South Asia Media Solidarity Network Bulletin: August

To SAMSN members and friends,

Welcome to the e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on September 15, 2014, and your inputs are most welcome. We encourage contributions to let others know what you are doing; to seek solidarity and support from other SAMSN members; and to find out what others are doing in the region.

To contribute, email: ifj@ifj-asia.org

SAMSN is a group of journalists’ trade unions, press freedom organisations and journalists in South Asia that have agreed to work together to support freedom of expression and association in the region. SAMSN was formed at a meeting of these groups in Kathmandu, Nepal, in September 2004. The group agreed to stand in solidarity and work together for media reform, for an independent pluralist media and to build public respect for the work of journalists in the region.

For further information on SAMSN, visit: www.ifj-asia.org/page/samsn.html

Please feel free to distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media.

In this bulletin: 

1.    Sunil Jayasekara death threat: IFJ SAMSN campaign

2.    Call for Investigation on Indian journalist’s death

3.    Respected Indian journalist and union leader illegally dismissed

4.    Concern for Afghanistan’s media after spate of threats & attacks

5.    Gunmen Attack Journalist in Afghanistan

6.    Impunity win: AP photojournalist’s killer sentenced in Afghanistan

7.    Bangladesh Journalist attacked with harpoon

8.    Gang thugs text murder threats to 15 journalists in the Maldives

9.    IFJ calls for consultation on Bangladesh broadcast policy

10.  Indian TV terminates dozens of media workers

11.  Changes to India’s labour laws set to downgrade workers' rights

12.  Secure Communication for journalists and activists

13.  IFJ to launch survey on Media and Gender in South Asia

1. 

   Sunil Jayasekara death threat: IFJ SAMSN campaign

The IFJ, SAMSN and the global community have rallied behind Sri Lankan journalist Sunil Jayasekara, also the convener of Free Media Movement (FMM), after he received continuous stream of death threats. The threats came immediately after the FMM hosted a media conference to condemn the role of government agencies in cancellation of yet another workshop for journalists of Jaffna.

“In a threatening and clear voice, I was told that if the FMM go ahead with this press conference they will not allow me to live. The voice said clearly that I would be killed,” Jayasekara said on the death threats. “Sri Lanka human rights activists and independent journalists have been living with these kinds of threats for many years now. We know the situation is dangerous and the gravity of these threats.”

The role of government agencies was questionable in sabotaging a media workshop in Colombo on digital media safety on July 28. More information available here and here.

The IFJ, SAMSN and the IFEX jointly collaborated on a call for action to press the Sri Lankan government to investigate the case and ensure safety of Jayasekara. You can also join in the campaign here or by tweeting using the hashtag #CondemnThreatSL.

2.    Call for Investigation on Indian journalist’s death

Milita Dutta Mandal, a 31-year-old Indian journalist working for Rajya Sabha TV, mysteriously fell to her death from the balcony of eighth floor flat in Vaishali on Monday July 21. Her neighbors heard her screams late that night, discovered her body in the basement and rushed to hospital with her husband where she was declared dead on arrival. More here.

3.    Respected Indian journalist and activist Geetartha Pathak illegally dismissed

Journalist and union leader Geetartha Pathak was illegally dismissed from the Assam Bani on June 19. Pathak, also the secretary of IJU and the President of Journalists Union of Assam, has worked in the newspaper published by the Assam Tribune Group of Publications for 27 years and was assistant editor when his services were terminated. The media house had issued Pathak with several “show-cause” notices and warnings but despite responding to those notices, his services were summarily terminated without any inquiry or any other due process of law. More here.

4.    Concern for Afghanistan’s media after spate of threats & attacks

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Afghanistan Independent Journalist Association (AIJA) in expressing concern over a series of recent threats and intimidations directed at journalists and called on the Afghanistan government to do more to ensure media workers are safe to conduct their duties.

On August 2, the head of police in Nangrahar province of Eastern Afghanistan threatened a TV reporter for asking him critical questions. The official also deleted recordings of the interview from the camera of a reporter from Ariana TV.

In a separate incident, on July 27, police officials in the North Eastern province of Takhar intimidated a journalist while he was reporting on assignment. In the same week another reporter, Ali Mohammad Nazari, from the South Eastern province of Paktika, working for Pajhwok News Agency, was also forced to leave his job after receiving repeated threats from the Taliban. More here.

5.    Gunmen Attack Journalist in Afghanistan

Journalist Azizullah Hamdard was attacked on the night of August 2 in capital Kabul. According to reports, two unidentified men fired shots from a pistol at Hamdard, a reporter with Pajhwok News agency, and fled away leaving him with injuries in his left arm. He was admitted to Kabul Emergency Hospital for treatment after he was turned back by two other hospitals, as police didn’t arrive despite being informed.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Hamdard linked the attack to his journalism related activities since he had reported on fraud issues during the presidential elections. More here.

