IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: March

Welcome to the IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on April 1, 2016 and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email ifj@ifj-asia.org

Journalists killed to date in the Asia-Pacific in 2015

Afghanistan

8

India

1

Pakistan

2

Philippines

1

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In this bulletin:

1. Journalist safety continues to deteriorate in India

2. Bangladeshi editor faces legal barrage

3. Filipino journalist shot dead in his home

4. Japanese government threatens to tighten grip on media

5. IFJ launches 25th Killed List report

6. SAMSN digital campaigns: Take Action!

7. Tibetan writer sentenced to three years imprisonment

8. Safety and trauma workshop held in Nepal

9. Eight killed in one month leads to government action in Afghanistan 

10. Malaysia: official calls for penalties for whistle-blowers

11. Two AP countries in top 10 for gender gap

12. Journalists attacked across Pakistan

13. New regulations for foreign journalists across Asia Pacific

14. Maldivian journalist arrested as police storm newsroom

15. One year on: remembering Avijit Roy

16. MEAA campaign: Hands off our ABC

17. SAMSN Blog: Delhi’s two black days of terror on the press

18. SAMSN Blog: Against all odds: Reporting from the Maldives

19. IPC: It gets you wherever the story takes you

 

1. Journalist safety continues to deteriorate in India

India was rated the second most lethal country for journalists in the Asia-Pacific in 2015 in IFJ statistics. In February, journalist safety continued to be an issue across the country, culminating with the shooting murder of Tarun Mishra in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Mishra, the bureau chief of Jan Sandesh Times, a Hindi newspaper in Sultanpur, was killed when he was driving with his uncle and their vehicle was fired upon by two unidentified people on motorbikes. According to the Uttar Pradesh journalist union, Mishra was potentially targeted for his writings about illegal black market activities in Uttar Pradesh, sometimes referred to as the ‘mud mafia’.

The IFJ joined its affiliates, IJU and NUJ (India) in condemning the murder and demanded urgent government action.

Across India, the decline in press freedoms remains a key concern. On February 7, female journalist Malini Subramaniam was attacked in Bastar, Chhattisgargh, northern India. A mob of 20 people gathered in front of her residence shouting abuse including ‘death to Malini Subramaniam’, as well as pelting rocks at her home and shattering her car windows. The mob also tried to incite neighbours to attack the journalist claiming she was a Maoist supporter. The attacks came after Subramaniam published a number of articles about human rights violations in the troubled state.

On February 15, a number of journalists were attacked during the court hearing sedition charges against the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Student Union president Kanaihya Kumar after after lawyers asked JNU teachers and students to vacate the front seats in the court room. When they refused, the lawyers are alleged to have attacked the group before also turning on the media in the court room.

In 2015, India was the second deadliest country in the Asia Pacific region, with six journalists killed. In January 2016, the IFJ released its 25th annual Killed List report, and India was among the top ten most dangerous countries for journalists.

Read more here, here and here.

2. Bangladeshi editor faces legal barrage

Press freedom has once again come under attack in Bangladesh after over 70 cases of sedition and defamation were filed against veteran editor, Mahfuz Anam. On February 3, Anam, admitted during a television interview to a lapse in editorial judgement in publishing reports based on information supplied by the country’s task force intelligence cell during the caretaker government regime almost a decade ago without being able to independently verify them.

Following the admission, various individuals and political groups have launched at least 79 cases against Anam, with some even calling for him to be charged with tyranny. According to The Daily Star, the total defamation claim stands at 1,328,115,200,000TK (USD 1,690,140,000).

The IFJ issued a strong statement regarding the legal barrage against Anam, which was picked up with national and international media. The Bangladeshi government also responded to the IFJ statement and international pressure strong criticising the statement and comments of the IFJ.

The IFJ statement said: “The IFJ is seriously concerned by the legal harassment of Mahfuz Anam as result of reporting in the public interest at a time of political crisis. The high number of cases and the filing of these across the country indicates an aggressive politically-motivated effort to harass a senior editor and a key newspaper in the Bangladesh.”

