South Asia Media Solidarity Network Bulletin: September

The SAMSN Bulletin: September 2015

Welcome to the e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on October 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 Ujjwal Acharya at: ifjsouthasia@gmail.com

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

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

In this bulletin:

1.    Murder in Balochistan and political protests put heat on Pakistan’s media

2.    IFJ calls on Pakistan government, political parties to respect media rights

3.    Bangladeshi TV presenter slaughtered in brutal home attack

4.    Police under scrutiny in Bangladesh after news editor jailed, another bashed

5.    Maldives media marks one month since Rilwan’s disappearance

6.    Afghanistan expels American journalist for refusing to name sources

7.    Journalists arrested for protesting TV network ban in Telangana, India

8.    Assam TV journalist arrested for alleged links to extremists

9.    Indian MNC attempts harassment of journalist for critical article

10.  Indian union calls for wider discussion on media ownership recommendations

11.  British-Nepali journalist and activist team detained in Qatar

12.  Nepal Press Union elects new executive committee

13.  South Asian journalist unions condemn brutal murder of US journalist James Foley

14.  Participate in the IFJ / UNESCO Regional Survey on Gender and Media

1.Murder in Balochistan and political protests put heat on Pakistan’s media

It has been a challenging month for journalists in Pakistan following the brutal murder of three media workers in Balochistan and violence directed at the media by mobs of political party supporters.

Journalist Irshad Mustoi and his two colleges were shot dead at their office in Quetta, Balochistan on Thursday, August 28. Mustoi, the 35-year-old assignment editor of ARY News in Quetta, Bureau Chief of the Online News Agency and General Secretary Balochistan Union of Journalist (BUJ), was shot dead along with trainee reporter Muhammad Abdul Rasool and media staffer Muhammad Younas in the attack. The police are yet to arrest anyone in connection with the murder.

Following the murders, the Balochistan Union of Journalists and the Quetta Press Club were supported by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists in a a protest rally against the murder yesterday (September 15). Other protests were also held in Islamabad, and other parts of Pakistan. More here.

The murders came amidst enormous political upheaval in the capital Islamabad launched by two opposition parties, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), where the media was the subjected of a series of brutal attacks and manhandling by state security forces and protesters.

On September 1, over 800 PTI and PAT protesters stormed the PTV building in the early afternoon, holding a number of staff hostage and forcing management to shut down the transmission of PTV News and PTV World. Again on September 7, demonstrators pelted stones at the building, breaking a number of windows and also vandalized vehicles of the media.

More information here, here and here.

The IFJ advises journalists covering demonstrations to remain vigilant, and give safety their upmost priority. Please access the IFJ Safety Guidelines for Covering Demonstrations and Civil Unrest for more information. CPJ also has guidelines on security for journalists: https://cpj.org/reports/2012/04/journalist-security-guide.php

2. IFJ calls on Pakistan government, political parties to respect media rights

Following several weeks of violence directed at media workers in Pakistan, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on September 5 issued letters to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and opposition leaders Imran Khan, of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). The letters condemn their roles in the recent violent attack on journalists and media houses; and urge for action to stem violence directed at the media during political rallies in Pakistan.

The IFJ has also called for public apologies from the Pakistani politicians and government after an horrific few weeks of media-targeted violence. In ongoing demonstrations organized by PTI and PAT against the government, the IFJ has also noted that both the state and the opposition directly targeted journalists and media workers in a concerning series of retaliations against media workers who were attempting to report on the protests.

In his letter to Nawaz Sharif, IFJ President, Jim Boumelha, said the aggressive behaviour of security forces was “totally unacceptable” and “grossly violated the media’s rights to report and the citizens’ right of information, as expressed explicitly in Pakistan’s constitution”.

Mr Boumelha said in his letters to PTI and PAT: “As political parties aspiring for democratic rule in Pakistan, your commitment to democratic values, human rights, and the freedom of expression should be unconditional and demonstrative.”

Find the IFJ letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif here; the IFJ letter to PTI Leader, Imran Khan here and the IFJ letter to PAT Leader, Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri here. The IFJ press statement on the issuance of the letters is here.

3. Bangladeshi TV presenter slaughtered in brutal home attack

Maolana Nurul Islam Farooqi, who hosted two programs, Shantir Pothe and Kafela, on ‘Channel i’ television in Bangladesh was slaughtered at his residence at East Razabazar, Dhaka on the night of Wednesday, August 27. More than half-a-dozen youths allegedly entered the house in the pretext of talking about Hajj pilgrimage, but then proceed to tie up all members of his family before killing Farooqi in his bedroom. The motive behind the murder is yet to be determined. However, Farooqi’s supporters reportedly said he had received death threats before for opposing militancy in Bangladesh. More here.

