IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: September 2015

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In this bulletin:

1.       Press freedom win: Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian acquitted

2.       Peter Greste and Al Jazeera colleagues lose appeal

3.       Chinese journalists’ confession televised on state TV

4.       Deadly month in the Philippines: three killings

5.       Arrested for carrying a safety vest in Thailand

6.       Fourth blogger killed in Bangladesh this year

7.       Indonesian government backflips on media regulations  

8.       Pakistan issues code of conduct for electronic media

9.       Justice in Hong Kong for Kevin Lau

10.   Fourth journalists killed in three months in India

11.   Chinese authorities crack down on media following deadly explosion

12.   Two arrested in Prageeth Eknaligoda disappearance

13.   Indian minister threatens journalists

14.   Communist Party demands punishment for media worker

15.   Bangladeshi journalist arrested for Facebook post

16.   Five journalists released from jail in Myanmar

17.   #FindMoyameenaa – one year on

18.   SAMSN Blog: Sri Lanka’s young working journalists

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

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


1. Press freedom win: Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian acquitted

Today, September 1, Thai journalist, Chutima Sidasathian and Australian journalist, Alan Morison were acquitted on all charges of criminal defamation in the Phuket Provincial Court. The pair were charged under the country’s Computer Crimes Act following the republication on the Phuket-based website on July 17, 2013, of a single paragraph from a Reuters special report on Rohingya boat-people, which alleged the Thai Navy’s involvement in the boat people issue. The phuketwan.com story subsequently became the target of defamation allegations by a Thai navy captain, R.N. Pallop Komlotok, in December, 2013. The same year, Reuters won a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation.

During the delivery of the verdict, His Honour Justice Chaipthawat Chaya-ananphat, also said that it was not appropriate for authorities to use the Computer Crimes Act as a way of punishing journalists for defamation as this law relates to hacking and malicious software.

The IFJ, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) and the South East Asian Journalist Unions (SEAJU) welcomed the acquittal as a win for press freedom in Thailand. The IFJ and SEAJU called on the prosecution and the Thai Royal Navy to accept this milestone verdict as a victory for freedom of the press and not appeal.

Read more here  and see more from the IFJ trial monitoring of the case here.


2. Peter Greste and Al Jazeera colleagues lose appeal

On August 29, Australian journalist Peter Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed lost their appeal and were sentenced in the retrial for charges including working without a press license, broadcasting material damaging to Egypt, and for having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to three years in prison, Greste in absentia after he was deported in February this year. Baher Mohamed was sentenced to three and a half years and given an additional fine. Fahmy and Baher, who had been on bail since February, were immediately taken back into custody.

The IFJ joined the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) in deploring the sentences and called on Egyptian President, Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi, to issue a presidential pardon for the three journalists.

Read more here.


3. Chinese journalists’ confession televised on state TV

On August 25, Wang Xiaolu, a business journalist with Caijing Magazine, one of China’s leading financial magazines, was taken into custody for a story published on July 20. The story reported that the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) was considering ending interventions aimed at stabilising the stock market. On August 31, Wang made a televised public apology in an alleged confession on state broadcaster CCTV.

The arrest of Wang comes after Chinese authorities clamp downs on media reporting of the troubled Chinese stock market.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) demanded the immediate release of Wang, saying the detention was illegal.

The IFJ voiced concern over the increasing number of forced, televised confessions in China. Noting the confession on Chen Yongzhou in 2013 and Gao Yu in 2014.

Read more here.



4. Deadly month in the Philippines: three killings in two weeks

The Philippines is now the deadliest country in the Asia Pacific region for journalists and media workers, following a horror two weeks. On August 18, Gregorio Ybanez, was the president of the Davao del Norte Press and Radio-TV Club (DNPRC) and worked for local newspaper Bagting sa Katilingban, was killed when he was shot three times in the chest and once in the arm. The next day, on August 19, Teodoro ‘Tio Dodoy’ Escanilla, a radio anchor with DZMS was killed when an intruder shot him in his home.

On August 27, Cosme Diez Maestrado, the anchor for Rastada, a radio program on Radio Mindanao Network’s DXOC was killed when he was shot 10 times by unidentified gunmen.

The three killings top the four murders earlier in the year to bring the Philippines total killings to seven for 2015. The safety situation for journalists and media workers remains a key area of concern for local and international organisations, with growing concerns as the country prepares for national elections in May 2016.

The safety situation is highlighted in the continuing failure of the government to bring those responsible for the Ampatuan Massacre; in which 58 people including 32 journalists were killed, to justice. The massacre occurred over 5 and a half years ago and yet not a single person has been prosecuted. Earlier this month, Chief Justice<s>,</s> Maria Lourdes Sereno<s>,</s> said that prosecution and defence would finish presenting evidence by the end of 2015, giving the judges 90 days to then present a verdict.

Read more here.


