South Asia Media Solidarity Network Bulletin: December

Welcome to the e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on January 15, 2015, 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 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.

In this bulletin:

1.    Journalist bashed to death in Andra Pradesh, India

2.    Indian journalist killed in car accident

3.    Several journalists injured in police attack in Haryana, India

4.    Indian journalists’ movement restricted in government building

5.    Delhi Court reinstates 272 media workers

6.    Bangladesh journalist dies in road accident

7.    British journalist convicted of contempt for questioning death toll in Bangladesh

8.    Journalist attacked in Nepal

9.    Journalist’s murderers sentenced in Nepal

10.  Afghanistan government vows to end impunity for crimes against journalists

11.  Pakistani media worker commits suicide following non-payment of salary

12.  Several incidents of attacks and abuses on journalists recorded during political campaign in Pakistan

13.  IFJ Blog: Impunity Has Denied Us Justice, Says Family Of Saleem Shahzad

14.  The SAMSN Digital Hub is now online

1.    Journalist bashed to death in Andra Pradesh, India

MVN Shankar, 53, a senior journalist working for a Telagu daily, Andra Prabha, died from  injuries sustained during an attack by three unidentified assailants on November 25 in front of his residence at Chilakaluripet town, Gunter of Andra Pradesh.

He is believed to have been killed for his reportage against mafia who were illegally selling rationed items supplied through the Public Distribution System on the black market. Shankar, the honorary president of the local press club, had written a series of stories exposing scams in the public distribution system. He had also lodged a complaint with Guntur police seeking action against errant food dealers. Read more here.

2.    Indian journalist killed in car accident

Shivam Bhatt, a journalist with India’s Zee News TV, died in a car accident on November 20 in Barwala, Haryana, India. The 24-year-old reporter died when the vehicle he was travelling in collided with stray cattle and went off the road on the Kaithal-Chandigarh highway.

Three other people — reporter Rohit Khanna, cameraman Jaiveer Rawat and the driver — were also injured in the crash. They all were rushed to Indira Gandhi Multispecialty General Hospital where Bhatt was declared dead on arrival.

Bhatt was on assignment covering the arrest of controversial Indian preacher Rampal, who was arrested in connection to a 2006 murder case, when the incident took place. Read more here.

3.    Several journalists injured in police attack in Haryana, India

A score of media workers covering the stand-off and clash between security forces and followers of controversial sect leader Rampal were injured as police carried out an unprovoked attack on journalists at Barwala, Hisar in the Haryana state, in north-eastern India on November 18.

Cameras and equipment of photojournalists and television stations were damaged and broken in the attack. Eighty-six journalists were camped outside the Ashram of Rampal filming the violent clashes with the permission of the Director General of Police (DGP) when the attack took place. The DGP, S N Vashisht, had conceded that journalists were beaten up and that the matter would be investigated. Read more here.

4.    Indian journalists’ movement restricted in government building

The West Bengal state government in India has restricted the movement of journalists in Nabanna, the state’s main administrative building. The West Bengal Police passed an order in the first week of December stating that journalists will not be allowed to enter any of the government department’s offices without prior permission from the authorities.

It also stated that if journalists are found violating the order, they would be arrested and charged under Indian Penal Code and the Official Secrets Act. The Nabanna building houses most of the important departments like home ministry, finance, hill affairs, land reforms, fire and disaster management, minority affairs and the chief minister’s office. Read more here.

5.    Delhi Court reinstates 272 media workers

In positive news from India, the Delhi High Court ordered The Hindustan Times to reinstate 272 media workers seven years after the newspaper arbitrarily sacked them.

Justice Suresh Kait on November 17 termed the termination of the 272 employees as arbitrary and upheld the January 23, 2012 judgment by the Industrial Tribunal, which granted the media workers reinstatement with back wages of 9 years. The Hindustan Times management had appealed the Tribunal judgment in the Delhi High Court. The Hindustan Times had dismissed the workers en masse alleging misbehavior and other vires when the workers were agitating for certain demands in October 2004.

