IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: October

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In this bulletin:

1.       Two British journalists face court in Indonesia

2.       Al Jazeera journalists pardoned, but questions remain

3.       Pakistan media under attack: two killed in less than 24 hours

4.       Chinese journalist, Gao Yu receiving inadequate medical treatment

5.       Philippines: Masterminds in 2011 journalist murder arrested

6.       Freelance journalist killed in Afghanistan

7.       Filipino journalist harassed on social media

8.       Thai journalist released following two-day military detention

9.       Australian journalists’ phone records ‘accessed’

10.   Ex-MP threatens to kill journalists in Nepal

11.   International mission calls for action two decades on from journalist murder

12.   Justice breakthrough in Bangladesh: bloggers’ killers arrested

13.   Maharastra government issues restrictive orders for critics

14.   Zunar’s new book investigated by authorities

15.   Pakistani media workers unpaid for months

16.   Media house attacked by the Taliban

17.   Indian journalists threatened

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


1. Two British journalists face court in Indonesia

On September 29, British journalists, Becky Prosser and Neil Bonner, faced court on charges of violating immigration law in Indonesia. The pair were arrested in Batam in north-western Indonesia on May 29, after the Indonesian Navy found them and nine Indonesians filming a reenactment of a piracy scene in the Malacca Straits. Prosser and Bonner were arrested for been on tourist visas, which is illegal in Indonesia. The nine Indonesians, who were released the following day, were facing charges of making a documentary without a license.

Prosser and Bonner were placed under house arrest for over three months and in early September they were moved to Batam prison. Their case continues in Batam district court on October 1, where the pair could face sentences of five years in jail.

The Aliansi Jurnalis Independen and the IFJ condemn the arrest and subsequent court case. In a statement AJI said: ““The Government should have just applied an administrative sanction for foreigners as had been set out in the Immigration Law, instead of using Criminal Law. There is no reason to keep them in custody, particularly to criminalize the two journalists for incomplete administration requirements. AJI demand the Government to release Neil and Rebecca immediately.”

Read more here.


2. Al Jazeera journalists pardoned, but questions remain

On September 23, Al Jazeera journalists, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were suddenly released from Egyptian prison following a Presidential pardon for 100 prisoners. The status of Australian-Al Jazeera journalist, Peter Greste remains unclear. His name was not on the Presidential pardon list; however the list did include a ‘third person’ from Al Jazeera.

In 2013, Fahmy, Baher, Greste and their cameraman Mohamed Fawzy were arrested in their Marriott Hotel room in Cairo on December 29. While Fawzy, was released within a month, reporter Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian producer Mohamad Fahmy, and Al Jazeera’s second producer Egyptian Baher Mohamed were all subsequently charged with "distorting the country's image abroad" and "fabricating news to aid the Muslim Brotherhood," which the government has declared a terrorist organization. Later in 2013, they were charged and Fahmy and Greste were sentenced to seven years in jail while Baher was sentenced to 10 years.

On February 2, 2015, Peter Greste was released from prison after 400 days and deported to Australia. A few days later, Fahmy and Baher were also released on bail, but had to remain in Egypt. On August 29, following a retrial, Greste, Fahmy and Baher were sentenced to three years in prison for working without a press license, broadcasting material damaging to Egypt, and for having ties to the blacklisted Muslim brotherhood. Greste was charged in absentia, while Fahmy and Baher were sent back to prison.

Read more here.


 3. Pakistan media under attack: two killed in less than 24 hours

On September 8, Geo TV satellite engineer, Arshad Ali Jaffery was killed when three gunmen fired at the Geo TV van in Karachi. On September 9, less than 24 hours later, Aftab Alam, a senior journalist died when he shot at in a gun attack near his home in Karachi. Alam was on medical leave from his job with Geo News at the time of his murder. The double-murder in two targeted gun attacks came days after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared Karachi free from ‘targeted attacks’.

Following the killings, the PFUJ organized protests in Lahore, Karachi, Faisalabad, Gujrawala and Hyderabad to condemn the recent attacks.

The PFUJ demanded the government to take necessary action to save the journalists community. The PFUJ said: “The killing of Arshad Ali Jaffery, and Aftab Alam in two days is alarming and it exposed the lies that the government is claiming regarding the improvement of the law and order situation in the country.”

The PFUJ said that despite increasing media specific attacks, measures have not been taken to investigate the cases of killed journalists.

Read more here and here.  


4. Chinese journalist, Gao Yu, receiving inadequate medical treatment

In September, the IFJ was told of inadequate medical treatment been given to veteran Chinese journalist, Gao Yu as she remains in prison serving a seven year prison. According to information received by the IFJ Gao is suffering from various illnesses and is not receiving adequate medical treatment. According to the family, Gao, who has long-suffered from heart disease, high blood pressure and Meniere’s disease, also recently discovered an abnormality to her lymph node, as well as been diagnosed with dermatosis and suffering from head and tooth aches. As her health deteriorates, Gao’s family alleges that police and authorities have refused further medical treatment and are not giving her any pain relief. Gao’s legal team have applied for medical parole twice, both times been denied.