Read more here and here

3. Filipino journalist shot dead in his home

Following a deadly year in 2015 in the Philippines, on February 16, Elvis Ordaniza was the first journalist killed in 2016. The 49-year-old reporter for radio station dxWO Power99 FM was killed when he was shot twice in the chest at his home in Zamboanga del Sur as he was preparing dinner for the evening. He was rushed to hospital but died on arrival. Police are yet to establish a motive for the killing. According to Ordaniza’s colleagues, he had been reporting about the problem of illegal drugs and illegal gambling in the town of Pitogo where he worked.

Ordaniza is the country’s first media casualty for 2016. His death comes as journalists prepare to confront a traditionally dangerous period as the Philippines heads to its general and presidential elections in May. According to NUJP, 20 percent of towns and cities are declared hotspots because of the potential for violence, including areas of Mindanao. In 2009, 58 people including 32 journalists were massacred in a political convoy in the region’s Maguindanao province.

Read more here.

4. Japanese government threatens to tighten grip on media

Article 174 of Japan’s Broadcast Law gives the Japanese government far-reaching powers to suspend broadcasters that are not politically neutral. The law has been in effect for decades, not yet used by a Japanese government, however on Tuesday, February 9, Sanae Takaichi, the Internal Affairs and Communications Minister for Japan, said that the government can order broadcasters to suspend operations if they continue to air TV programming that is deemed politically biased. Takaichi continued her assertion, noting that the government is legally authorized, under Japan’s broadcasting law, to order stations and networks to cease broadcasting if they ignore official calls to remain “politically neutral”. The Law says that “the internal affairs minister is authorized to suspend broadcasting that violates the law, including that which fails to remain politically neutral.”

The comments by Takaichi came in response to claims by Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker, Soichiro Okuna, who said that, several broadcasters, including Hiroko Kuniya at NHK and Ichiro Furutachi at TV Asahi, known for their critiques of the government and the powerful, would be stepping down in coming months.

Read more here.

5. IFJ launches 25th Killed List report in Asia-Pacific

Following the launch of the IFJ 25th Killed List Report in Paris on February 6, the IFJ Asia Pacific regional office in Sydney hosted a launch of the report on February 11. IFJ general secretary Anthony Bellanger; MEAA CEO, Paul Murphy and freelance journalist Mark Davis launched the report, Journalists and Media Staff Killed 1990-2015: 25 years of contribution to safer journalism at a special press conference which highlighted the ongoing dangers faced by journalists in the region  The Asia-Pacific has three countries that sit in the top ten worst countries for journalist killings over the past 25 years. IFJ monitoring of journalist killings began in 1990. The Philippines is an annual serial offender as a killing field for journalists and is ranked the second deadliest country worldwide for the period with 146 killings. It is the deadliest peacetime country in the world for journalists. Pakistan, which was the worst ranked country in 2014 for journalist killings, ranked fourth in the IFJ list with a total of 115 recorded journalists killings. India came in seventh with 95 journalists killed since 1990. India continues to struggle violence and impunity across the country and is currently a key area of concern in the Asia-Pacific for a marked decline in safety for journalists in recent years.

The IFJ general secretary, Anthony Bellanger, who was in Australia for the launch said: “There are many ways journalists are being targeted, often removed from the war theatre, many of whom are victims of organised crime and corrupt officials. It is a recurring finding of our reports that there are many more killed in peace time situations than in war-stricken countries.”

Read more here

6. SAMSN campaigns: Take Action!

In 2015 the IFJ completed a number of digital campaign workshops across South Asia, including in Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The two-day workshops focused on use of internet-based technologies and social media platforms in the campaigning. Following the workshops, the participant affiliates were invited to submit a proposal to run a digital campaign on the national issue. The IFJ Asia Pacific provided small grants to the Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka, the Nepal Press Union (NPU) and National Union of Journalists (India) for the digital campaigns.

The NUJI ran a #MakeJournalistProtectionLaw campaign in November and December, 2015 demanding the enactment of the Journalist Protection Act.

