IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: May

Welcome to the <st1:personname w:st="on">IFJ Asia</st1:personname>-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on June 1, 2015, and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email [email protected]

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In this bulletin:

1.       World Press Freedom Day 2015

2.       Solidarity for Nepal

3.       Freedom Frontier: South Asia Press Freedom Report

4.       Set Gao Yu free

5.       Malaysian sedition law extended online

6.       Maldives government passed Public Broadcast Media law

7.       Four charged with bloggers murder: Bangladesh

8.       Martial law replaced with ‘dictator law’ in Thailand

9.       Nepali journalist killer mastermind arrested

10.   Two Filipino journalists arrested for libel in as many weeks

11.   Chinese government threatens to shut down news outlet

12.   Fijian journalist killed her home

13.   Balochistan to set up tribunals into journalist murders

14.   Mass redundancies for regional Filipino journalists

15.   Baloch media activist murdered

16.   Freedom House: Freedom of the Press 2015

17.   Amnesty International petition to drop charges against Al Jazeera journalists 

1. World Press Freedom Day 2015

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day and across the globe journalists and media organisations will hold events to celebrate the day and emphasise the importance of press freedom. The IFJ is participating in the UNESCO Let Journalism Thrive: Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality and Safety in the Digital Age event in Riga on May 3. IFJ will run a special session on ‘Regulation, Sustainable Self-regulation and Professional Standards’. Read more here. Also, the IFJ and SAMSN will launch the 2014-15 South Asia Press Freedom Report. The Freedom Frontier highlights the challenges across the region for the past 12 months and draws attention to issues of impunity, conflict reporting and gender equity. Events are being held by a number of IFJ affiliates, including:

MEAA in Australia will launch its annual Press Freedom report and host the Annual Press Freedom Dinner; CAPJ in Cambodia will host an event with UNESCO on press freedom and freedom of expression; JAB in Bhutan will launch its Annual Journalism Award 2015; AJI in Indonesia will host a number of events including an IFJ forum on freedom and blasphemy; NUJM in Malaysia  will host a forum discussing the increasingly repressive sedition laws in the country; CMJ in Mongolia will hold a series of activities including the first digital journalism forum; EMPU in New Zealand will host a press freedom debate on May 7; PFUJ Pakistan will host an International Media Conference from May 1-3, FMM and the Press Institute in Sri Lanka will host an event on May 5 on Structural Change for Media Freedom;  TLJA in Timor Leste will chair a press freedom seminar at the National University of Timor Lorosae and MAV in Vanuatu will host a talk back show on media freedom on May 4.

Read more here.

2. Solidarity for Nepal

On April 25, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal and devastating the country. More than 5,000 people have died across the 39 regions affected, with a further 8 million impacted and displaced. The IFJ has been informed that several major media house structures have been damaged in Kathmandu and that the country’s vital community radio network has been severely impaired or is off air completely due to ongoing power outages in the country. The IFJ and SAMSN sent condolences to their Nepalese media colleagues and expressed their solidarity in this difficult time and will work with Nepalese affiliates to support media in the coming months. Read more here.

3. Set Gao Yu free

On April 30, the IFJ launched a global letter campaign writing to Chinese President, Xi Jinping calling for the immediate release of veteran journalist Gao Yu. Arrested in April 2014 on charges of ‘obtaining a state secret’, Gao Yu was sentenced to seven years imprisonment on April 17. The IFJ and affiliates highlight a number of inconsistencies in Yu’s arrest and trial and urge the President to immediately release and end her case. To join the campaign, read more here, see the letter here and if your organisation wants to join the campaign and send your own letter by clicking here.

4. Freedom Frontier: South Asia Press Freedom Report 2015

On May 8, the IFJ and SAMSN will release The Freedom Frontier: Press Freedom in South Asia 2014-15. This 13th annual South Asia report is an important documentation of the media landscape across region and challenges facing media workers. Press freedom and media violations are extensively documented, as well as capsule reports from KP/FATA, Balochistan, Kashmir and Jaffna. The report will be launched at an event with UNESCO in New Delhi on Friday, May 8.

The IFJ said: “What is clear from the strong reports gathered from across the region is that freedom to express is being limited. So too, constitutional guarantees on independent media continue to be weakened by contradictory laws intent on silencing oppositional voices or views interpreted as being threatening or undermining state security.”

For more details on the launch event click here.

5. Malaysian sedition law extended online

On Friday, April 10, Malaysia’s Dewan Rakyat (Parliament) passed amendments to the Sedition Act (1948) that expanded the powers of the Act to prosecute and censor online media. Among the amendments to receive widespread criticism by Malaysian and international media, the maximum jail sentence has been extended from the current three years to 20 years. The Sedition Act has increasingly become the tool of choice for the government to intimidate and crack down of critics. In recent months, political cartoonist Zunar has fallen victim to the law, currently facing nine charges of sedition, which could see him sentenced from 43 years.

Read more here and read the IFJ blog on the amendments by Jim Nolan here.

6. Maldives government passes Public Broadcast Media law

On April 27, the Maldivian government led by President Abdulla Yameen passed the Public Broadcast Media Law, ultimately dissolving the Maldivian Broadcasting Corporation. During a brief parliamentary debate, Government MP Riyaz Rasheed, from the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), argued the new bill was necessary as the broadcaster had extensively covered a campaign to free former president Mohamad Nasheed, while ignoring the events, overseas trips and announcements of the current government. The bill has received widespread criticism from the country’s media and opposition saying the government will now control the state broadcaster as a mouthpiece.

