South Asia Media Solidarity Network Bulletin: November

Welcome to the e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on December 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 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.    SAMSN campaign against impunity for journalist attacks #whatareyoudoing?

2.    New SAMSN Digital Hub launches today

3.    IFJ and SAMSN’s open letter to Nawaz Sharif

4.    Pakistan assassination takes journalist murder toll to 14

5.    Media Rights Monitoring and Advocacy Training in Kabul & New Delhi

6.    Gender safety in Afghanistan workshop

7.    Indian, Bhutanese and Afghan journalists speak out against impunity

8.    South Asia gender coordinators work across the region

9.    Pakistan suspends ARY News TV licence

10.  Journalist detained for reporting on political corruption in Pakistan

11.  Editor arrested for assaulting female employee in the Maldives

12.  Unions calls on government/employer to support Kashmiri photographer’s widow

13.  Journalist assaulted in Bangladesh

14.  Another round of death threats for journalists in Sri Lanka workshops

15.  Journalists and staff attacked in eastern Nepal

16.  Demonstrations held against newspaper in Afghanistan

17.  IFJ Blog: Impunity has many faces – Disappearance in the Maldives

1.    IFJ Asia-Pacific launches campaign against impunity for journalist attacks

On the inaugural UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (November 2), the IFJ Asia-Pacific together with IFJ affiliates across the region, launched  22-day campaign against impunity for attacks on journalists and media workers.

In addition to its focus on Pakistan and the Philippines, the IFJ Asia Pacific launched a “22 Days – 22 Stories” campaign to highlight individual cases, stories and information on impunity from across the region. We have already released a number of stories from across the region; including Afghan journalists speak out against Impunity, IFJ Blog: Impunity has many faces and World condemns impunity while another Pakistan assassination takes toll to 14.

One component of the campaign is calling those in power to account on social media, using the hashtag #whatareyoudoing? Using the names of leaders of countries to call them to respond or action on the issue of impunity. See some of the photos here, here and here.

Globally, the IFJ calls on colleagues to join our photo campaign on social media for #whatareyoudoing? by taking a photograph of yourself and sharing it on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or using it as your avatar/profile pic for November. Use the tag @ifjasiapacific and send photographs to ifj(at)ifj-asia(dot)org.

The campaign culminates on 23 November, the 5th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre in the Philippines. Five years on from the biggest massacre of journalists in history, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) will conduct a major campaign to call for justice into the massacre – which is yet to secure a single conviction. More information here.

2.    IFJ Asia-Pacific launches SAMSN Digital Hub

Today the IFJ Asia-Pacific is pleased to give the region its first look at the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) Digital Hub. We welcome your feedback and input and affiliates will soon be able to start uploading their own releases. The Digital Hub, available at http://samsn.ifj.org will become central repository of South Asia-related media issues, press statements and resources; and also the one-stop website for news and statements. The Digital Hub is part of the South Asia Media Solidarity for Democracy Project funded by UNDEF. The Digital Hub aims to bring together SAMSN members to work in concert regionally to defend freedom of expression rights, media rights, right to information, and national and international frameworks, both in secure online and off-line environments, creating a regional voice.

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 beta version of the SAMSN Digital Hub here.

3.    IFJ and SAMSN’s open letter to Nawaz Sharif

The IFJ and the SAMSN joined the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in marking November 2 as a National Day of Action Against Impunity in Pakistan. On November 2, the IFJ and SAMSN wrote to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, calling on him to recognize the day in Pakistan and to make concerted efforts to bring to an end to the country’s entrenched culture of impunity for journalist killings.

The letter recommends PM Sharif to declare November 2 to be observed every year as the ‘National Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’. This year, 14 journalists have been killed in Pakistan and many more threatened, intimidated and attacked. According to SAMSN, Pakistan is fast becoming the deadliest country for journalists, leading the world in killings this year – ahead of Iraq and Syria.

The joint letter, also signed by leading Pakistani journalists and activists, calls on the Pakistan Prime Minister to respond to a list of eight recommendations including urgent appointment of full-time federal and provincial special prosecutors dedicated to investigation cases of attacks against journalists; investigate into the cases of all journalists killed in Pakistan since 2000 and pursuit in the courts of their relevant provinces; the families of the targeted journalists be awarded appropriate compensation and financial assistance; ensure a passage of a law on media safety; and reforming the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) law, which governs the independent broadcast sector. Read the letter here and find the statement here.

See the IFJ infographic on impunity focusing on Pakistan here.

The IFJ and the SAMSN express solidarity with its affiliate PFUJ in their call to end the impunity and defend press freedom and has begun a month long campaign to push Pakistan’s leaders into action against impunity for crimes against journalists.

The PFUJ and its affiliates across Pakistan also held rallies, awareness lectures, and candle vigils in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Hyderabad, DG Khan, Bahawalpur, Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Hafizabad, Gujrat and Abbottabad to mark the UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.

The PFUJ also marked November 3 as a day to condemn the illegitimate act of imposing emergency rule under former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf and reiterated its pledge to defend the independence of media and democracy in future. More here.