The High Court order stated: “Reinstatement with full back wages is the proper relief to which the workmen are entitled, especially when their termination from services nine years back was based on a fictitious/sham transaction.” It also noted sadly that 13 media workers have already passed away while fighting for their rights. Read more here.

6.    Bangladesh journalist dies in road accident

Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury, former managing director and chief editor of the state-owned news agency the Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), died in hospital after being hit by a bus in Dhaka on Saturday, November 29. He was getting off it at Karwan Bazaar, in Dhaka’s business and commercial district when he was struck.

The 66-year-old journalist was on his way for a talk show in ATN Bangla from the Dhaka Press Club. Chowdhury had a career in journalism spanning nearly four decades, and was most recently working as a consulting editor for The Financial Express. He had also worked as the Bangladesh Correspondent for the New York Times. The veteran journalist was a permanent member of the National Press Club and Dhaka Reporters Unity. Chowdhury served as the assistant secretary general of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists in 1988-89. Read more here.

7.    British journalist convicted of contempt for questioning death toll in Bangladesh

A special war crimes court, the International Crimes Tribunal, on Tuesday, December 2 ruled that a blog and two other articles written by British journalist living in Dhaka, David Bergman, 49, ‘hurt the feelings of the nation’ and sentenced him to a week’s imprisonment or to pay a fine of USD65.

Bergman, the editor of special reports at local English-language daily New Age, questioned the number of deaths during Bangladesh’s liberation from Pakistan in his personal blog posts written between 2011 and 2013. A Supreme Court lawyer filed the contempt petition on February 18, alleging that Bergman, in his three blog posts, had written against the court. On April 17, the court, which was set up to investigate war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence, decided to initiate the trial.

Bergman had argued that his blog posts were “accurate, fair, and logical” and his comments about the court “fell well within the permitted limits of fair criticism”. Read more here.

8.    Journalist attacked in Nepal

Two unidentified people on a motorbike attacked journalist Narayan Adhikari with sharp weapons near his home while he was returning from his office in Chitwan, central Nepal on November 20.

Adhikari, a correspondent with the state-owned National News Agency and a journalist at local Hamro FM radio, sustained injuries on right arm and underwent treatment for a few days at the Bharatpur Medical Hospital. Adhikari is also the chairman of the IFJ affiliate Nepal Press Union’s district committee. Read more here.

9.    Journalist’s murderers sentenced in Nepal

A court in Nepal, the Dailekh District Court (DDC), on December 7 issued a verdict on the 2004 murder case of journalist Dekendra Thapa and gave jail terms ranging from one to two years.

Justice Dilli Ratna Shrestha issued the verdict on the basis of written arguments and others documents produced by the plaintiffs and defendants. Thapa’s wife Laxmi Shrestha had filed a case against nine district cadres and leaders of the then rebel Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The then rebel side had hid Thapa’s dead body for four years after he was killed on August 11, 2004.

Those sentenced are accomplices in the murder and the police are yet to arrest the main accused. The Federation of Nepali Journalists and Nepal Press Union said the sentence terms were inadequate yet welcomed the verdict as a positive move to deliver justice to journalists. Read more here, here and here.

10.  Afghanistan government vows to end impunity for crimes against journalists

The Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan’s National Unity Government Abdullah Abdullah issued a statement of intent to bring an end to impunity for crimes against journalists and media workers in the country on November 23.

During a national campaign to end impunity, CEO Abdullah renewed a commitment for supporting freedom of expression and media activities, saying that the country’s National Unity Government remains committed to protect press freedom.

The campaign was coordinated by the Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) to call on the Afghan Government to fulfill its promises in taking actions to end impunity for crimes against journalists. Abdullah met senior members of media support organizations and assured them of his government’s commitment to take essential actions to end the issue of impunity. Read more here.

