South Asia Media Solidarity Bulletin: APRIL

Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on May 16, 2016, and your inputs are most welcome.

We encourage contributions to let others know your activities; to seek solidarity and support from SAMSN members on your campaigns and activities. To contribute, email Ujjwal Acharya at: ifjsouthasia@gmail.com

Please feel free to distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media. This e-bulletin and South Asia related contents are available at the SAMSN Digital Hub: https://samsn.ifj.org  

In this bulletin:

1.       Digital Security campaign launched in  South Asia

2.       Journalist killer sentenced to life imprisonment in Pakistan

3.       Bangladeshi secular blogger brutally murdered

4.       Media crackdown in Chhattisgarh, India continues: Two journalists arrested

5.       Press freedom in Maldives comes under attack

6.       Karachi Press Club and journalists violently attacked by mob

7.       TV journalists attacked in south-eastern Bangladesh

8.       Kashmir authorities impose restriction on media during student clashes

9.       Photojournalist covering arrests attacked by police in Nepal

10.   SAMSN Blog: Trauma and Journalism Training after Earthquake Experience

11.   Free speech in India: a dire three months (The Hoot)

12.   Judicial Commission Fails to Identify Attackers of Hamid Mir (Freedom Network)

13.   True state of our fourth estate (Kuelsel, Bhutan)

14.   2016 World Press Freedom Index: a “deep and disturbing” decline in media freedom (RSF)

15.   Safety conditions continue to deteriorate for Afghan media (AFJC)

 

1. IFJ / SAMSN launches Digital Security for South Asia’s Journalists campaign

The IFJ along with SAMSN launched the ‘Digital Security for South Asia's Journalists’ campaign on April 7. The regional campaign is the culmination of the digital campaign led by the IFJ and SAMSN in 2015 under the UNDEF project, bringing together SAMSN members and the media community across South Asia to campaign on digital security.

The campaign activities that SAMSN members will be driving include a digital security practice survey for journalists to understand the digital security awareness of journalists in South Asia. On April 17, the campaign will move to the digital campaign phase during which it will be taken online, using social media platforms to promote the messages of digital security, with hashtags such as #IFJDigitalSecurity and #LetsBeSecure. The journalists in South Asia can share their stories and experiences about digital security during the campaign phase using these hashtag.

The IFJ and SAMSN will launch the survey findings in a report in mid-May, illustrating the state of digital security for journalists in South Asia. The report will be a precursor to the release of a South Asia Freedom of Expression report that will be released in late May. Read more.

Please participate in the survey at http://bit.ly/SAMSNDigitalSecuritySurvey.

2. Journalist killer sentenced to life imprisonment in Pakistan

Aminullah, the killer of Jang Group journalist Ayub Khattak was convicted by the District and Sessions Court in the Karak district of Pakistan on March 16. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and fined 5 million rupees (USD 50,000) for the 2013 murder. Aminullah’s brother, Khood Niaz, was acquitted after he was accused of being an accomplice. Khattak was killed when Aminullah fired shots at him near his residence in the Takht Nusrati area and the murder was linked to Khattak’s reporting in Karak Times about drug businesses in the area in which Aminullah was involved. Aminullah’s conviction is only the third in Pakistan, where the IFJ has recorded over 100 journalist murder cases since 2000. Read more.

3. Bangladeshi secular blogger brutally murdered

Nazimuddin Samad, a 28-year-old online activist and secular blogger, was murdered by unidentified assailants in Dhaka on April 6. The assailants attacked Samad with a machete and shot him in the head at around 8 pm. He was rushed to the Mitford Hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival. Motives for the attack remain unclear; however, reports indicate that the attacked mirrored those on secular bloggers in Bangladesh in 2015. In the past two years, six secular bloggers and online activists have been hacked to death in Bangladesh.

Samad, was a law student and regularly used Facebook posts to denounce religious extremism, and express secular opinions. He was also an activist and organisor for Ganajagaran Mancha, a secular campaigning group demanding capital punishment for the war crimes committed in the 1971 Independence War, in his hometown Sylhet. Read more.

