IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: August

Welcome to the IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on September 1, 2015, and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email ifj@ifj-asia.org

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In this bulletin:

1.       Australian and Thai journalists face defamation charges in Thailand

2.       Third Indian journalist murdered in two months

3.       Malaysian media #attheedge

4.       Digital Campaign Skills training in Colombo, Sri Lanka

5.       Hong Kong media call for Freedom of Information law

6.       Nepal International Media Partnership recommends amendments to draft Constitution

7.       Rise in defamation cases quashing Indonesia’s press freedom

8.       Vanuatu’s proposed media law ‘unnecessary control’

9.       Fourth media worker murdered in Bangladesh this year

10.   Sri Lankan media reject reactivation of Press Council

11.   Chinese authorities continue harassment of the media 

12.   IFJ Blog: Myanmar journalist unions seek to protect, strengthen and unite

13.   China’s National Security law suppresses media freedom

14.   SAMSN Blog: Journalists at risk as IS, Taliban and Warloads fight over power in Afghanistan

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

16.   #FreeZunar – IFJ campaign continues as trial adjourned again

 

1. Australian and Thai journalists face defamation charges in Thailand

On July 14-16 Australian journalist, Alan Morison and Thai journalist, Chutima Sidasathian faced defamation charges in the Phuket Provincial Court. The pair, both from the online news website phuketwan.com were charged with criminal defamation on April 17, 2014 under articles 326 and 328 of the Thai Criminal Code. They were charged with violating article 14(1) of the Computer Crimes Act. The charges relate to the reproduction on phuketwan.com of a single paragraph from a Reuters special report on Rohingya boat-people published in July 2013. Reuters subsequently won a Pulitzer Prize for the investigation in 2014.

Prior to the court case the IFJ wrote to Thai Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, calling for the charges to be dropped. Read the letter here.

Australian Barrister, Mark Plunkett also attended the trial as the IFJ and Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) international observer. He provided daily updates which were published on the IFJ trial monitoring blog here.

Read more here and here.

 

2. Third Indian journalist murdered in two months

Raghavendra Dubey, editor of the local weekly, Khushboo Ujala, was brutally murdered on July 17 in Mumbai, India. The journalist was found dead with severe head injuries on the side of a road just a few hours after he left the local police station.

Dubey was at the police station to discuss a recent attack against three journalists following a raid on a bar. He left the police station at 4 am on his motorcycle. His motorcycle has not been recovered.

The IFJ and Indian Journalists Union (IJU) deplored the murder and called for immediate action to curb the growing safety concerns for journalists across India.

Read more here.

 

3. Malaysian media #attheedge

On July 24, The Edge Group announced that the Malaysian Home Ministry had temporarily suspended the publishing permits for two of its publications, The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily for three months from July 25. The ban related to the reportage from the two outlets regarding the state investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which is under investigation for allegedly wiring USD 700 million into the private accounts of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

According to the Home Ministry, the permits were suspended as the publications had violated the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

Read more here.

 

4. Digital Campaign Skills training in Colombo, Sri Lanka

The IFJ and Free Media Movement (FMM) organized the UNDEF Digital Campaign Skills training in Colombo, Sri Lanka on July 23 and 24. The IFJ South Asia Coordinator, Ujjwal Acharya delivered the two-day training to a group of Sri Lankan journalists.

The training focused on campaigning skills and developing a national campaign. The group of journalists strongly discussed the challenges they face across the country and the RTI law.

Following the training, the IFJ and FMM also organized the SAMSN Digital Campaign Skills training on July 27 and 28. The training was held in Colombo and brought together journalists from across the SAMSN network. The journalists discussed challenges they faced nationally and regionally and developed regional campaigns.

The SAMSN Digital Campaign Skills training was preceded by a one day SAMSN gender network meeting, which brought together the South Asia gender coordinators and SAMSN female participants to discuss gender-specific challenges as well as the recently released, Inside the News gender and media report.

See some of the photos here and here.

 

5. Hong Kong media call for Freedom of Information law

The IFJ have joined the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) in calling on the Hong Kong Government to enact an essential Freedom of Information law. The push for the new law follows comments made by Allen Chiang, Commissioner of the Office of the Privacy Commission for Personal Data, who said that the government should tighten restrictions on information requests with public registers.

Read more here.

 

6. Nepal International Media Partnership recommends amendments to draft Constitution

The Nepal International Media Partnership (NIMP) has released its analysis of the draft constitution which is currently being considered by Nepal’s Parliament. NIMP highlighted a number of key recommended amendments for the constitution to ensure freedom of expression, media freedom and the right to information is guaranteed.