11.  Pakistani media worker commits suicide following non-payment of salary

Imran Ahmad Khan, a Non-Linear Editor (NLE) of Royal TV, committed suicide on Thursday, November 27 over the non-payment of his due salary. He left a recorded message blaming Royal TV management for his death.

Khan suffered a stroke earlier this year and was admitted to the hospital. He was terminated from the job when he demanded his pending salary, following his hospitalisation.

Journalists in Pakistan had protested against the Royal TV some months ago over the issue of non-payment of salaries. Read more here.

12.  Several incidents of attacks and abuses on journalists recorded during political campaign in Pakistan

Several incidents of attacks on journalists, including senior and female journalists, have been reported during political rallies by the Pakistan Teheek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in the various part of Pakistan in recent weeks.

Most recently, journalists of Geo News TV, AbbTakk TV, the News and the Jang, including senior journalist and PFUJ’s former secretary general Mazhar Abbas, were not allowed to perform their duties during a rally organized by the PTI. Hostile cadres of PTI forced the reporting crew of the Jang Group to stay on the roof of the Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) van and disrupted their reporting by loud and abusive slogans. The PTI cadres also pelted the van with water bottles.

Female journalist Sidra Dar was also harassed shortly after PTI chief Imran Khan concluded his speech. The enraged workers pelted Geo’s DSNG van with stones and empty bottles. The PTI workers then tried to drag Dar out of the van and used abusive language.

On December 8 in Faisalabad, Maria Memon, a female journalist with Geo News, was attacked covering a PTI rally in Faisalabad. At first Memon was verbally assaulted, however the attack escalated when she and her producer were hit by a bottle of water, followed by a number of empty bottles. Memon was then attacked with sticks as she sat atop of a Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) van.

On November 30, PTI cadres attacked the Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) equipment of various television stations in Islamabad. A number of unidentified people threw small explosives described as crackers, targeting the DSNG of Dunya News, Dawn News and Abb Tak News channels after the conclusion of a political rally at Faisalabad Interchange. The attack left five media workers injured.

The attack took place after the completion of coverage of the PTI rally. The small explosives were hauled at the parked DSNG vans from a motorcycle. According to reports, the explosives left an eight-inch wide and one inch deep crater at the site and damaged the TV vans. DSNG engineer Ziaul Haq and cameraman Mohsin Ali of DawnNews, Nadir Hussain and Amir Ishfaq of Duniya News and Suleman Mubarik of Abb Takk News were injured in the incident who received treatment by Rescue 1122 medical staff on the spot. Read more here.

13.  IFJ Blog: Impunity Has Denied Us Justice, Says Family Of Saleem Shahzad

Syed Saleem Shahzad, a prominent Pakistani investigative journalist renowned for his incisive reporting of war and author of a book on militancy in the country, was abducted in broad daylight from the heart of federal capital Islamabad on May 29, 2011. His abduction and subsequent brutal murder left many in Pakistan in a state of shock – not just his family and the community of 18,000 journalists in the country but also the public at large…

Three years down the road as 2014 gives way to 2015 little has changed. Shahzad’s killers have not been identified nor punished. Meanwhile, such is the level of impunity over 30 more journalists have been killed without their killers been found or punished either...

Read an interview with Amir Hazma, a brother in law of Shahzad and also a journalist, on the murder, impunity and the state of the family here.

14.  The SAMSN Digital Hub is now online

The South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) Digital Hub is now online at http://samsn.ifj.org. It is a central repository of South Asia-related media issues, press statements and resources; and also the one-stop website for news and updates.

The SAMSN Digital Hub features an ‘attack on media’ map, campaigns, photo galleries of the SAMSN events, activities of IFJ Asia-Pacific and journalists unions in the region, a blog for the journalists around the region to write about their experiences of media and related issues.

We welcome your submissions for the Digital Hub. All the affiliates and partners of the SAMSN are requested to send in any material they want to publish in the Digital Hub to ifjsouthasia@gmail.com Visit the SAMSN Digital Hub here.

***

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: www.ifj-asia.org/page/samsn.html

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