4. Police under scrutiny in Bangladesh after news editor jailed, another bashed

Rabiullah Robi, news editor of the Bangla-language daily Inqilab, was arrested on August 19, accused of violating religious sentiment in a midnight raid at the newspaper office at RK Mission Road, Dhaka. This followed the filing of the case by the Acting Additional Inspector General of Police Pralay Kumar Joardar.

Inqilab published a report on Joardar on August 18, raising several allegations and claiming he had created an "unofficial Hindu League" in the police force. Joardar filed a case against the paper accusing them of hurting religious sentiments, attempting to create disorder in the administration and violation of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act. More here.

At the midnight of August 18, Pulack Chatterjee, the 44-year-old bureau chief of Daily Samakal and secretary of Barisal Press Club, was attacked with sharp weapons by three attackers as he returned home from work. The miscreants fled the scene, though one was later detained by police. Chatterjee sustained injuries to his head and body.

Meanwhile, Shafiur Rahman Farabi also known by his alias ‘Extremist Farabi’ issued a death threat through Facebook to Noeem Nizam, the editor of news daily Pratidin in Dhaka. The threat was issued in response to the publication of articles written by exiled feminist writer Taslima Nasreen.

On August 26,Akhil Poddar, a special correspondent with private channel ETV, was beaten by police before being handcuffed and led away to the police station in Kushtia in Khulna district in Western Bangladesh on Tuesday, August 26. Poddar alleged Kumarkhali Police Assistant Sub-inspector (ASI) Abul Kalam Azad and other policemen attacked him and another reporter of Mohona TV. They were stopped by a police patrol and were subjected to swearing before the police threatened to charge them. More here.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Bangladesh Manobodhikari Sambadhik Forum (BMSF) expressed serious concerns over the worsening safety conditions for journalists. More here.

5. Maldives media marks one month since Rilwan’s disappearance

Maldivian journalist Ahmed Rilwan Adbulla, 28, has been missing since August 8. Abdulla, a journalist with Minivan News, was last seen in the early morning on Friday, August 8 on a ferry traveling to Hulhumale Island from the capital Male.

Numerous reports suggest that Rilwan could have been abducted, with neighbours reporting hearing screaming before a man was forced into a vehicle 20 feet away from Rilwan’s apartment. It was also reported that members of Rilwan’s family received anonymous phone calls on August 15 warning them to call off search efforts.

The International Federation of Journalists and the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) had called on the Maldives government to expedite police operations and deploy all necessary resources to determine the whereabouts of Abdulla. 

There have been widespread concerns about Rilwan’s disappearance with most of the Maldivian private media, human rights organizations, and media rights organizations such as CPJ and RSF expressing concerns. There is also widespread public support for Rilwan. His friends and family has presented a petition of 5,000 signatures to the country’s parliament pressing for action. The family has offered US$12,945 for any information on Riwlan’s whereabouts.

To join the online campaign use #FindMoyameehaa and find more information at http://findmoyameehaa.com/

More here, here and here.

6. Afghanistan expels American journalist for refusing to name sources

Afghanistan expelled Kabul-based New York Times journalist Matthew Rosenberg, 40, on August 20 for refusing to identify sources for an article. Rosenberg was first barred from leaving and then ordered to leave Afghanistan within 24 hours. He left the country on the evening of August 21.

The expulsion was ordered after Rosenberg refused to identify sources for an article about a plan by unnamed officials to seize power if the political crisis in Afghanistan continued. The country has been gripped by political deadlock since a presidential election in April failed to produce an outright winner and a subsequent runoff in June led to fraud charges. More here.

7. Journalists arrested for protesting TV network ban in Telangana, India

More than 40 women journalists were arrested in Hyderabad, Telangana, South India, on Tuesday, September 9.  The journalists were protesting in front of the Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s camp office at Punjagutta against the banning of two Telugu TV channels TV9 and ABN Andhra Jyothi, in Telangana state, when they were arrested. They were held several hours before being released. More here.

The journalists in Telangana – a newly declared state in India, are on the protest demanding to resume the telecast of the channels. The Association of Telangana Multiple System Operators stopped telecasting the two television channels on June 16, alleging them of airing anti-Telangana programs. Although the union minister of information and broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar, had issued directives to resume the telecast of the channels, this has not yet happened.

Telangana Chief Minister Rao has criticised the channels for ‘tarnishing’ the image of Telangana people and is reported as saying:  “If the media crosses its limits, the government will not only ban but take other courses of action as well. If you cannot respect others and if you cannot become part of our Telangana culture, you have no place here.” He is also alleged to have said to protesters: “Be careful, we will see your end if you cross your limits.”