The NPU ran a digital campaign in November and December, 2015 on the issue of safety of journalists with very specific objectives. Instead of trying to solve the whole problem of safety, NPU set out objectives to inform the public about critical need for building a safe environment for journalists and create awareness among journalists to be self-aware on remaining safe and vigilant.

The Free Media Movement Sri Lanka ran a digital campaign to push for a Right to Information Act to be enacted in the country in December, 2015 and January, 2016. Part of FMM’s objective was that the RTI bill was being drafted and it wanted to seize the opportunity to create awareness on the need of RTI and press for its early enactment.

Read more here.

7. Tibetan writer sentenced to three years imprisonment

According to reports, on February 17, Druklo, who goes by the penname of Shokjang, was sentenced to three years after he was convicted of inciting separatism and endangering social stability by the Intermediate Court in Tongren of Huanggan in Qinghai. His sentencing, which was part of a closed-door trial, comes after ten months in detention. Druklo’s conviction and charges were based on several articles that he authored regarding the conditions of schools in Ganhcha County in Hebei, which is a Tibetan autonomous area in Qinghai province.

Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia are three Autonomous areas in China which are prone to issues of press freedom and journalist safety. Over the past year, numerous reports have come to light of journalists, both local and foreign, struggling to access to regions for reporting.

Read more here.

8. Safety and trauma workshop held in Nepal

In April and May 2015, devastating earthquakes hit Nepal, levelling the country. On February 27 to 29, the Federation of Nepali Journalists, supported by the DART Centre, the IFJ and the Media Safety & Solidarity Network, held a three-day train the trainer workshop on trauma and journalism for the country’s media. The workshop was held in Kathmandu, and focused on training journalists in trauma reporting, as well as offering counselling for those impacted by the disaster.

9. Eight media workers killed in a month in Afghanistan

In January, eight media workers were killed in Afghanistan. Seven TOLO TV employees were killed in a targeted suicide bomb attack, while on January 29 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 home from a private gathering. According to reports, Khaksar had received threats from Daesh.

Following the deadly month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, issued a decree which orders the police and security services to improve their behaviour towards journalists, to respect the media law, and to reopen investigations into murders of journalists that have taken place in recent years. The decree guarantees the role of the Media Commission, formed under the new media law, which is primarily responsible for the initial review of cases of violations by the media. The Commission will receive and verify complaints against media outlets prior to any prosecution ending the arbitrary questioning and arrest of media personal by prosecuting and security agencies.

Read more here and here.

10. Malaysia: officials calls for penalties for whistle-blowers

Proposed changes to the Official Secrets Act (1972) (OSA) in Malaysia are an attack on the rights of journalists to protect their sources. In an interview on February 6, Malaysian Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohd Apandi Ali announced that he was proposing an amendment the OSA to seek harsher punishment against whistle-blowers who leak official secrets. The proposed changes would expand the scope of the law to include journalists.

The Attorney-General said: “We may charge journalists who refuse to reveal their sources. I am not joking."

Read more here.

11. Journalists attacked across Pakistan

February was a dangerous month in Pakistan for journalists and media workers with attacks reported across the country. On February 2, at least 6 journalists and media workers were attacked as they covered a protest at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. The media were covering a protest by Pakistan International Airport (PIA) employees. Police attended the protest and attempted to break it up with batons and water cannons. There were also reports that bullets were fired into the crowd. A number of protesters were also injured in the incident.

Then on February 6, City 24 News television channels’ offices were attacked in Lahore, Pakistan. According to reports, two unidentified suspects, who were armed and riding motorcycles opened fire on the offices of the private news channel on Jail Road in Lahore. Immediately following the attack the assailants fled the scene. There were no reports of injuries to staff, only damage to the office. The incident has been registered with local police, who are investigating the incident. The Punjab Union of Journalists organised protests in front of the Punjab Assembly on Monday, February 7, condemning the attacks.

Read more here and here.

