IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: November

Welcome to the IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on December 1, 2015, and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email ifj@ifj-asia.org

Please distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media.

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ifjasiapacific

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific

Join the IFJ Asia Pacific mailing list here

Follow the IFJ #EndImpunity campaign: here

In this bulletin:

1.     IFJ launches annual #EndImpunity campaign

2.     IFJ launches Strengthening Media in the Pacific report

3.     IFJ holds regional meeting on youth in Thailand

4.     Two journalists killed in one month: India

5.     Female journalists threatened as freedom of expression deteriorates in Bangladesh

6.     Hong Kong photojournalist charged for carrying safety vest

7.     IFJ conducts union leadership training in Thailand

8.     Forty years on: Balibo victims remembered with scholarship

9.     Maldivian journalists threatened twice in a week

10.  Australian government media restrictions on asylum seeker policy

11.  Chinese media withhold reports of diplomat murder

12.  Taliban threaten Afghan media

13.  Journalist attacked in Guangzhou

14.  Sedition Act a mockery of press freedom in Malaysia

15.  Chinese journalist loses accreditation

16.  Australian journalists’ source under threat

17.  IFJ appoints new General Secretary

18.  Freedom House releases – Freedom on the Net 2015

19.  Support the IFEX #noimpunity campaign

1. IFJ launches annual #EndImpunity campaign

November 2 marks the second UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists and the start of the IFJ campaign #EndImpunity, which aims to call governments to account and demand action for impunity for crimes against journalists. This year already 87 journalists and media workers have been murdered across the globe. In the Asia Pacific region, 25 journalists and media workers have been killed, seven in the Philippines and six in India.

The IFJ campaign will run from November 2 and end on November 23, the anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre in the Philippines, which remains the single deadliest attack on journalists in history. This campaign is reminding the world that journalists do matter. They have families who love them, they are mums and dads, ordinary people; all carrying out the important and increasingly dangerous duty to keep society informed. But for every reporter threatened, for every life extinguished, democracy also suffers the ultimate price.

For more information on the campaign and how you can get involved click here and here. Follow the IFJ on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with the campaign and get involved using the #EndImpunity    

2. IFJ launches Strengthening Media in the Pacific report

The IFJ launched Strengthening Media in the Pacific – an insight into the media landscape and working conditions for media workers in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The report is a culmination of research and media consultation in the Pacific’s media in 2014 and 2015 and highlights the challenges and success stories from the region as the media continues to rapidly develop and grow.

Strengthening Media in the Pacific was officially launched at the IFJ Youth Recruitment and Future Union Strategies meeting in Bangkok by Evelyn Toa, president of IFJ’s Vanuatu affiliate Media Association blong Vanuatu (MAV). She described the report as a necessary document to “to review the long road the media industry has come from.”

The research, supported by UNESCO IPDC, is aimed to encourage much-needed discussion on the vital role of the media and how the media can evolve to better suit the local environment.

Read the report here and the survey results here 

3. IFJ holds regional meeting on youth in Thailand

On October 15 and 16, the IFJ, with support of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), opened its two-day regional meeting, Youth Recruitment, Digital Media and Union Strengthening in Bangkok. The meeting forms part of a global IFJ project spanning three years, which includes an IFJ Global Youth Survey of media unions. The Asia-Pacific has been chosen as a focus region in the first stage of this project and outcomes from the regional meeting and survey will feed into a global report to be presented at the 29th IFJ Congress in Angers, France, in 2016. This is expected to lead to the adoption of an action plan on promoting recruitment and targeting youth in media unions and associations.

Participants from across the Asia Pacific region will come together to address some of the major challenges facing media unions and associations. It aims to examine the impact of changes in the media industry on those who advocate for media workers, with a particular focus on the challenge of recruiting and organizing youth and responding to the onset of digital media.

See pictures from the meeting here. 

4. Two journalists killed in one month: India

On October 24, Mithilesh Pandey, a 40-year-old reporter with Dainik Jagran, an online Hindi newspaper, was killed in his home.  The journalist was killed when masked intruders stormed his house as he slept. According to his family, prior to his death Pandey had received death threats.