4. Media crackdown in Chhattisgarh, India continues: Two more journalists arrested

Deepak Jaiswal, a journalist for local Hindi newspaper, Dainik Dainadini, was arrested while he covered the proceedings at the district court in Dantewada, Bastar on March 26. Jaiswal was covering the proceedings against another journalist, Prabhat Singh, a reporter with local Hindi paper, Patrika, who himself was arrested on March 22 over posts he made in a social media group on WhatsApp mocking a senior police officer. Singh was arrested under Section 67 of India’s Information Technology Act following complaints of the messages he had posted. Singh faced court on March 22, where he was ordered into police custody until March 30.

In March 2015, they both also published a report detailing how teachers at a Dantewada school were helping students cheat in exams. Complaints were filed against the journalists by the school, which claimed that the two journalists entered the school without the principal’s permission, manhandled staff and demanded money from them. Read more.

5. Press freedom in the Maldives comes under attack

More than six years after the Maldivian government, led by President Mohammad Nasheed decriminalised defamation, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives Parliamentary Group leader MP Ahmed Nihan presented the defamation and freedom of expression bill to the Maldives parliament. The draft law, prescribes hefty fines ranging between MVR50, 000 (US$3,200) and MVR5 million (US$324,000) as penalties for violations, with offenders who fail to pay the court-imposed fine facing a one-year jail term. Newspapers and websites that publish “defamatory content” may also have their licenses revoked, while the draft law says that the constitutional right to freedom of speech can be narrowed or restricted if an expression, contradicts a tenet of Islam, threatens national security, defames or causes damage to an individual, or violates societal norms.

The IFJ has joined a number of senior journalists, media workers, media outlets and organisations condemning the proposed law which is a violation of freedom of expression and press freedom. Read more.

On April 3, journalists from various media platforms staged a demonstration in Male against the recent crackdown on media freedom including the proposed criminal defamation law, the court-ordered the closure of Haveeru newspaper, and the protracted investigation into the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan in 2014. 19 journalists were arrested, as police used pepper spray and excessive force to end the demonstration. A number of journalists also had to be taken to the hospital due to injuries that they sustained. They were arrested on charges of obstructing police duty, disobeying police orders and committing illegal actions. The journalists were released late in the evening, after 10 hours of detention. Read more.

Meanwhile, Mohamad Wisam and Leevan Ali Naseer from the opposition-aligned Raajje TV have been served a summon notice to present themselves on criminal court on charges of obstructing the discharging of police duties last year. On November 2, 2015, they were arrested as they reported on the police and military, who attempted to defuse a bomb found near the Presidential Palace. Wisam was also arrested on March 25, 2015 during anti-government protests, and he is still facing charges for that incident. Wisam has been asked to appear in court for a hearing on April 14 and 17, while Naseer has been ordered to pick up his summon from the criminal court. More here.

6. Karachi Press Club and journalists violently attacked by mob

On March 27, dozens of assailants stormed the Karachi Press Club (KPC), attacking journalists, grabbin cameras, and trying to set a KPC and a DSNG van of Jaag TV on fire with the petrol. The mob, comprising of 60 to 70 people, violently attacked media staff from Jaag TV and Channel 92, as journalists remained stuck inside the KPC building. The attack in Karachi came after a similar mob attack on the Hyderabad Press Club on March 4.  Apparently, the attack broke out after a number of religious groups complained about a media blackout on the coverage of their activities, once again regarding the execution of convicted murderer Mumtaz Qadri. Read more.

7. TV journalists attacked in south-eastern Bangladesh

Three journalists including assignment editor, Mithun Mostafiz, Mohsin Chowdhury, Chittagong bureau chief and photojournalist Ahadul Islam Babu, of the privately-run Boishakhi television channel were attacked on March 27. The trio was attacked as they were recording footage of an illegal hill cutting process in the city’s Khulshi area. The process of hill cutting included cutting into the hills around the port city of Chittagong for residential developments. The process is illegal and detrimental to the local environment; it also creates safety hazards for those living at the bottom of the hills. Read more.

8. Kashmir authorities impose restriction on media during student clashes

On March 30, clashes between students groups erupted after India’s loss in the T20 World Cup semi-final. The media was not allowed access to the premises of the National Institute of Technology in Srinagar, where security forces were deployed after the clashes. According to reports, more incidents broke out on March 31, which led to the institute being closed until April 5. Read more.

