of content development social media at Jang/Geo Group in Pakistan and is also a member of the KUJ’s executive council of KUJ, wrote the piece following her experience in the IFJ Asia Pacific’s Gender Safety training workshop in Karachi in April. The workshop included women journalists from Karachi, Hyderabad and Peshawar under the support of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. IFJ Asia Pacific will be posting a regular blog highlighting issues pertinent to press freedom and media rights in the Asia Pacific. Read Lubna Jerar Naqvi’s piece here.

3.   Two journalists gunned down in Philippines, Aquino toll hits 28

The IFJ continues to call the Aquino administration in the Philippines to fulfil its state duties to tackle the country’s dismal record of securing the safety of Filipino journalists after two more radio broadcasters were gunned down in May. Richard Nadjid, 35, a community-based journalist in Bongao, Tawi-tawi was gunned down just a day after the observance of UNESCO World Press Freedom Day on the night of May 4, 2014. He left behind a wife and five children.

Three weeks later on May 23 Samuel Oliverio, a 54 year old Digos City radio broadcaster, was shot and killed along Del Pilar Street, Digos City, at 7.30am.The killings brought the amount of journalists killed on the watch of President Aquino to 28. The IFJ’s affiliate in the Philippines was scathing about the administration in their statement released after the death of Oliverio.

NUJP chairperson Rowena C. Paraan said: “We can almost predict what comes next: police setting up another of those useless task forces that have so far failed to nail any of the masterminds in the 163 media murders before Oliverio’s, and the government vowing to bring his case to “justice” just as it has failed to do with all the other cases.”

4.    Thai military tightens grip on media freedom under martial law

Since the Thai military declared marshall law on May 20, the IFJ has monitored the deteriorating situation for local and international media. The military enacted swift and widespread censorship over the Thai media from the outset and by midday on the first day, ten media outlets stations were told to stop broadcasting to “preserve peace and order”. MV 5, DNN, UDD, Asia Update, P&P 6, Channel 7, Blue Sky, FMTV, T News, and ASTV were all amongst those taken off the air.

In a televised statement on Tuesday morning, the Army said: "The army asks that satellite television channels stop broadcasting in order to prevent the distortion of news, which creates misunderstanding. Since then, the Thai media has experienced ongoing censorship and crackdowns on dissent from the press.

On Sunday May 25, the senior reporter of The Nation, Pravit Rojanaphruk, was amongst the 100 prominent Thais summoned by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to attend the Royal Thai Army auditorium. The group have since been taken to and detained at undisclosed military locations. Two days earlier, the editor of Same Sky magazine, Thanapol Eawsakul, was arrested following an anti-coup protest on Friday, May 23.Up to 100 websites are reported to have been blocked, 15 TV stations have been closed and numerous community radio stations have been taken off the air. Read more here.

5.    Media repression in China in lead up to Tiananmen anniversary

Tomorrow (June 4) markes the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and in a harsh sign of the times Chinese authorities have been steadily cracking down on local and foreign media in the lead up to event which horrified the world. Since April, seven Mainland Chinese journalists have been detained for various reasons but in all cases no evidence have been brought forth. The detained journalists are Gao Yu, Yao Wentian also known as Yiu Man-tin, Xin Jian, Vivian Wu, Xiang Nanfu, Wai zhongsiao and Wang Jianmin. All work for overseas or Hong Kong media outlets. Among the charges are "publishing state secrets", "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", "smuggling ordinary goods" and "illegal operating publication".

Other than journalists being detained, the IFJ has been told that many foreign journalists are finding it very difficult to interview people who were witnesses to the massacre and its associated demonstrations. Many interviewees refused interview requests due to them receiving a "warning” from authorities, some such as Ding Zilin -prominent representative of the Tiananmen Square Mothers, were forced to leave their apartments after authorities barred an independent cameramen from conducting an interview with her.

Pu Zhiqiang, a participant of the Student Movement in 1989, now a human rights lawyer, was detained and charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” after he attended a private commemoration of the 25th anniversary in early May. Dozens more activists have been detained by police across the nation without charge. Read more about the detainments here and here

6.    Another suspicious Bangladesh death paints grim media picture

Last month, the IFJ was saddened to report the death of Sadrul Alam Nipul a 35-year-old staff reporter for The Daily Mathabhanga on Tuesday, May 20. According to his family, Sadrul left his home to go to work after receiving a call on his mobile. He did not return home. His severed body was discovered near railway tracks in Chuadanga on Wednesday morning. Read more here.

