South Asia Media Solidarity Bulletin: February

Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on March 15, 2016, and your inputs are most welcome.

We encourage contributions to let others know about your activities; to seek solidarity and support from SAMSN members for 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 content are available at the SAMSN Digital Hub: https://samsn.ifj.org 

In this bulletin:

1.       At least 2,297 journalists and media staff have been killed since 1990: IFJ

2.       IFJ calls for 'coherent engagement' in tackling challenges to safety in journalism

3.       Taliban kills seven media workers in brutal Kabul suicide attack

4.       Senior journalist shot dead in Afghanistan

5.       Deadly month leads to Presidential decree in Afghanistan

6.       Indian journalist threatened and attacked for reporting

7.       Disruptions during court proceeding on Sri Lankan journalist’s disappearance

8.       Journalists attacked covering protests in Pakistan

9.       Journalist attacked returning from work in Nepal

10.   Radio station vandalized in Nepal

11.   SAMSN Blog: Dangers of reporting in Pakistan’s tribal areas (by Roohan Ahmed)

12.   More titles, more copies for Indian newspapers

13.   Global Support for Principle of Free Expression

1. At least 2,297 journalists and media staff have been killed since 1990: IFJ

The IFJ published its 25th report on journalists and media staff killed since 1990. The report lists 2,297 media fatalities due to violence in journalism, including 112 killed in 2015 alone. From double digits at the start of these publications, the figures reached three digits in eleven years, peaking to 155 killings of journalists and media staff in 2006, the deadliest year on record, according to the IFJ report.

The Asia Pacific region recorded the highest death toll of 571, followed by the Arab World and Middle East with 473 killings, one more that the Americas (472). Africa comes in the fourth position on 424 victims ahead of Europe with 357 dead. In 2015, the Americas had the most fatalities (27), followed by the Middle East (25).

The most killing of journalists happened in Iraq (309), the Philippines (146), Mexico (120), Pakistan (115), Russian Federation (109), Algeria (106), India (95), Somalia (75), Syria (67) and Brazil (62).

The report also provides details on the campaign waged on many fronts over the years by the IFJ and its affiliates to make journalism safer. They include the initiatives by the Federation such as the creation of the International Safety Fund to provide assistance to journalists in need and the setting up of the solidarity centers in Algeria, Colombia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka to monitor crisis situations and distribute assistance. There were also practical tools to provide advice to journalists on dangerous assignments such as the adoption of an International Code of Conduct for the Safe Practice of Journalism.

Find the IFJ statement here; press release on Asia Pacific launch of the report here, the Associated Press news here and download the PDF report here.

2. IFJ calls for 'coherent engagement' in tackling challenges to safety in journalism

The IFJ President, Jim Boumelha, told an international conference entitled 'News Organisations Standing Up for the Safety of Media Professionals' at UNESCO in Paris that media executives and journalists' organisations need to work together to provide journalists with protection. 

Boumelha, who spoke at the opening of the conference, along side UNESCO Director Irina Bokova and World Editors Forum Vice-President Erik Bjerager, said that the safety crisis in journalism is the result of increasing dangers in journalism and the failure to implement international legal instruments which are meant to protect journalists, as civilians. 

"Our task today is to build the widest coalition to ensure these instruments are fought for and implemented,” said Boumelha. "A more coherent engagement is called for on the part of media owners, publishers and editors.” Read IFJ statement here, and the President’s speech here.

3. Taliban kills seven media workers in brutal Kabul suicide attack

Seven media workers were killed in the blast on January 20 when a bus carrying them was targeted in the bomb attack at 5pm at Darul Aman Road in South Western Kabul. Those killed worked for the Kaboora Production, which produces content for TOLO TV, Lemar TV, Arman FM, Arakozia FM and TOLONews of the MOBY Media Group. A suicide bomber rammed a motorcycle into the bus before detonating a bomb.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. It has previously threatened TOLO TV in October 2015 saying they no longer considered TOLO TV as a media outlet but military targets. “No employee, anchor, office, news team and reporter of these TV channels holds any immunity,” the group said. More here.

4. Senior journalist shot dead in Afghanistan

Haji Mohammad Zubair Khaksar, a correspondent for the government-run Nangarhar TVand Radio network, in Surkhrod district, was shot dead by unidentified assailants as he was returning home from a private gathering in Eastern Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, on January 29.