12. Foreign correspondents face ongoing controls across Asia-Pacific

As part of a wider crackdown on media freedom in Thailand, on February 18, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press statement announcing new guidelines for issuing the M (media) visa for foreign journalists and media correspondents applying to work in Thailand for more than three months.  Under the revisions, which will be implemented on March 21, authorities will have new discretionary powers to deny visas to journalists whose work or behavior is deemed as "constituting any disruption to public order or to the security of the kingdom." On January 29, the Constitution Drafting Committee released the draft constitution for public comment.

In late February, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in China announced a set of new administrative regulations for foreign media outlets and joint ventures. The regulations, Online Publication Service Management Regulations, state that foreign media, joint ventures and individuals have to “get prior approval from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT).” The legislation does not outline the approval process.

Read more here and here

Thomas Fuller, the former South East Asia correspondent for The New York Times penned an editorial about his time in the region as a foreign correspondent, discusses the evolving challenges for media workers and journalists. Read more here

13. Two AP countries in top 10 for gender gap

The World Economic Forum (WEF) have released its annual Global Gender Gap report which ranks the best countries for women in terms of gender equality. The report ranks 145 economies analysing women’s quality of life. Among the global top ten are the Philippines (7) and New Zealand (10).  For the Asia-Pacific region, the top ten were Philippines, New Zealand, Australia (36), Laos (52), Singapore (54), Mongolia (56), Thailand (60), Bangladesh (64), Vietnam (83) and Sri Lanka (84). Pakistan was the worst ranking Asia Pacific country, coming in  at 144 of 145 countries.

14. Maldivian journalist arrested as police storm newsroom

According to reports, on February 13, Hussain Fariyaz, a sports journalist for the opposition-aligned Rajje TV, was arrested when plain clothed police officers entered the Rajje TV newsroom. Fariyaz was arrested without a court warrant and detained for two hours. When he was released, police reportedly admitted to making a mistake with his arrest. Photos of the arrest show Fariyaz’s clothes ripped, while he is being manhandled and pushed into the police vehicle.

Raajje TV claimed that Fariyaz was arrested for taking a photo of a police officer taking a bottle of alcohol during a raid. However the police said in a statement that Fariyaz had tried to ‘flee’ from officers when he was asked to show a media pass. He was arrested for ‘disobeying orders’.

Read more here.

15. One year on: Remembering Avijit Roy

February 26 marked one year since Bangladesh-American freelance blogger, Avijit Roy, was hacked to death in a street in Dhaka. Roy was a leading secular blogger, and founder of freethinking blog Mukto Muno (meaning “freethinkers” in English). He was killed when he was attacked and hacked to death on the street as he and his wife left a book fair. His wife was injured but survived the attack. Roy was the first of five individuals murdered by Islamist extremists in Bangladesh in 2015. This week, we remember Avijit Roy, his work and stand with the media community of Bangladesh as they fight for press freedom and freedom of expression.

Read more here.

16. MEAA campaign: Hands off our ABC

Hands Off Our ABC is a community and advocacy campaign co-ordinated by the two unions that represent the vast bulk of employees at the ABC: the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance and the Community and Public Sector Union. The goal is an editorially-independent ABC that is fully-funded by the government and meets its charter as a comprehensive national broadcaster, that is resourced to tell Australian stories across multiple platforms, and positioned to take advantage of new technology to retain its position as the most trusted and reliable source of news and entertainment in Australia.

Support the campaign here.

17. SAMSN Blog: Delhi’s two black days of terror on the press

Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) president, SK Pande, wrote about the recent challenges for the media in India following a spate of attacks. Pande documents the situation and the challenges ahead for the press, both in securing its safety and changing the attitudes against the press.

Read more here.

18. SAMSN Blog: Against all odds: Reporting from the Maldives

Harassed, arrested, prosecuted and even violently attacked, journalism has never seen such gloomy days in Maldives since an iron clad monopoly on Freedom of Speech and Expression, and Freedom of the Media was released from its shackles in the late 2000s. Though the Maldives, now guarantees Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Media under its newly enacted constitution, the reality is not as upbeat.

Mohamed Saleem, the station-in-charge at Raajje TV discusses the challenges for journalists in the Maldives, working for the only dedicated news channel in the Maldives.

Read more here

19. IPC: It gets you wherever 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.