Read more here.

7. Four charged with bloggers murder

Four people have been charged with the brutal murder of blogger Md Oyasiqur Rahman Babu in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on March 30. Oyasiqur, 27, was a well-known for writing a number of notes opposing irrational religious beliefs, superstitions and radical Islamists. Shortly after his death, police charged four people, including two who were immediately remanded by witnesses. The other two, including the mastermind were charged in absentia.

Read more here.

8. Martial law replaced with ‘dictator law’ in Thailand

On April 1, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued Order 3/2558 which invokes Section 44 of the Interim Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand (2014), effectively replacing Martial law that has been in place in Thailand since the military coup on May 20, 2014.

However, Section 44 of the constitution gives full powers to the head of the NCPO to respond to any act which undermines public peace and order or national security. This means authorities have the power to ban any news report, sale and distribution of books, publications and other medium that the NCPO deem as a “security threat”. Any person not complying with the article can be punished with maximum of one year imprisonment, or a fine of 200,000 baht (USD 6,154) maximum, or both.

Read more here.

9. Journalist killer mastermind arrested: Nepal

On April 23, the mastermind of the murder of Nepalese journalist, Uma Singh was sentenced to life in prison. Singh was brutally murdered by a gang of 15 men in her home in Janakpur on January 11, 2009.

In 2011, Lalita Singh, Uma’s sister-in-law, and Nemlal Paswan were convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison. Umesh Yadav, the mastermind, who had gone into hiding in India following the murder was sentenced to life in prison.

Read more here.

10. Two Filipino journalists arrested for libel in as many weeks

On April 5, former National Press Club President, Jerry Yap, was arrested for libel as he disembarked a flight from Japan. The libel case was filed on March 30 and related to columns Yap published in the tabloid Hataw. The arrest was strongly criticised in the Philippines as it violated a long-standing agreement between media organisations and the police not to arrest journalists on weekends.

On April 15, Elmer James Bandol, a 59-year-old journalist for a local newspaper in Bicol was arrested as he left home for work. He was arrested in relation to a libel case filed in July 2012. Over his long career Bandol has been served with numerous cases however they have all been dismissed by the courts.

Read more here and here.

11. Chinese government threatens to shut down news outlet

According to China’s state-owned media, Xinhua, the State Council Information Office which regulates internet office in China has threatened to shut down online news service Sina unless it started regulating its news content. The complaints claimed that Sina ‘distorted facts, violated public morality and posted vulgar information’. The State Council Information Office said that Sina had violated the Regulation on Internet Information Service of China and the Administration of Internet News Information Services However, the SCIO would not specific which regulations and provisions had been violated or what news reports had received the complaints.

Read more here.

12. Fijian journalist killed in her home

Losana McGowan, a journalist and women’s rights advocate in Fiji, was killed in a domestic violence incident on April 5 in Suva. McGowan had a career spanning 15 years and included working at the Fiji Times, the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, Fiji Media Watch and Fiji Women’s Rights Movement.

The IFJ and affiliates send condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Losana.

Read more here.

13. Balochistan to set up tribunals into journalist murders

On April 1, the Home Department of Balochistan announced that it would set up two tribunals that would work in Khuzdar and Makran to investigate six journalist murders from 2011 to 2013. The aim of the tribunals is to name those responsible and recommend measures to prevent any future murders.

Read more here.

14. Mass redundancies for regional Filipino journalists

Hundreds of regional journalists working for GMA-7 have been made redundant in recent days due to losses in revenue.   The redundancies also include the closing down of regional offices in Cagayan de Oro City, Bacolod City, Naga City and Ilocos. GMA-7 made the decision to terminate numerous contracts without consultation or prior warnings – a move which violates Philippines labour laws.

Read more here.


15. Baloch media activist murdered

Sabeen Mahmud, a renowned media and human rights activist from Balochistan, was gunned down in Karachi on April 24. Mahmud had just left café-book store T2F when she was shot four times. She had just finished hosting an event called Unsilencing Balochistan with a number of key activists. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

Read more here.


 16. Freedom House: Freedom of the Press 2015

On April 28, in the lead-up to World Press Freedom Day 2015, Freedom House published its annual Freedom of the Press Report outlining how conditions for the media deteriorated sharply in 2014, reaching their lowest point in more than 10 years. Around the world journalists encountered more restrictions from governments, militants, criminals, and media owners, the report said.

The report found that the main factors driving the decline were the passage and use of restrictive laws against the media—often on national security grounds—and limits on the ability of local and foreign journalists to report freely within a given country, or even to reach it. In a time of seemingly unlimited access to information and new methods of content delivery, more and more areas of the world are becoming virtually inaccessible to journalists.

Read more here.


17. Amnesty International petition to drop charges against Al Jazeera journalists

Amnesty International has a petition calling for all charges against three Al Jazeera journalists to be dropped immediately. Following over 400 days in detention in Egypt, journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were released in February and March. Greste was immediately deported to Australia, however Fahmy and Baher remain in Egypt.

Read more and sign the petition here.