The IFJ has written to Chinese President Xi Jinping, calling for immediate medical parole of Gao to ensure her health does not further deteriorate.

Read more here.


5. Philippines: Masterminds in 2011 journalist murder arrested

On September 20, Joel Reyes, a former governor of Palawan province, and Mario Reyes, a former municipal mayor of the same province, were arrested in Phuket for overstaying their visas and entering the country illegally. The pair were named as the masterminds in the murder by the gunman, Marlon Recamata, during his trial for the murder.

After the Reyes brothers had been named as suspects in the murder, the Philippines judicial system stalled. In April 2013, the Department of Justice issued arrest warrants for the brothers, but these were blocked by an appellate court. As the department appealed the ruling, the Reyes brothers fled the Philippines.

Read more here.


6. Freelance journalist killed in Afghanistan

Yama Behroz, a freelance journalist based in Afghanistan’s northern province of Badakhstan was killed on September 18. Behroz was killed when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded at his doorstep when he opened the front door. The recent journalism graduate had just started working for a local media organization. Some of the reports suggested that the IED was planted at his door, and he was then called and asked to come out of the house.

Read more here.


7. Filipino journalist harassed on social media

On September 18, a meme about mutli-award winning journalist and former national chairperson of the NUJP, Inday Espina-Varona was published on social media accusing her of being a “communist rebel asset”. The meme and accusation was published after Varona published reports decrying the September 1 murder of lumad (indigenous people) leaders in Surigao del Sur, in the southern Philippines by suspected military-backed militias. Espina is an award winning journalist and in 2006 she was awarded the Knight fellowship at Stanford University.

In a statement, NUJP chairperson Rowena Paraan said: “The NUJP is also alarmed of the red-tagging against Varona, a tactic that has been used against activists and political dissenters, many of whom were subsequently targeted in summary killings, abduction and persecution through the filing of trumped-up criminal charges. It indicates that almost 30 years after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, the martial law mentality continues to prevail, even under a supposedly “Daang Matuwid” administration. We demand that authorities investigate and apprehend those behind these attempts to intimidate Varona and other journalists exposing human rights violations and other injustices.”

Read more here


8. Thai journalist released after two-day military detention

On September 15, Thai journalist, Pravit Rojanaphruk, who works for the English-language daily The Nation, and two Pheu Thai politicians were released following they were detained by the military on September 13. Pravit was detained after he responded to a request to meet with authorities at the 1st Army headquarters in Bangkok. Following his detention, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) told reporters that Pravit was detained because he had written articles that ‘go against efforts to keep public order’ and ‘could cause confusion and misunderstanding’.

Following his release, Pravit said that he and the two politicians were forced to sign an agreement not to lead, participate or assist in any anti-coup movement. The NCPO also filed a pending police complaint against Pravit, which would be activated if he violated the NCPO order.



9. Australian journalists’ phone records ‘accessed’

On Saturday September 12, Vodafone released a statement admitting that an employee had ‘accessed some text messages and call records’ of Australian investigative journalist, Natalie O’Brien in January 2011. Reports have suggested that Vodafone was aware the actions were illegal and that a cover-up may have taken place.

In a statement, MEAA CEO, Paul Murphy, said: “This is a shocking flagrant breach of privacy. It’s absolutely outrageous behavior on Vodafone’s behalf. And it appears that there have been attempts at a cover-up. Journalists all understand that if they receive information in confidence they have an obligation to keep that in confidence. For a telecommunications company to engage in this sort of behavior is unforgivable. The privacy commissioner should investigate this. And for a corporation to engage in such an egregious attack on press freedom is a disturbing development.”

Read more here


10. Ex-MP threatens to kill journalists in Nepal

Baban Singh, an ex-parliamentarian and central committee member of political party Madhesh Samajbadi Forum, threatened to kill journalists by burning them alive when he was interviewed on local radio on September 14. The ex-parliamentarian said while being interviewed live on Kohinoor FM, threatened to burn journalists, Shiva Puri of the Kantipur daily, Madan Thakur of the Nagarik daily and Gautam Shrestha of Avenues Television for their news reports on his party’s demonstrations in Rautahat district, in central Nepal.

On the same day in the capital Kathmandu, photojournalist Ashok Maharjan was injured and his camera lens broken by the stones pelted by protesters demanding Nepal to be constitutionally declared a Hindu nation. During the demonstrations, police also directed the water cannons towards photojournalists Prakash Mathema of AFP, Navesh Chitrakar of Reuters and Bikash Dware of Gorkhapatra, whose cameras were damaged.

Read more here.