On October 3, Hemant Yadav, a 45-year-old television journalist was killed while travelling home on his motorcycle in Uttar Pradesh. Yadav was the third journalist to be killed in Uttar Pradesh this year.

Panday is the seventh Indian journalist to be murdered this year, now many India the deadliest country in South Asia and the equal deadliest country, with the Philippines in the Asia Pacific.

IFJ affiliates IJU, NUJI and AINEF have demanded immediate action by the Indian government to end the violence and attacks on journalists. IJU and NUJI have joined to demand the implementation of a protection act for journalists to protect their safety.

Read more here and here.

5. Female journalists threatened as freedom of expression deteriorates in Bangladesh

According to local media report, on October 19, Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), sent a letter to local media saying that all media outlets should “release their women from their jobs” claiming it is against Islamic law for women to work in the media. The letter also reiterated the threats made in a hit list issued by ABT last month, naming 15 bloggers and accusing them of participating in anti-Islam campaigns.

The threat is the latest from the Bangladeshi banned militant group, which earlier in October released an ‘international hit-list’, threatening to kill those named if their demands were not met. According to reports, those on the list include nine bloggers based in the United Kingdom, seven in Germany, two in the USA, one in Canada and one in Sweden. The list also included a number of dual nationals and citizens from other countries.

So far this year, four secular bloggers have been brutally murdered in Bangladesh this year, and although arrests have been made in each of the cases – local and international groups have made calls for more action.

Read more here and here.

6. Hong Kong journalist charged with carrying a safety vest

On August 23, Antony Kwan Hok-Chun was arrested as he was about to board a flight at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok to return to Hong Kong. Kwan had been in Bangkok to cover the aftermath of the deadly explosion at the Erawan Shrine. He was arrested for having a safety vest in his luggage, which is illegal under Thailand’ Arms Control Act. On October 12, Kwan, who was allowed to return to Hong Kong a few days after his arrest, was charged with carrying an illegal weapon.

On October 12, the IFJ, HKJA, Hong Kong Photographers’ Association and the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Hong Kong held a protest at the Thai Embassy in Hong Kong calling for the charges against Kwan to be dropped immediately.

Read more here.

7. IFJ conducts union leadership training in Thailand

On October 18, the IFJ conducted a one-day union leadership workshop, with the newest IFJ Asia Pacific affiliate, the National Union of Journalists, Thailand (NUJT). The workshop which was supported by Union to Union and attended by 15 local union leaders. The training was a great opportunity to bring together the new union leaders.

8. Forty years on: Balibo victims remembered with scholarship

On October 16, 1975, five young journalists working for Australia’s Seven and Nine networks, reporter Greg Shackleton, camera operator Gary Cunningham, sound recordist Tony Stewart (all from Seven), reporter Malcolm Rennie and camera operator Brian Peters (both from Nine), were brutally murdered in the town of Balibo, just 10 kilometers from the Indonesia-East Timor border. The Balibo Five as they have come to be collectively known as were killed by Indonesian military troops after witnessing an incursion by Indonesian soldiers.

On October 16, 2015, IFJ affiliate the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) announced a new scholarship in the memory of the Balibo Five and also Roger East, an Australian freelance journalist working for AAP and Reuters who was executed in Dili on 8 December 1975. To be known as the ‘Balibo Five-Roger East Scholarship’, it will sponsor travel, study expenses and living costs for East Timorese journalists to develop skills and training in Australia. It is anticipated that their studies would be short courses at major Australian journalism schools, as well as potential short work placements in print or broadcast newsrooms. MEAA will provide seed funding for the scholarship and the IFJ will assist in identifying suitable recipients among journalists in East Timor.

Read here.

9. Maldivian journalists threatened twice in a week

On October 15, a group of journalists who were stationed outside the President’s residence in Male were threatened by a group of men along with MP Ahmed Assad as they were waiting to film the departure of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed from the residence. Two of the journalists told opposition-aligned Raajje TV’s Wisam Mohamed that they would kill them if they filmed Judge Mohamed’s departure from the president’s residence. Wisam also said that soldiers had earlier asked him to erase photos he had taken which he refused.