The death was one of a series of concerning events in May for the media in Banlgadesh. Shishir Morol, the special correspondent of Prathom Alo, was held captive for two hours and beaten up in a hospital on Tuesday, May 13. He was beaten and locked in a room for two hours by Dr Shafiul Azam and staff Sufian of the ZH Sikder Women’s Medical College Hospital in Dhaka. Morol was working on a news story that alleged that Dr Azam had been illegally working fulltime at two hospitals. The journalist went to hospital seeking Dr Azam’s comments. Morol was admitted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University after police rescued him after calls from his colleagues.

7.    Pakistan’s media remembers its freedom struggles

On Tuesday, May 13, Pakistani journalists unions remembered the struggle of journalists for the freedom of the press during Pakistan’s Martial Law in the 1970s. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journaists (PFUJ) celebrated the ‘Azm Day’ marking the 1978 anniversary when three senior journalists were lashed in public and imprisoned for opposing martial law imposed by General Zia-ul-Haq after a military coup. Haq arrested and imprisoned hundreds of journalists after the introduction of the law in July 5, 1977. At the height of the struggles, journalists Khanwar Naeem Hashmi, Nasir Zaidi and Iqbal Jaffri were punished publicly for their brave advocacy for freedom of expression.

8.    Indian foreign correspondents ejected from Pakistan

On May 13, the Pakistan Ministry of Information ended a period of cooperation between India and Pakistan when it declined to renew the visas of the only two Indian journalists based in Islamabad. Meena Menon of The Hindu newspaper and Snehesh Philip of the Press Trust of India were informed by the Ministry of Information that their visas wouldn't be renewed and were subsequently asked to leave the country. The two Indian journalists have been working in Pakistan since August 2013.

Pakistan and India have an agreement that each is allowed two journalists in each other's capital: one from a newswire and the other from a newspaper. Pakistani journalists have not been in Delhi since 2011. The Press Club of India and other media rights organisations have condemned the denial to renew the visas. More here.and here.

9.    IFJ concern for two journalists detained in Afghanistan

The IFJ remains concerned that two journalists have been held Afghanistan for long periods of time. Syed Rahman Bekore, a local reporter stationed at Kunar province for the Waqt News Agency is being unlawfully detained by an Afghan state agency. He was arrested on April 27 along with a Deutsche Welle reporter Abdullah Nezami and another local in Jalalabad without a warrant.

While the other two were released after a matter of hours, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) has kept Bekore in custody in an undisclosed location for two weeks without charge. His family and colleagues have not been provided any information about his situation. More here.

Aaizullah Khan, a reporter for ARY News TV based in Karachi, has been missing in Afghanistan since late May where he is believed to have travelled to interview Taliban leaders. He is suspected of being detained by a state security agency in Afghanistan. A week before his disappearance, he had informed his supervisors that he would go to Peshawar and to tribal areas for some high profile interviews. Khan was transferred to Islamabad from Karachi after he was added to the hit list of terrorist organisations following the murder of journalist Wali Khan Babar in January. More here. On May 3 the IFJ called on Pakistan and Afghanistan authorities to expedite the process to free Khan, read the IFJ’s release on the IFJ Asia Pacific page.

10.  Sri Lankan editor forced to resign as war on journalism persists

A series of incidents through May in Sri Lanka clearly show that Sri Lanka’s war on journalism continues unabated. On May 8, Saman Wagarachchi, a media rights activist, was forced to resign as editor of Lakbima national newspaper due to political pressure exerted on the newspaper’s management by political leaders. The owner of the newspaper, Thilanga Sumathipala, is a member of the Parliamant of Sri Lanka and had conceded that he had been put under pressure to remove Wagarachchi. Wagarachchi was appointed the editor of Lakbima in June last year after returning from a ten-year stay in the USA. More on his resignation here and the police questioning here.

On May 19, Sri Lankan military forces restricted the access to the two entrances to the offices of Uthayan, a Tamil-language daily, in Jaffna. Soldiers questioned all those who entered via the road and those visiting the newspaper office were turned away. The blocking of the offices also forced the cancellation of a blood donation drive organised by the newspaper. More here.