11. International mission calls for action two decades on from journalist murder

On August 13, 1996, Udin, a journalist with Bernas newspaper was attacked by two men outside his house, in Yogyakarta in central Java. Three days later on August 16, Udin died from his injuries in hospital. Following his death, Yogyakarta police launched an investigation which initially tried to claim that the death was the result of an extra-marital affair. Dwi Sumaji ('Iwik') was arrested and charged within murder in 1997, however the Bantul State Court soon acquitted Iwik due to lack of evidence. Investigations have since focused on political motivations after Udin wrote reports about cases of misappropriation allegedly committed by then Bantul regency administration officials. In recent years, minimal action has to been taken to investigate the murder.

The International Partnership Mission for Indonesia (IPMI) wrote to Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, calling for the case to be reopened.

Read more here and here.  


12. Justice breakthrough in Bangladesh: bloggers’ killers arrested

Following the murders of four bloggers in Bangladesh since February this year, the local authorities have made arrests in each case. On September 1, authorities arrested and charged five militants of an al-Qaeda-linked banned Islamist group, the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), with the machete hacking murder of Md Oyasiqur Rahman Babu.In other developments, on August 29, Dhaka Police arrested Kausar Hossain Khan, 29, and Kamal Hossain Sardar, 29, for the murder of Niladri Chottopadhay Niloy, who was hacked to death in another machete murder on August 7. The suspects are reported to be also members of the ABT.

On August 18, Bangladeshi police arrested Bangladeshi-British man, 58-year-old Touhidur Rahman, and two others suspects Sadek Ali and Aminul Mollick, for the killing US-Bangladeshi blogger and author Avijit Roy. These three men have also been linked to the murder of Ananta Bijoy Das, killed in May this year.

Read more here


13. Maharastra government issues restrictive orders for critics

On August 27, the state government of Maharastra, in western India, issued a circular, which gave the state police the power to take action against those who have a critical view or stand against the state or central governments’ policies and activities. The circular states that the sedition clause from the Indian Penal Code can be invoked against “whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation, is critical of politicians, elected representatives belonging to the government.” However, the section will not be invoked against those trying to bring a change in the government through legal means without hatred and contempt.

Read more here.


14. Zunar’s new book investigated by authorities

Malaysian political cartoonist, Zunar, has released a new book, which is once again been investigated by local authorities. On September 29, police began investigation the book, “Sapuman – Man of Steal”. An online sales assistant on Zunar’s website was called in for questioning next week under the Sedition Act. In a statement, Zunar said: “I strongly condemn these latest police tactics to frighten people from getting access to read and buy my book. My sales assistant did nothing illegal as the “Sapuman – Man of Steal” is not officially banned by the government.” Seven of Zunar’s books are already banned by the government with copies confiscated by the police. This is second incident of police investigation of the online sales operator for distribution of Zunar’s books. Earlier this year, Zunar was charged with nine counts of sedition following a tweet and cartoon he published after the verdict in the controversial trial of former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim. Under the charges, which have been adjourned in court three times already, Zunar faces 43 years in jail.

Read more here and sign the IFJ petition against Zunar’s charges here


15. Pakistani media workers unpaid for months

According to reports, more than 1,800 people from BOL Network, who were working on the development of BOL News and BOL Entertainment TV channels have not been paid their wages for over four months. The BOL network is one Pakistan’s newest networks, which ran into controversy earlier this year, after its parent company Axact came under investigation following reports of fraud, which saw the BOL CEO, Shoaib Ahmed Sahikh, arrested.  Following the scandal, on August 19, the ARY TV Chief Operating Officer Salman Iqbal announced they would take over BOL Network and that his first priority was to ensure payment of the employees’ outstanding dues.

The PFUJ said: “There are some other media organizations, both electronic and print, which are not paying salaries regularly and the staff is in miserable conditions. The PFUJ’s lobbying and meeting with management and authorizes had yielded little results.”

Read more here.


16. Media house attacked by the Taliban

On September 28, the Taliban launched an attack and took control of the central city of Kunduz in north-eastern Afghanistan. During the attack the offices of Roshani Radio and TV were severely damaged and equipment destroyed. Roshani Radio and TV is an independent media outlet, founded by Ms. Sadiqa Sherzai in 2002. The radio mostly covered women issues and majority of employees are also women.

Read more here.


17. Indian journalists threatened

Nikhil Wagle, the editor-in-chief of Maharashtra One, a Marathi-language news channel in Mumbai received threats on his personal twitter and also in an article published by Sanatan Sanstha in their publication, Sanatan Prabhat. Local police also offered Wagle police protection after they overheard his name in phone conversations between Sanatan Sanstha members. Wagle, who is not new to threats and attacks, refused the protection. In 2004, Wagle was attacked by Shiv Sainiks at Malvan in Sindhudurg district. He and two journalists were beaten, doused in kerosene oil and made to blacken their faces. The attack was linked to comments made by Wagle about Narayan Rane, Leader of the Opposition of the Maharashtra Assembly.

On September 1, Shyamsundar Sonnar, who works for the Marathi daily, Prahaar, was labelled anti-Hindi in an article by group. Sonnar filed a complaint against the threats and the Mumbai Press Club said the Maharashtra state government and police need to take serious note of the threats.

Read more here


18. ‘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.