In a separate incident on October 15, Addu Live, a news website operating out of the southern Maldives, Addu City, was hacked while the offices received threatening phone calls. The threatening calls, which Addu Live allege come from acquitted suspects from the criminal courts, often demand the outlet take down reports on corruption of judges and articles critical of the government. Hassan Zaheen said that the website was hacked after it started reporting on the beginning of the presidential impeachment. Within three hours of the report going live, Addu Live received a call from an overseas number threatening to attack the website if the report is not removed. Zaheen said they refused to remove the article. The website was down for over a week.

Read more here and here.

10. Australian government media restrictions on asylum seeker policy

Since the beginning of Operation Sovereign Borders in September 2013, the Australian Government has restricted media access to detention centres, both in Australia and off-shore on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and in the Republic of Nauru. The new Australian Border Force Act makes it a criminal offence, punishable by up to two years in prison, for anyone working at the detention centres to reveal to the media anything that happens in the centres. Because of this, journalists have had to work with their sources in secret. In the past week, there have been two Nauruan police raids on the offices of contractors and NGOs at the island’s detention centre. In the raids computers, laptops, mobiles phones and files have all been seized, allegedly to reveal the identity of the whistleblowers, who are the sources for journalists’ news reports.

Read more here.

11. Chinese media withhold reports of diplomat murder

On October 20, Song Rongjua, the consul general at China’s consulate in Cebu, the deputy consul, Sun Shen and finance officer, Li Hui, were all shot while eating lunch at a local restaurant in Cebu. Sun and Li died in the shooting, while Song remains in hospital recovering from gun shot wounds to her neck. According to reports, a man and a woman, identified at Li Qing Li and Guo Jing, entered the private dining room and opened fire. Later they were detained at the Chinese Consular Office, where they worked alongside the victims.

Although the incident received widespread reporting in international and Philippine media, Mainland media downplayed the incident. Numerous online reports of the incident were immediately deleted, with one mainland journalist noting that: “some content is deleted because it relates to foreign affairs, so the media has to follow the tone of the authorities.” This follows a growing trend with Mainland media to withhold reports on sensitive issues.

Read more here.

12. Taliban threaten Afghan media

On October 12, the Afghan Taliban threatened Tolo TV and 1TV. In a statement issued by the military commission, the Taliban said it ‘does not recognize Tolo TV and 1TV channels as media outlets but designates them as military objectives due to their disrespectful and hostile actions towards Afghanistan’. The Taliban also called the channels propaganda machines that ‘ridicule religious and cultural norms, encourage obscenity and lewdness, inject the minds of youth with dangerous substances such as irreligiousness, immorality, violence, gambling, intermixing and profanity’. Furthermore the statement said that ‘All the reporters and associates of these channels will be deemed enemy personnel, all of their centers, offices and dispatched teams will be considered military objectives which will be directly eliminated’.

The threat was issued following the media reporting of the invasion of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan.

Read more here 

13. Journalist attacked in Guangzhou

On October 13, Yang Yanfang, the editor-in-chief of Big Elephant Think Tank, a Henan-based think tank which focusing on public opinion and big data, was attacked by four people outside his office building. After the attack Yang underwent a medical examination, which discovered cerebral haemorrhage and skull fractures, and he was placed in an induced coma. According to thepaper.cn, an online media outlet in Shanghai, Liu Shuzhi, Yang’s wife said she doesn’t know why he was attacked and Yang had not mentioned any threats to his life.

Read more here.

14. Sedition Act a mockery of press freedom in Malaysia

On October 6, Malaysia’s apex Federal Court ruled that the Sedition Act (1948) is constitutional. The Federal Court ruled that the Act is compatible with Article 10 of Malaysia’s Federal Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression.

The ruling comes as a blow to press freedom and freedom of expression in Malaysia where the Sedition Act has become a tool of repression for the government against critics. The ruling came following the legal battle led by Professor Azmi Sharom, who faces sedition charges.