4.    Pakistan assassination takes journalist murder toll to 14

Jewan Arain, a journalist of Dharti TV, was killed in Ghambat Khurha, Sindh, in Pakistan’s Southeast, on November 5. According to reports, a group of people opened fire on him when he was on the way to his office at about 3pm. He died at the scene as a result of his injuries.

The motive behind the killing has not been established, however, other journalists in Sindh believed it was related to his profession and staged a protest demanding the killers’ arrest.

With the 14th assassination in 2014, Pakistan leads its global death toll as the most dangerous country for journalists and media workers, outranking Syria and Iraq in journalist killings. More here.

5.    Media Rights Monitoring and Advocacy Training held in Kabul & New Delhi

The IFJ Asia-Pacific organized the media rights monitoring and advocacy workshops as part of the new South Asia Media for Democracy project supported by UNDEF, in Kabul, Afghanistan and New Delhi, India in November.

The workshop in New Delhi, on November 6 and 7, was hosted by the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) with representatives of the All India Newspaper Employees Federation (AINEF), the National Union of Journalists – India (NUJ-I) and the Journalists Association of Bhutan (JAB); and journalists from Kashmir, Assam, Arunanchal Pradesh, Orissa, and Chhatisgarh participating to discuss journalism and media rights situation in India’s troubled states.

The IFJ with the Afghan Independent Journalist Association (AIJA) held a Media Rights Monitoring and Advocacy workshop on November 5 and 6 with the Media Rights Monitoring. The workshop was attended by journalists from across the country including men and women.

6.    Gender safety in Afghanistan workshop

The IFJ Asia-Pacific organized a gender safety training workshop as part of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) supported by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, in Kabul, Afghanistan on 3rd and 4th of November.

The workshop was hosted by the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA) and one of the South Asia Gender Representatives, Dilrukshi Handunnetti from Sri Lanka was the trainer for the workshop.

The workshop was attended by male and female journalists from across the country, and focused on issues such as violations of journalist rights, violence and harassment against women journalists, including attacks against women as well as reporting on sexual harassment and violence against women.

7.    Indian, Bhutanese and Afghan journalists speak out against impunity

Since the launch of the campaign against impunity, Indian, Bhutanese and Afghan journalists have joined in the campaign to condemn the climate of impunity in their or neighboring countries and to call for justice.

Seven media workers have lost their lives in Afghanistan this year – many as a result in a spike of violence leading up to the April election. In 2014, it is one of the world’s most dangerous places for media workers.

Read more about Afghanistan here, see the photos of Indian and Bhutanese journalists joining the #WhatAreYouDoing? campaign here.

8.    South Asia gender coordinators work across the region

Sujata Madhok (Delhi Union of Journalists) and Dilrukshi Handunnetti (Sri Lankan Working Journalists Association) have both been working hard in the region in their new roles as South Asia’s gender coordinators. Both women have been strong advocates for gender equity in the region and are also part of the IFJ Research Study on Gender and Media in the Asia Pacific, working as researchers for their respective countries.

Dilrukshi recently went to Kabul, Afghanistan as a trainer for a gender safety workshop for journalists. This workshop was attended by women and men from across Afghanistan and looked at issues such as the rights of women journalists, safety issues and harassment. One young journalist said that the concept of gender equity is not generally accepted and this is reflected in the newsrooms as well. Dilrukshi said the workshop was refreshingly different with a highly motivated group of both men and women journalists. She said a diversity of ideas were shared and men were strong with their support to improve gender equity.

Sujata hosted two workshops in New Delhi with her union the Delhi Union of Journalists. In September, as part of the IFJ Research Study on Gender, ‘A day of Truth Telling’ heard accounts from a number of female journalists about the sexual harassment they had faced in trying to establish their careers. Those working in television said they were chosen for their good looks and presentation skills, which created resentment from male colleagues. One women even said that the tag ‘feminist’ could lead to refusal of a job.

9.    Pakistan suspends ARY News TV licence

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PERMA) ordered the suspension of the broadcasting license of ARY News TV channel for 15 days on October 20, 2014. The PERMA also imposed a fine of Rs.10 million (approximately USD 97,000).

The decision by PERMA came after the Lahore High Court’s directive on October 17 to stop broadcasting the talk show Khara Sach hosted by anchor Mubashar Lucman. The program is suspended until the final verdict is handed down, on the indictment against ARY Chief and the broadcaster on the accusation of airing ‘scandalous and defamatory programs against the judiciary’.

The Court had ordered “the PERMA chairman to ensure that program Khara Sach is not aired on ARY News TV channel until final adjudication… he is further directed to ensure that [anchor] Lucman does not participate in any program on ARY TV Channel being aired in Pakistan either as a host or as an observer or as a participant.” More here.