The recommendations call on the Nepali Government to ensure they are upholding their commitments to international conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Nepal ratified in 1991.

Read more here.

 

7. Rise in defamation cases quashing Indonesia’s press freedom

In recent months, there has been a rise in defamation cases across Indonesia, which is having a profound impact on press freedom and freedom of expression across the archipelago. Two recent cases which have seen public officials pressed with criminal charges in an attempt to restrict access to information highlight the challenges for media in Indonesia.

The president of AJI, Suwarjono said: “Recent events have shown that there is a rise in criminalizing people’s views. These facts are a setback to democracy in Indonesia. They could even be worse than the situation during the New Order era, since the law now legalizes criminalizing those who express their views. It makes things worse when the Police have a mindset that objects to freedom of speech and expression.”

Read more here.

 

8. Vanuatu’s proposed media law ‘unnecessary control’

Vanuatu’s Prime Minister is looking to introduce new laws to regulate the media, which the IFJ affiliate, Media Asosiesen Blong Vanuatu (MAV) has strongly criticized. On July 1, the Prime Minister said that the new Media Regulation Bill will go before the next session of the Parliament and cover issues of cross-media ownership and procedures to discipline a media organization.

The Prime Minister also released a statement saying: “irresponsible reporting and character assassinations by journalists and social media respectively, is developing into a norm.” The statement went on to say that the government will not “hesitate to support responsible legislations to control the media.”

Read more here.

 

9. Fourth media worker murdered in Bangladesh this year

Abu Sayem, a 35-year-old correspondent for the Bangla-language daily Samakal, died when an attacker entered his home and stabbed him on July 7. His father was also injured in the attack. His father identified the attacker to police and he was quickly arrested.

Sayem’s colleagues took to the streets to protest his death and demand justice and safety for the media community.

Read more here.

 

10. Sri Lankan media reject reactivation of Press Council

On July 2, the Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena, announced that he would reactivate the country’s Press Council, which he had disabled when he was elected on January 8, 2015. The Press Council has wide-ranging punitive powers under the Press Council Law, which includes imprisoning media personnel. Under previous governments, the law has been used to silence media and journalists.

The Sri Lanka Press Institute called the decision illegal and said it contradicted the election promise of President Sirisena.

Read more here. 

 

11. Chinese authorities continue harassment of the media

On July 4, the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission announced that they would cooperate with the Public Bureau to clamp down on false information online. The Commission claimed that people were attempting to manipulate the stock exchange by spreading rumors and false information online.

In June, the State Administrative Press Publication Radio Film and Television (SAPPRFT) issued an order that all media limit reporting on the stock exchange to prevent fluctuations in the market. The order said all reports much be balanced, objective and rational to guide the market.

Read more here.

 

12. IFJ Blog: Myanmar journalist unions seek to protect, strengthen and unite

On July 1 and 2, the IFJ held a two-day workshop in Myanmar on union leadership as part of the Union 2 Union: Stronger Unions for Stronger Media project. In recent months Myanmar has become a hard place to be a journalist and press freedom has stalled. The IFJ blog explores the issues discussed during the training and the challenges that need to be overcome.

Read more here.

 

13. China’s National Security laws suppresses media freedom

On July 1, China’s National People’s Congress passed the National Security Law without any consideration to the submissions made to the Standing Committee by the IFJ, Hong Kong Journalists Association or the Independent Commentators Association. The submissions highlighted the challenges to press freedom by the proposed law, with the vague definitions creating opportunities for violations against the media.

Read more here.

 

14. SAMSN Blog: Journalists at risk as IS, Taliban and Warloads fight over power in Afghanistan

Journalists in Afghanistan are facing threats and challenges on a number of fronts as power struggles continue across the country. IS, the Taliban and the country’s warloads are putting journalists at risk as they battle for power in the war-torn country. Read the SAMSN Blog, written by IFJ affiliate, the Afghan Independent Journalists Association President, Samandar Rahimullah for more information.

Read the blog here

 

15. ‘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.

16. #FreeZunar – IFJ campaign continues as trial adjourned again

On July 7, the Malaysian court once again adjourned the trial of political cartoonist Zunar. He is currently on trial for 9 charges of sedition following a tweet and cartoon he published in February. Under the Sedition Act (1948) Zunar could face 43 years in jail.

Sign the IFJ petition here and help us reach 10,000 signatures before Zunar’s court date next week in September.