According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as of April 2015, at least 78 people have been investigated or charged under the Sedition Act since the beginning of 2014. Malaysian political cartoonist, Zunar has also come under strong attack from the government through the Sedition Act. In April, he was arrested and charged with nine counts of sedition following his February arrest for tweets and cartoons he published following the sodomy case against Anwar Ibrahim. Zunar is currently in jail, with bail set at 13,500 RM (USD 6,207) and could face 43 years imprisonment if found guilty. Since then, Zunar has faced court three times, with his case been adjourned each time, awaiting the outcome of Professor Sharom’s legal challenge. Zunar is due to face court on November 6. More recently, in September, Zunar came under police investigation for sedition after he released his seventh book.

Read more here.

15. Chinese journalist loses accreditation

On September 28, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) announced that 17 journalists from 15 media outlets were to be reprimanded as they had ‘manufactured fake or inaccurate news’ between December 2, 2014 and July 13, 2015. The 17 journalists, including editors and editorial teams received warning letters, reprimanding them, with 16 journalists been fined for their reporting. Wang Xing, a former journalist of the South Metropolis Daily received the strongest penalty, been handed a five year suspension, banning him from working in the media and receiving an accredited press card.

According to Xinhua, Wang was punished for ‘fabricating news about the suicide of a former Henan government official’ in September 2014 and subsequently ‘persuaded to leave’ his post with the Southern Metropolis Daily. After the Xinhua report, Wang issued a statement refuting the allegations, saying he thoroughly investigated the report and the source was a trusted member of the Henan government. Wang said that he was also not persuaded to leave his position. In May 2015, the local bureau of SAPPFRT removed Wang’s name from the accredited journalists’ list as part of his five years suspension.

Read more here.

16. Australian journalists’ sources under threat

On October 13, the Australian government’s data retention regime came into effect, which requires telecommunications companies to retain telecommunications data of their customers for a period of two years, which at least 21 government agencies can access. The new legislation will allow the government to identify and pursue journalists’ sources, including whistle-blowers who seek to expose instances of fraud, dishonesty, corruption and threats to public health and safety.

IFJ affiliate, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) has repeatedly warned the government and politicians of the threat these new laws pose to press freedom, however the legislation was passed in March.

At the last minute, the government added a new scheme: the “Journalist Information Warrant” and “Public Interest Advocates” as a “safeguard” for journalist sources, however they were introduced without consultation, the new scheme will operate in secret, and there remains the threat of a two year jail term for reporting the existence of a Journalist Information Warrant

Read more here.

17. IFJ appoints new General Secretary

Anthony Bellanger, a French national and trade unionist, was appointed as the new General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) by the Federation’s Executive Committee at its meeting of 24  - 25 October in Brussels. He succeeds Beth Costa of Brazil who held the post since 2011. Anthony Bellanger, 42, was IFJ Deputy General Secretary since 2 September 2014. He holds a PhD in history and had spent most of his career as journalist in the French print media and was involved in trade unionism with the Syndicat national des journalistes (SNJ), which he led as First General Secretary from 2011 – 2014.

18. Freedom House releases – Freedom on the Net 2015

Freedom on the Net 2015 finds internet freedom around the world in decline for a fifth consecutive year as more governments censored information of public interest while also expanding surveillance and cracking down on privacy tools.

Of the 65 countries assessed, 32 have been on a negative trajectory since June 2014. In the Asia Pacific region, Myanmar had the biggest decline of 3 points, followed by Australia and Bangladesh which declined by 2 points, followed by Cambodia, China, Malaysia and Thailand who declined by 1 point.

Australia (19) has the highest ranking according of Freedom House in the Asia Pacific region, followed by the Philippines (27) and India (40). In contrast, China (88) has the lowest ranking of freedom of the net, followed by Pakistan (68) and Thailand and Myanmar (63).

Read more here.                                                                

19. Support the IFEX #noimpunity campaign

This year, IFEX is launching its “No Impunity” campaign to reflect our ongoing effort to increase the political will of States to end impunity – not just for crimes against journalists – but of artists, activists, bloggers, and others exercising their right to speak out. We need your help to send the message that crimes against free expression must have consequences, and that States must be held accountable when these crimes occur within their borders.

Join the campaign here