Khaksar had received threats from Daesh. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack on Khaksar, a well-known poet and also a cultural advisor to the provincial governor, Saleem Khan Kundozi. Khahsar’s murder comes after Daesh had been broadcasting threatening messages for journalists in Nangarhar on its ‘Voice of the Caliphate’ radio in Nangarhar. More here.

5. Deadly month leads to Presidential decree in Afghanistan

On January 31, 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. President Ghani also ordered a report addressing all cases of journalist murders in the past 15 years as soon as possible. More here

6. Indian journalist threatened and attacked for reporting

On February 7, a group of 20 people gathered in front of journalist Malini Subramniam’s residence in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, a correspondent of the independent English-language news site Scroll.in. The mob shouted abusive slogans including ‘death to Malini Subramaniam’, as well as pelting rocks at her home, which shattered her car windows. The mob tried to encourage her neighbours to attack her, claiming she was a Maoist supporter.

In an interview with Scoll.in following the attack, Subramaniam said that she recognized two of the men in the group who belong to political parties in the state, as well as other men from the crowd who are members of the anti-Maoist group Samajik Ekta Manch. The police initially denied to file the First Information Report (FIR) and didn’t initiate an investigation into the incident until Wednesday, February 10. More here.

7. Disruptions during court proceeding on Sri Lankan journalist’s disappearance

On Monday, January 25, monk Galabodaatthe Gnanasara, a leader of the Buddhist group, Bodu Bala Sena, entered the Homagama Magistrate Court, where the court case against those accused of abducting journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda was taking place. Gnanasara entered the court shouting at the officials and lawyers, and according to reports also threatening Eknaligoda’s wife, Sandya Eknaligoda.

On Tuesday, January 26, Gnanasara surrendered to the Homagama police, where he was arrested on charges of allegedly threatening Sandya Eknaligoda at the court premises. Gnanasara will be remanded until February 16. More here.

8. Journalists attacked covering protests in Pakistan

At least 6 journalists and media workers were attacked as they covered a protest at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on February 2. 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.

The journalists and media workers were injured with a number of them requiring hospital treatment. According to reports, Dawn News’ cameraman Shafi Dilshad was left with a fractured hand while cameramen of Express News Rafiq Hassan, and Amjad Iqbal of Waqt News were hit with sticks; Ary News cameraman Hanif, AFP’s photographer Rizwan Tabassum, Dunya News’ reporter Naveed Kamal and Channel 92’s reporter Samar Abbas were also injured. More here.

9. Journalist attacked returning from work in Nepal

An unidentified gang attacked Hira Lal Biswakarma, a journalist of Himalaya Times daily, while he was returning home from office, near Mid Baneshwor, Kathmandu at 9:30pm on January 24. The attack left Biswakarma injured and requiring hospital treatment. The attackers also stole Biswakarma’s wallet and personal documents. More here.

10. Radio station vandalized in Nepal

A gang of 15 unidentified people entered the office of Radio Madhesh 89.3 Mhz and the Madesh Post weekly in Sarlahi district at 6 pm on January 29 and vandalized the office and threatened staff, according to reports. The attack left the office’s doors and windows damaged, with Radio Madhesh 89.3 Mhz stopping its broadcast after the attack, citing security concerns. More here.

11. SAMSN Blog: Dangers of reporting in Pakistan’s tribal areas

It is generally felt in the journalist community in Pakistan, especially journalists working in dangerous areas, that the people who attack and kill journalists enjoy some kind of impunity in Pakistan, which is undermining the freedom of expression in the country. So far the authorities have only convicted the killers of two journalists. Read the blog by Roohan Ahmed here.

12. More titles, more copies for Indian newspapers

The annual report of the Registrar of Newspapers reports an increase of almost 60 million in the number of copies per publishing day in 2014/15.

At the same time, the report notes a 5.8 per cent increase in the total number of print publications - to an incredible 105,443 registered publications of which almost 15,000 are newspapers. The 5817 new publications registered in the year were offset by just 34 which ceased operations. More here.

13. Global Support for Principle of Free Expression

Although many observers have documented a global decline in democratic rights in recent years, people around the world nonetheless embrace fundamental democratic values, including free expression.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that majorities in nearly all 38 nations polled say it is at least somewhat important to live in a country with free speech, a free press and freedom on the internet. And across the 38 countries, global medians of 50% or more consider these freedoms very important. More here.

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SAMSN is a group of journalists’ trade unions, press freedom organisations 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