9. Photojournalist covering arrests attacked by police in Nepal

Kabin Adhikari, a photojournalist with online news outlet onlinekhabar.com, was physically attacked by the police as he photographed the arrest of protesters inside the government’s main administrative premises, the Singha Durbar, on April 10. Adhikari was sent to cover the protests, which were organized by a civil employees’ trade union. During the protests, four people were also arrested by the police. They grabbed Adhikari around the neck and he was beaten with boots and lathis (heavy iron-bound bamboo sticks) for documenting the arrests. Adhikari sustained minor injuries and had to seek treatment at a local hospital. Read more.

10. SAMSN Blog: Trauma and Journalism Training after Earthquake Experience (Nepal)

I started panicking myself. I couldn’t connect calls to my family. I didn’t know what had happened to my parents, or office. The screaming, the siren of ambulances, and the injured people made me dizzy. Dharahara, the famous nine-story tower of Kathmandu, was missing, and instead the sky was clouded by dust rising from the rubble. I took a few photos and ran to the office as there was no public vehicle. At office, the phone and the internet was not working. How do I post the news?

Read the blog by Nepali journalist Sudarshan Khatiwadahere.

11. Free speech in India: a dire three months (The Hoot)

The first quarter has seen not just censorship but violence, sedition and defamation cases, arrests and a murder… Apart from the turbulence in February over the sedition cases filed at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the arrests of students, and the allegations regarding doctored videos; the period saw, an overall increase in the number of sedition cases filed, recorded the murder of one journalist, increases in attacks on journalists and media property, a number of defamation cases filed against the media and the political class, and logged many instances of censorship of different kinds, affecting the media, the arts, as well as ordinary citizens. Read more

12. Judicial Commission Fails to Identify Attackers of Hamid Mir (Freedom Network)

A judicial commission set up in Pakistan to investigate a debilitating attack on prominent journalist Hamid Mir has not been able to determine the actual reasons and culprits behind the high-profile case. Freedom Network, a Pakistani media watchdog and civil liberties group, which gained access to the report, in a statement on April 9, 2016, noted that the Commission had submitted its findings to the government on December 15, 2015 but which has not been made officially public. Read more.

13. True state of our fourth estate (Kuelsel, Bhutan)

The state of the fourth estate [in Bhutan] in not encouraging when we reflect on a decade after media was liberalised. Unfortunately, it is also a fact that not many newspaper companies are owned by those whose main business is journalism. There is always the demand for higher profits by owners, shareholders or boards of directors.Therein lies the conflict. Although Bhutanese media is still considered to be at a nascent stage, the future is bleak. Moreover, the quality is suffering because there is no investment in journalism either. Read more.

14. 2016 World Press Freedom Index: a “deep and disturbing” decline in media freedom (RSF)

The 2016 edition of the World Press Freedom Index, which Reporters Without Borders (RSF) will publish on 20 April, shows that there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels. The global indicator has gone from 3719 points last year to 3857 points (the higher the figure, the worse the situation) this year, a 3.71% deterioration. The decline since 2013 though is 13.6%. Read more.

15. Safety conditions continue to deteriorate for Afghan media (AFJC)

The Afghan Journalist Centre (AFJC), said there were over 191 media violations between March 2015 and March 2016 against the media in Afghanistan, in its annual report. The incidents included violence, threats, intimidation, and insults against journalists. There has been a massive spike from the previous reporting year, which saw 103 incidents in the 12-month period. Government officials and elements of the Afghan military accounted for many of the attacks – 82 cases, or 43 percent, according to the AFJC. The Taliban, linked to 52 of the incidents; “unidentified armed persons”, and were behind an additional 34 incidents. Read more.

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SAMSN is a group of journalists’ trade unions, press freedom organizations and journalists in South Asia that work together to support freedom of expression and association in the region.  

For further information on SAMSN, visit: https://samsn.ifj.org/us/

If you have information on a press freedom violation or matters relating to media freedom and journalists’ rights in South Asia, contact staff at IFJ Asia-Pacific so that action can be taken. To contribute to this bulletin, emailifjsouthasia@gmail.com