Asia-Pacific Bulletin: JULY

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In this bulletin:

1. IFJ 29th World Congress held in France

2. IFJ & SAMSN launch Safer, Smarter Journalism campaign

3.  Deadly two months in the region as seven journalists killed

4. Nepal unions criticise new directives for online media

5. IFJ releases Global Youth Survey report on the state of unions

6. Pakistan journalist missing since August 2015

7. Philippines President-elect makes controversial comments about media

8. Sri Lankan editor attacked following threats]

9. Malaysian government tightens controls on online freedom

10. Nepal: three journalists arrested in three weeks

11. WPFD event attacked in Indonesia

12. China: Media worker detained for 8 months, released

13. Media offices attacked in Afghanistan

14. Hong Kong media accused of starting protests on the Mainland

15. Thai journalist’s car shot at

16. Sexual harassment and online gender-based violence in Sri Lanka - Internews

17. Bangladesh Says It Now Knows Who’s Killing the Bloggers – New York Times

18. Meet your new President – IFJ President Philippe Leruth

19.‘The IPC gets you where the story takes you’

 

1. IFJ 29th World Congress held in France

From June 7-10, 2016, over 300 delegates from IFJ affiliates met in Angers, France for the 29th World Congress. During Congress elections were held for the IFJ Executive Committee. Philippe Leruth, the former vice-president of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the former president of the Belgian Association générale des Journalistes Professionnels de Belgique (AGJPB) was elected as the IFJ’s new global president. Three delegates from the Asia-Pacific were elected to the Executive Committee, including Sabina Inderjit from the Indian Journalists Union, Paul Murphy from the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, Australia and Chia Chang Yu (Michael Yu) from Association of Taiwan Journalists. Sukhbaatar Alatansetseg, the executive director of the Confederation of Mongolian Journalists and Evelyne Toa, president of the Media Association of Vanuatu were both successfully nominated to represent the Asia-Pacific for the IFJ Gender Council.

During Congress, delegates from across the world came together to debate and decide on the working policies for the IFJ for the next three years. Motions were presented to the Congress included two from the Asia Pacific region. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) put forward a motion on journalist safety in the Philippines, in direct reference to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte. The motion was carried unanimously. Read it motion here.

The South East Asian Journalist Unions network (SEAJU) also put forward a motion highlighting criminal defamation charges brought against Timorese journalist Oki Raimundo, by Timor Leste’s Prime Minister and called for the charges to be dropped immediately. It was also carried unanimously. Read it here.   

See the first interview with IFJ President Philippe Leruth here

See the full Executive Committee list here

See the revised IFJ Constitution (2013-2016) here.

See the IFJ working programme 2016-2019 here.

See the IFJ Congress report here.

See the motions from the IFJ Congress here and see urgent motions here.   

See all Congress photos here

2. IFJ & SAMSN launch Safer, Smarter Journalism campaign

From May 23-31, the IFJ and SAMSN conducted Safer, Smarter Journalism, a week-long digital security campaign to build digital security awareness and skills for South Asia’s journalists. The campaign ran in all 8 South Asian nations and was supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) through the South Asia Media for Democracy project. The campaign involved a series of online activities and the launching of three important reports:

The Digital Campaigning for Media Action: A Campaign Guide for Journalists was launched on May 23. It outlines the essentials of the digital campaigning utilizing social media platforms. On May 25, the report on the Survey on Digital Security in South Asia’s Media, conducted with 176 journalists in all eight countries of South Asia, was launched. And on May 31, Breaking the Walls: The Fight for Freedom of Expression in the Digital Space in South Asia  was launched. It is an assessment of the state of freedom of expression in South Asia on digital platforms.

All SAMSN members shared messages of basic digital security and social media postcards? through their social media platforms and email mailing lists to raise awareness among journalists. Read more about the campaign here and here. For reports and other resources, click here.

3. Deadly two months in the region as seven journalists killed

Since May 1, eight journalists have been killed in the Asia Pacific region, making the region the deadliest in the world this year to-date.

Khurram Zaki, was gunned down in a restaurant in Karachi, Pakistan on May 7. Zaki was the editor of the website, Let Us Build Pakistan which promotes “a progressive, inclusive and democratic Pakistan.” Zaki was a strong campaigner on social media, particularly known for campaigning against sectarian violence and fundamentalist groups inciting violence online. A faction of the Pakistani Taliban has Opens external link in reportedly claimed responsibility for the slaying, but police are yet to confirm the claim.                                                             

Read more here.