Earlier in May the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) launched a campaign on the eve of World Press Freedom Day on May 2 to put pressure on the government and the opposition parties to adopt the RTI Bill. Sri Lanka is the only country in South Asia that does not have a Right to Information Act. More here and here.

11.  Cambodia’s disturbing press freedom deterioration

On May 1, the IFJ was deeply saddened by news that the body of Canadian filmmaker and journalist Dave Walker was discovered at the Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The IFJ sends its deepest condolences to the family of Dave Walker who continued efforts to locate the 58-year-old following his disappearance from his residence in Siem Reap under suspicious circumstances on February 14 this year. The IFJ called on Cambodian authorities continue their efforts to determine the cause of Dave’s disappearance and death. Read the IFJ’s report here.

In a separate incident, the day after the disturbing discovery of Walker’s remains, Cambodian journalist Lay Samean was beaten with batons by Daun Penh district security guards at the first of the Council Election Campaign Rallies in Phnom Pehn.Samean was at the rally alongside other Voice of Democracy reporters to cover the event at Freedom Park in Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, on May 2.  According to Samean, he was set upon by the Daun Penh security guards after he filmed them attacking a monk. During the attack, where he was beaten with batons,  Lay lost consciousness and suffered a broken cheekbone as well as other injuries. He was later airlifted to Thailand for surgery. More here

12.  Pacific nations turn to censorship to silence dissent

Pacific nations witness a string of instances where authorities sought to silence critics by suspending journalists and opposition voices. On May 16, the IFJ reported on the dismissal of two veteran Fiji journalists Anish Chand, a broadcast news veteran from Fiji TV, and Ricardo Morris, a Suva based coordinator. Chand was given his termination notice on May 3 after voicing his concerns about the need for views from a broad cross section of society during the upcoming election. Morris resigned following political pressure and also resigned from his position as Regional Coordinator of the Pacific Freedom Forum. More here.

In Nauru, three members of the Parliamentary were suspended indefinitely after they made critical statements to foreign media. Former foreign minister Dr Kieren Keke, Roland Kun and Mathew Batsiua were suspended from Nauru’s 19 member parliament following a series of interviews with foreign media outlets in which they expresses their concerns over Nauru’s housing of asylum seekers diverted from Australia. The three also voiced their dissent over the recent deportation of Nauru’s only resident magistrate and the cancellation of chief justice Geoffrey Eames’ visa. Read the IFJ’s report here.

In the small Pacific nation of Kiribati, radio journalist Ueretan Bauro was suspended for 20 days for “disobeying management orders”. Bauro was reported to have been reprimanded with the suspension after he aired a report with quotes from an Opposition Kiribati MP, Tebuai Uaai. During the radio report, the opposition MP responded to a report in the Te Uekera newspaper that alleged that he had not repaid public funds following a trip in 2002. The initial Te Uekera report only carried the Government’s allegations and included no response from Uaai. More here.

13.  British national facing charges in Bangladesh

David Bergman, a British national working for the New Age daily in Bangladesh, is currently facing trial for allegedly demeaning the International Crimes Tribunal’s dignity in his personal blog. On May 12, when he presented himself at the Tribunal, Bergman was given one additional month to outline why he should not be punished under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act-1973 for making ‘derogatory comments’. Bergman has maintained that his commentary was ‘fair criticism’. The Tribunal initiated the proceedings of the contempt charges on April 17. More here.

14.  Asia-Pacific journalists remembered in Washington

Asia-Pacific journalists Sai Reddy, of India, and Fernando Solijon, of the Philippines, are among the journalists whose names will be honoured in the Journalists Memorial at Washington's Newseum on June 9. The memorial recognises newspeople who died or were killed in the pursuit of news in 2014. Last year, the IFJ reported that a total of 38 media workers lost their lives doing their jobs in the Asia-Pacific. Read more here.

15.  IFJ training across the region

The IFJ Asia Pacific will continue to run training activities across the region in the coming months. These will include a two media rights monitoring and advocacy trainings in Nepal and Bangladesh, supported by UNDEF, as well as a one-day leadership training workshop for the newly elected office bearers of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) in Nepal, supported by LO-TCO.

In Myanmar the IFJ will be follow up journalism leadership training conducted in 2013 and hosting an additional local courses for journalists in Mandalay and Mawlamyine with the support of LOTCO, together with the Myanmar Journalist Association (MJA). For more on IFJ projects visit ifj.org/regions/asia-pacific/projects/