10.  Journalist detained for reporting on political corruption in Pakistan

Shehryar Mehsud, a columnist at the Urdu daily Akhbar-e-Khyber and a blogger, was arrested on the orders of the political administration allegedly for exposing the ‘corruption of political agents’ in development projects blogger in tribal area of Waziristan, Pakistan on Monday October 28, 2014.

Mehsud had received threatening calls from the administrators after he wrote a column on corruption. The local journalists’ community believes that Mehsud’s arrest is an attempt to silence the journalists. More here.

11.  Editor arrested for assaulting female employee in the Maldives

Adam Haleem, the editor of Vnews online, was arrested after assaulting a female colleague in the officer on November 9. He was caught on CCTV entering a stair hall. The video is alleged to show him grabbing a female employee who fell on a flight of stairs before another employee intervened to stop the incident.

Haleem was arrested on the night of Tuesday, November 11 after the CCTV footage was widely circulated on social media and a court issued an arrest warrant. The Criminal Court in the Maldives remanded him in custody for five days on Thursday, November 13. Read more here.

12.  Unions calls on government/employer to support Kashmiri photographer’s widow

The IFJ and its affiliates the Indian Union of Journalists (IJU) urged the Jagaran Prakashan Limited, the publisher of Dainik Jagaran, and state government of Jammu and Kashmir of India to provide compensation to family of late photojournalist Shafat Sidiq.

Well-known photojournalist of Kashmir Sidiq, 40, was on assignment for Dainik Jagran, a Hindi daily when he went missing in the floods on September 7. His body, with his cameras still hanging around his neck, was found five days later.

He is survived by wife Yasmeen, 18-month-old son Mohammad, ailing father Mohammad Sidiq, mother Saleema and two sisters. His family was dependent on his earning.

IJU President SN Sinha wrote letters to Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, and Mr Sanjay Gupta, Editor and Chief Executive Officer of Jagaran Prakashan Limited, urging to provide immediate assistance to the bereaved family. More here.

13.  Journalist assaulted in Bangladesh

Journalist Abdullah Al Noman was assaulted by the cadres of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), a wing of the ruling party the Bangladesh Awami League, in Dhaka on, October 16.

He was attacked in front of MC College auditorium. Normal is the Sylhet correspondent of Banglanews24.com. It is alleged that approximately ten BCL cadres beat the journalist indiscriminately with sticks and belts, leaving him injured. Students from the MC College took him to MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital for medical treatment. Noman had recently published several reports about the activities of BCL in MC College. More here.

14.  Another round of death threats for journalists in Sri Lanka workshops

Some of the journalists in Sri Lanka received death threats for participating in the concluding ceremony of journalism training on October 15 in the capital Colombo.

The training was organized by Transparency International Sri Lanka and a number of participants including Jayasiri Jayasekara, Janoor Kichilan and Amadoru Amarajeewa, training organizers Shan Wijethunga and Ravaya consultant editor Victor Ivan all received threatening text messages. The message, sent by so-called Rata Rakagath Deshapremee Balakyaa (literally the Patriotic Force that defended the country), said: “Do not attend this LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] meeting. You will be attacked.”

This is not the first incident in which journalists attending meetings or trainings have received threats in Sri Lanka. Since January this year, three training workshops for Tamil journalists have been abandoned due to threats and intimidations from outsiders. More here.

15.  Journalists and staff attacked in eastern Nepal

About dozen people attacked journalist Rejina Gautam Rodan, a correspondent of local Arjundhara daily and executive editor of Jana Andolan weekly along with Khemraj Gautam, office staff of FNJ’s local chapter on October 19 in Jhapa, eastern Nepal.

They were returning home from office at round 9pm when the attackers intercepted them at Sanishchare Road in Birtamod and attacked them with sharp weapons. They have sustained serious injuries to the head and received treatment at a local hospital. More here.

16.  Demonstrations held against newspaper in Afghanistan

Extremist Islamic scholars and Afghan Jihadi groups strongly criticized some parts of the article published in the Afghanistan Express daily on October last week and subsequently there have been a number of demonstrations against the newspaper for publishing the article.

The English daily published an article ‘Islam of Taliban and ISIS’ last week. One set of demonstrations at an Islamic university called for the owners of the daily to be arrested and for the government to block further publication.

The Afghanistan Express published an apology, which they said was published as a result of a technical mistake but the hostility against the newspaper continues. More here.

17.  IFJ Blog: Impunity has many faces – Disappearance in the Maldives

Today marks 103 days since 28-year-old Maldivian journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla (@moyameehaa) was reported missing to police, after being last seen in the early morning of Friday 8 August.

Rilwan, employed by Minivan News, had been working on a number of controversial religious pieces just prior to his sudden disappearance. Beyond that, Rilwan was clearly supported and admired by many in the industry as a huge social media campaign has swept up to keep pressure on authorities criticized of doing far too little, too late. Family and colleagues adamantly believe Rilwan’s fate is related to his journalistic work. Read the blog here.

To join the online campaign use #FindMoyameehaa in Twitter and find more information at http://findmoyameehaa.com/ More information on Rilwan’s disappearence here and here.

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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: 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