Indradev Yadav, who was also known as Akhlesh Pratap Yadav, was shot dead by unidentified people near his home on May 12, in Jharkhand, India. Yadav was known for his critical reporting on corruption, working as the local correspondent for Taaza TV, a Hindi news channel based in Kolkata.  

Read more here.

Rajdeo Ranjan, the vice-president of the Siwan district unit of the Bihar Working Journalists Union and Swian bureau chief of the Hindustan was killed on May 13, when he was shot while travelling home on his motorcycle. Ranjan had worked at the Hindustan for over 20 years, and had previously been attacked in 2005 during an assault on his newsroom.

Read more here.

Pooja Tiwari, a 28-year-old journalist for DNA, an online news portal, died on May 1 after falling from her fifth floor apartment balcony. Initially the death was ruled as a suicide; however, several media reports raised suspicions about the incident, forcing police to investigate the case. A few days later, her partner, Harayana Police Inspector, Amit Kumar was arrested.

Read more here.

Alex Balcoba, a reporter for the People’s Brigada, and officer of the Manilla Police District Press Corp, was shot dead outside a watch repair shop owned by his family in Manila on May 27. According to reports, Balcoba was shot a point-blank range, with the assailant walking towards the journalist, shooting him and fleeing immediately on a waiting motorcycle. Balcoba was a veteran reporter who had covered the local crime and police beat since 1990.

Read more here.

Zabibullah Tamanna and David Gilkey, were embedded with the Afghan Special Forces and were killed on June 5 when the armoured vehicle convoy they were travelling in was struck by an 82mm rocket in a Taliban ambush near Marjah in Helmand in Afghanistan. Tamanna, a local fixer/interpreter and freelance journalist worked for the National Public Radio (NPR) as well as the NBC News. Gilkey, was an award-winning journalist, having worked in conflicts in Gaza, South Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read more here.    

4. Nepal unions criticise new directives for online media

Online Media Operations Directives 2015 were approved by the Nepali Government on June 14, giving the Department of Information (DOI) new provisions to disrupt the services of online news  sites, based on arbitrary decisions. The conditions under which the DOI can order the blocking of the website include failure to register and renew the website; publication of materials deemed illegal or immoral or ‘without authoritative source or creating misconceptions among public.’

IFJ affiliate the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) and the Nepali Press Union (NPU) were quick to criticise the new directives calling them an attempt to undermine press freedom and freedom of expression online.

NPU said that directives were an attempt to impose censorship in the media, while FNJ said the directives were a direct conflict the freedom of the press and expression guaranteed by the Nepal Constitution.

Read more here, also read the letter FNJ sent to the Minister of Information and Communication regarding the directives here.

5.   IFJ releases Global Youth Survey report on the state of unions

On the opening day of the IFJ Congress, June 7, the IFJ launched the Global Youth Survey Report, an overview of the changing nature of employment in the media sector, how journalist unions are responding and adapting their strategies to service their members and recruit future generations of journalists. The report, which is based on findings from the global youth survey which the IFJ conducted in the second half of 2015, highlighted key trends and patterns in the media sector and the need for new strategies to successfully evolve in the future.

The launch of the report was supported by a panel discussion at Congress. Evelyne Toa, the president of the Media Association of Vanuatu, represented the Asia-Pacific region, sharing stories of how MAV have evolved and adapted.

Read the report here.

6. Pakistani journalist missing since August 2015

Zeenat Shahzadi, a journalist for the Daily Nai Khabar and Metro News in Lahore, disappeared on her way to work in an auto-rickshaw in August 2015. Police are understood to have registered a case against ‘unknown men’, but to date, no developments have been made public. Zeenat’s family alleges that she was targeted by Pakistan’s Special Forces for her reporting.

According to reports, Zeenat’s older brother Latif said that prior to her disappearance, Zeenat had been investigating another disappearance – that of Indian engineer Hamid Ansari. Ansari went missing in November 2012, after he entered Pakistan illegally. She had moved an application with the Supreme Court in Pakistan human right’s cell and had also sent an application to the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances. She was due to appear before the Commission on August 24.

Read more here.