6.    Impunity win: AP photojournalist’s killer sentenced in Afghanistan

On July 22, a court in Kabul sentenced the killer of Associated Press photojournalist Anja Niedrignhaus. Former Afghan police unit commander, Naqibullah, was found guilty of murder and treason. He was sentenced to death for Niedrignhaus’ murder and given four years in prison for injuring Gannon. The ruling followed a three-month investigation of the April attack.

Naqibullah shot dead Niedrignhaus and injured Kathy Gannon, both working for Associated Press (AP), in eastern Afghanistan on April 4 during first round of presidential election. More here.

7.    Bangladesh Journalist attacked with harpoon

Journalist Nasrul Anwar, a staff reporter for the Bangla-language daily Kaler Kantho, was attacked by an unidentified person at his home in Bazitpur, in the Kishoregunj district of Dhaka on August 2. According to his family members, the man entered the residence during the early morning and hit Nasrul with a harpoon causing serious injury to his right arm.
  
Nasrul said: "This attack was an attempt to murder me. The miscreant tried to hit me with a harpoon on my chest but it went through my arm.” He claimed that the attack was a result of his reporting on corruption against some influential people in the area. More
here.

8.    Gang thugs text murder threats to 15 journalists in the Maldives

Fifteen Maldivian journalists received murder threats via text message on August 2, warning them against reporting on gangs in the wake of street violence, which has seen at least one death and nine people injured.

“[We] will kill you if you keep writing inappropriate articles about gangs in the media,” the message from an unlisted number read, according to Minivan News. Those receiving death threats are journalists from Haveeru, Raajje TV, Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), VTV, Sun Online, and Vaguthu. More here.

9.    IFJ calls for consultation on Bangladesh broadcast policy

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF), the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) and the Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) in cautiously welcoming the Bangladesh government’s initiative to introduce a new broadcast policy for the country’s media. But the IFJ and the Bangladeshi unions have also expressed concern over some of the provisions of the National Broadcast Policy 2014 that will be potentially restrictive to media freedom in Bangladesh.

The IFJ has joined the three unions in calling for the development of an independent broadcast commission to support further discussions with stakeholders in the revision and implementation of the policy. More here.

10.  Indian TV terminates dozens of media workers

More than 40 employees including journalists, newsroom staff and camerapeople of Focus NE TV, based on Guwahati, Assam, were either sacked or forced to resign as per management’s decision to “cut costs”. The affected journalists and their fellow employees along with media rights organizations in Assam staged a demonstration against the mass termination outside the station’s office at Ulubari, Guwahati on August 11. More here.

11.  Changes to India’s labour laws set to downgrade workers' rights

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) have criticised proposed changes to India’s labour laws by the Government of India which will make it easier for employers to deprive the workers of their wages, rights and privileges. Instead, the IJU has called for a national discussion on reforms to come up with meaningful proposals that would serve to strengthen the media.

The proposed ‘labour reforms’ fall under amendments to the Factories Act, the Apprenticeship Act and other labour laws in the Parliament. The Indian Cabinet has already approved proposals to amend the acts ‘with the common intention to make them more compatible and beneficial for the labour and the industry’. However, the IJU says these amendments will pave the way for employers to deprive workers of their wages, rights and privileges by providing them with concessions. More here.

12.  Secure Communications needed for journalists and activists

Technological advancement with the Internet has made it easy for journalists and activists to not only  communicate with sources and networks, but also to fall prey to. Surveillance is increasingly becoming a common practice, especially for some security agencies, to keep an eye on journalists and activists.

In the context, it is important for journalists and activists to use the available technologies to communicate securely on the Internet to ensure privacy to their information and habits. Simple skills on encryption, secure and/or anonymous browsing and understanding of risks online can help immensely.

The IFJ Asia Pacific organized a two-day secure communications training for participants of the SAMSN annual meeting and South Asia Gender Conference in July in Kathmandu in association with the Tactical Technology Collective. Tactical Tech has resources that can help with using the internet securely. Resources are available to help journalists and activists understand and manage their digital security and privacy risks through their “Privacy and Expression” program on their website here. The website includes other useful resources.

13.  IFJ to launch research study on Media and Gender in South Asia

The IFJ Asia Pacific is launching a research survey on Media and Gender in South Asia in association with UNESCO under the framework of the project ‘Research Study on Media and Gender in Asia-Pacific’.

The study will investigate the situation of women at work in the media, the challenges, obstacles and needs; the number of women in senior and decision making positions and the issues that affect this representation; the role that unions, associations and women’s networks could and do play and expectations of their actions; and best practice case studies of campaigns, media workplaces and coverage and representation of women.

The IFJ-SAMSN South Asia Gender Conference held in Kathmandu in July set up the foundation for the survey that is beginning in coming weeks in Pakistan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. Journalists of both genders will be asked to participate in the important survey.

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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, email ifj@ifj-asia.org