8. Assam TV journalist arrested for alleged links to extremists

Television journalist Jaikhlong Brahma was arrested on Tuesday night, September 2 in Kokrajhar town of Assam state of India. The Assam Police arrested Brahma, who works for a Guwahati-based private news channel News Live, on charges of “providing information to the extremists about the movement of security forces in advance and instigating the cadres of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB - Songbijit) to indulge in violent activities such as killing of innocent persons, sources or informers”. More here.

9. Indian MNC attempts harassment of journalist for critical article

The Karuturi Global Limited (KGL), an Indian multinational company, attempted to harass Keya Acharya, a well-known environmental journalist, for a critical article. Acharya has been served a legal notice for defamation demanding a compensation of USD 16.4 million by Ramakrishna Karuturi, the founder and managing director of KGL for an article she wrote for Inter Press Service (IPS). The article was about the impact on the Indian rose export industry that also detailed the company's legal, financial, tax, labour and land problems in its operation in Kenya and Ethiopia. More here.

10. Indian union calls for wider discussion on media ownership recommendations

The Indian Union of Journalists (IJU) called on the government to hold wide-ranging discussions with all media stakeholders and civil society leaders on the amendments to the Press Council of India (PCI) Act and other recommendations put forward by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

The recommendations were put forward in the report, “Issues Related to Media Ownership”, released on August 12 which aims to dealing with the issue of corporates entering the media arena. While the IFJ and IJU welcome the move to amend the PCI Act to bring journalists working in electronic media under the Act, there are other recommendations also proposed that IJU says would negatively impact the operations of the media. More here.

11. British-Nepali journalist and activist team detained in Qatar

Journalist Gundev Ghimire, 36, and human rights worker Krishna Upadhyay, 52, both British-passport holders of Nepali origin, were detained for more than a week beginning August 31 in Qatar. They were in Qatar filming a documentary about the treatment of migrant Nepali workers in Qatar under a project funded by the Norway-based Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) when they lost contact with friends.

They were due to leave Qatar on August 31 but didn’t board the planes after Upadhyay sent text messages to his friends that plain-clothed police were following them. Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs only confirmed their detention on Sunday, September 7 and they were released on September 9. They are still in Qatar awaiting withdrawal of their case, until which they cannot leave the country. More here.

12. Nepal Press Union elects new executive committee

Badri Sigdel has been elected the Chairman of Nepal Press Union, an IFJ affiliate and SAMSN member, which held its eighth general convention in Pokhara on September 7 and 8. Other office bearers elected are Dipak Acharya (senior vice-president), Bala Adhikari, Ishwori Ojha and Ramesh Poudel (vice-chairmen), Ajay Babu Shivakoti (general secretary), Saloja Dahal, Prem KC and Bhishma Raj Ojha (deputy general secretaries), Khila Karki, Surya Kumar Chhetri, Dipa Ale and KB Rana (secretaries). The IFJ and the SAMSN congratulates the new executive committee. More here.

13. South Asian journalist unions condemn brutal murder of US journalist James Foley

South Asia’s journalist unions jointly condemned of the brutal murder of US journalist James Foley in the Middle East. Foley, a respected international photojournalist who had previously survived a kidnapping in Libya, was killed by ISIS militants and his murder circulated to the world via a video on the internet on August 19.

South Asia’s journalist unions, denounced the ISIS action as an affront to journalism globally that must be dealt with swiftly. So far this year, 67 journalists have lost their lives and the Middle East remains an extremely dangerous environment for media personnel and journalists. Foley went to Syria because he wanted to ‘nail down the facts’ and ‘see the world’. More here.

14. Participate in the IFJ / UNESCO Regional Survey on Gender and Media

A groundbreaking new research project into women’s experience in the media in the Asia-Pacific began this month. Supported by UNESCO and UNWomen, the study has begun rolling out in in Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu.

The research will look at the number of women in senior and decision-making positions and the issues that affects this representation, the role that unions, associations and women’s networks play in advancing women as well as finding best practice case studies from across the region.

The findings of the research will be presented in March 2015 at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, in New York.

Researchers and IFJ affiliate unions are currently collecting surveys from men and women in the participating countries, the preliminary findings of which will be presented at The Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Beijing +20 Review in Bangkok in November. For more information on the surveys and if you would like to take part, please email Alexandra Hearne at the IFJ at alex.hearne@ifj-asia.org

The survey is open to journalists from India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The survey is available at http://bit.ly/IFJGenderSurveyPlease participate in the survey by filling the online form and please circulate among your colleagues.

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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, emailifjsouthasia@gmail.com