7. Philippines President-elect makes controversial comments about media

On June 30, Rodrigo Duterte will be inaugurated as the 16th President of the Philippines. Since his election in early May, the President-elect has made several comments about the media, following the murder of Alex Balcoba. Days after Balcoba’s brutal murder, President Duterte said: ““Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines called the comments appalling, stating that: “He has also, in effect, declared open season to silence the media, both individual journalists and the institution, on the mere perception of corruption.”

Two days before Duterte’s inauguration, the NUJP and several other local media organisations issued a statement to the new President calling for open dialogue and action to end the culture of impunity in the Philippines.

Read the blog here

8. Sri Lankan editor attacked following threats

On June 2, Freddy Gamage, the editor of Meepura, a regional web portal, was attacked by two unidentified people while working to his car after attending the monthly meeting of the Negambo Municipal Council in eastern Sri Lanka. Gamage was hospitalised in the attack, during which he received a head injury.

Gamage, who is also the Convener of the Web Journalists' Association, said he had received threats from Dayan Lanza, the Deputy Mayor of Negombo, who had warned him not to write negatively about him and his brother, Nimal Lanza, a Sri Lanka Member of Parliament. Following, local police arrested two suspects – a municipal council employee and his brother - in connection with the attack.

Read more here.

9. Malaysian government tightens controls on online freedom

On May 16, amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) were presented to the Malaysian Parliament. The amendments have been widely criticised and deemed an attack on freedom of expression. According to IFJ affiliate, the National Union of Journalists, Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM), the proposed amendments could lead to severe online restrictions and will include:

- The registration of political blogs and websites;

- An increase in penalties for offences related to undesirable content; and

- Broader powers for the internet regulatory body – the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) – to take down content without proper oversight.

Read more here.

10. Nepal: Three journalists arrested in three weeks

Shesh Narayan Jha, the chief editor of Sahayatra and managing editor of the SamayabodhI magazine was arrested for photographing a protester in Kathmandu. The protestor was smearing paint on the wall of Singha Durbar, a main government complex. Jha was charges under the Public Offence Act along with the protester. Police claim that Jha accompanied the protester when he earlier smeared paint on the residence of Prime Minister Kahgda Prasad Sharm Oli, on Sunday, May 22. Following the incident on May 22, police detained Jha and the protester, but they were released with a warning.

Chandra Man Shrestha, of Nepal Sandesh was arrested. Shrestha was arrested following an article he authored, which allegedly included ‘false news’ about parliamentarian Gagan Thapa. Nepal Sandesh had issued an apology to Thapa, regarding the article. Shrestha was arrested under the Electronic Transaction Act (ETA) and remains in police custody. The ETA prohibits publication of indecent and illegal materials online.

Manoj Kumar Raj, also known as Bhadragol Kirati, the chief editor of Gaunle, was arrested on Monday, May 8 for publishing material that criticised Bhakta Bahadur Rai, a self-declared religious guru. Rai was arrested under the ETA Act and held in custody for more than a week before the court released him on bail.

Read more here.

11. WPFD event attacked in Indonesia

On Tuesday, May 3, World Press Freedom Day, the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) Yogyakarta, organised an event to mark WPFD which included showing the movie Pulau Buru Tanah Air Beta ( Buru Island My Motherland ), directed by Rahung Nasution. According to the Jakarta Post, the police intervened in the event after they were pressured by Communication Forum of Indonesian Veterans' Children, or FKPPI, who objected to the screening. Yogyakarta Police officer Com. Sigit Haryadi said the screening had the potential to create conflict.

AJI and the South East Asian Journalist Unions (SEAJU) strongly criticised the actions of local authorities, questioning the rights for press freedom and freedom of expression.

Read more here.

12. China: Media worker detained for 8 months, released

On June 14, Lam Wing Kee was granted permission to travel back to Hong Kong following eight months detention in Ningbo, Zhejiang in Mainland China. Following his return, on June 16, Lam spoke out, revealing that he was detained in a tiny cell by the Central Task Force and was under constant surveillance. Lam said that he was interrogated by officers from the taskforce on at least 30 separate occasions, during which he was repeatedly asked for the identity of buyers of banned books, identities of authors of banned books, and why he cooperated with Gui Minhai, a shareholder of Causeway Bay Bookstores who disappeared in October 2015. Lam also said that he was released and allowed to return to Hong Kong under one condition, that the officers, “demanded (me) bring them my computer hard disc which contained all the data of banned book buyers as evidence on June 16”.

In his detailed account of what happened during his detention, Lam also revealed that he was forced to sign two statements when he was arrested in Shenzhen on his first day. The statements said that Lam gave up his right to retain any legal representative or visits by his family members. After the first day of detention, he was escorted to Ningbo, Zhejiang without any clear reason. When he arrived, he was told that he had breached Mainland law which forbad any illegal business operating in the Mainland. Lam contests these accusations. 

Read more here.

13. Media offices attacked in Afghanistan

The offices of Enekas Radio and Afghan TV Cable Network were attacked on June 8, when an unknown group planted improvised explosive devices (IED) on the roof of the offices. The explosion damaged the transmission equipment, causing transmission to be halted. No one was injured in the incident. Zaman Suhil, the program manager of Enekas Radio, said that three bombs were placed on top of station building. After the attack, a fourth bomb was defused by the security forces.

Read more here.

14. Hong Kong media accused of starting protests on the Mainland

Following the arrest of Communist Party secretary and formed elected chief of Wukan village, Lin Zuluan, local villagers organised a protest on June 17. Hong Kong media were sent to cover the protests. On June 21, the Shenwei Government organized a press conference, without notice for accredited media, regarding the escalating conflict between Wukan villagers and local village officers. During the press conference, the Government spokesperson named two Hong Kong media outlets, Apple Daily and Initium media, accusing the outlets of ‘inciting, orchestrating and directing (events) in Wukan village’. The spokesperson went on to say that the government would exercise measures according to the law.

Following the accusations made by the Shinwei Government, a number of journalists left Wukan village, fearing their own safety and villagers ended the protests.

Read more here.

15. Thai journalist’s car shot at

Early on Tuesday June 7, Thai journalist, Chatchai Suksomnuek’s car was damaged when it was peppered with bullets. According to Chatchai, the front, side windows and hood of the car was shot at and damaged in the attack, which occurred out the front of his home. Chatchai heard the attack from inside his house, but waited until dawn to go outside and inspect the damage.

Chatchai is a veteran crime reporter in Bangkok, who currently works for thePim Thai newspaper. He is based at the Royal Thai Police Headquarters and previously worked at a police TV station. Prior to the attack he had been reporting on the annual police reshuffle, which had received widespread criticism in the media for factual errors.

Read more here.

16. Sexual harassment and online gender-based violence in Sri Lanka - Internews

IFJ South Asia regional gender coordinator, Dilrukshi Handunnetti, was interviewed by Internews, discussing sexual harassment and online gender-based violence in Sri Lanka, drawing particular reference to her personal and professional experience, as well as her work as the regional gender coordinator.

Read more here.

17. Bangladesh Says It Now Knows Who’s Killing the Bloggers – New York Times

At least 39 people have been killed in attacks with machetes, guns and bombs since February 2013. The killings, mostly with machete blows to the back of the victim’s neck, have been accelerating lately, with five people murdered in April, four in May and at least three so far in June.

The Bangladeshi authorities say that they now believe they have identified the top leadership of the two groups they say are responsible, and that they are preparing to round them up. Only when the leaders are caught, they caution, will the attacks be stopped, and at that, only for a while if the appeal of Islamic fundamentalism is not blunted.

Read more here.

18. Meet your new President – IFJ President Philippe Leruth

Philippe Leruth was elected as the new IFJ President at the IFJ Congress in France on June 9, 2016. Journalist at the daily newspaper L’Avenir, Philippe Leruth was vice-president of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the IFJ, from 2004 to 2013, and AGJPB president from 1995 to 2005. He is taking over from departing British President, Jim Boumelha, who headed the IFJ from 2007 to 2016. “The first challenge I will have to restore is IFJ unity” said the newly elected president. “I wish to restore the solidarity links within the IFJ. My second challenge is to reinforce the financial situation of the IFJ”.

Read more about your new President here.

19. ‘The IPC gets you where the story takes you’

The IFJ has launched an international campaign to promote the International Press Card (IPC), IFJ’s global press pass. The campaign highlights the importance of the card for journalists across the world, working to support their safety and recognition across the globe.

The IPC is available to all IFJ affiliate members and can give you access to EU and UN government officials, as well as assist in important and sometimes dangerous situations.

For more information visit the IFJ website here.