5. Arrested for carrying a safety vest in Thailand

Kwan ‘Anthony’ Hok-Chun, a Hong Kong-Canadian photo-journalist, was arrested at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport on August 23 for carrying a bullet-proof vest in his luggage. Kwan was waiting to board his flight back to Hong Kong after covering the aftermath of the Erawan Shrine attack in Bangkok the week prior.

Kwan was arrested and charged at the airport under Thailand’s Arms Control Act which makes it illegal to carry a weapon, such as a bullet-proof vest. Initially he was going to be tried in a military court; however the case was later moved to a civilian court near the airport and Kwan remains on bail. If found guilty he could face a maximum of five years in jail.

Read more here.


6. Fourth blogger killed in Bangladesh this year

On August 7, Niladri Chattopadhyay, a secular blogger who used the pen name Niloy Neel, was brutally killed when four men armed with cleavers entered his home in Khilgoan. The men posed as potential tenants and stabbed the 28-year-old while holding his wife and sister-in-law at gunpoint. Niloy died at the scene.

Niloy was working for an NGO at the time of his death and in the months prior had received death threats. He went to the police to register the case, however they declined. Niloy wrote on women’s rights, indigenous and minority peoples, human rights, social justice and was critical of religious extremism.

Niloy is the fourth blogger and fifth media worker to be killed in Bangladesh this year. The IFJ has joined the international community condemning the attacks and deterioration of freedom of expression in the country.

Read more here and read more from Bangladeshi journalist, Sam Jahan, on the SAMSN Digital Hub here. 


7. Indonesian government backflip on media regulations

On August 25, Indonesia’s Home Minister, Tjajho Kumolo, announced that all foreign journalists and film crews would now be required to obtain a permit from the Coordinating Team for Visiting Foreigners at the Foreign Affairs Ministry and also permits from the Directorate General for Political Affairs and General Administration at the Home Affairs Ministry. The announcement also said that those wishing to work in remote areas would require a permit from the local government.

The new regulations received widespread criticism, and within two days, the Home Minister apologized and withdrew the regulation.

IFJ affiliate, Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) said that the regulation would have negatively impacted on foreign journalists in Indonesia and would be counterproductive to the President’s efforts to boost foreign investment.

Read more here.


8. Pakistan issues code of conduct for electronic media

On August 20, Pakistan’s Ministry for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage issued the revised Code of Conduct for Electronic Media through PEMRA the country’s electronic media regulator. The code comes after the Supreme Court issued an order for a code to be developed for all media to combat hate speech.

IFJ affiliate the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) said the new code of conduct could be used to gag media and attack freedom of expression.

Read more here.


9. Justice in Hong Kong for Kevin Lau

On August 13, Yip Kim-wah and Wong Chi-wah were found guilty of grievous bodily harm and stealing a motorbike. The charges relate to the attack on editor-in-chief of Ming Pao Daily Kevin Lau in February 2014. Lau, who was attacked on his way to breakfast, was hospitalized for a number of weeks following the attack and now uses a walking stick to assist his mobility.

Follow the verdict, Lau said that attacks on journalists jeopardises press freedom and called on the police to ensure the mastermind of the attack is brought to justice.

Read more here.


10. Fourth journalist killed in three months in India

Sanjay Pathak, a 42-year-old journalist was brutally killed in Faidpur in Uttar Pradesh on August 14. Police saw two people dragging a body and when they stopped them, they found they were carrying the body of Pathak who had been hit in the head several times with a heavy object. Pathak was last seen at his house the night before his body was discovered.

The IFJ and Indian Journalists Union deplored the murder, which is the second in Uttar Pradesh in India’s north in the past three months, and the fourth across India since June.

Read more here.


11. Chinese authorities crack down on media following deadly explosion

Following the deadly explosion in Tianjin on August 12, Chinese authorities have increased restrictions on media trying to report from the area. Following the explosion, over 100 people, including 21 firefighters died, and over 700 people were injured. On August 13, the Chinese government announced that all media were banned from releasing any independent reports, analysis or do any live broadcasting. They were instructed that all reports had to come from Xinhua, the People’s Daily Online and Tianjin Northern Online. On August 14, the State Internet Information Office said that they shut down over 360 social media accounts which they said violated the administrative regulations for disseminating rumors.

Read more here.


12. Two arrested in Prageeth Eknaligoda disappearance

On August 8, two former members of the military intelligence service in Sri Lanka were arrested over the disappearance of journalist and cartoonist, Prageeth Eknaligoda. Prageeth was last seen on January 24, 2010. The pair confessed to abducting Prageeth and handing him over to an army camp in Girithale in the North Central province.

The arrest came after Sri Lanka’s new President, Maithripala Sirisena, reopened the case into Prageeth’s disappearance following his election in January 2015. Two more army officers were arrested on August 24 in connection with the disappearance.

Read more here


13. Indian minister threatens journalists

Vijay Bahadur Pal, Uttar Pradesh’s Minister for Secondary Education claimed he would ‘cut journalists to size’ if they criticize the Samajwadi Party-led Government in the Indian state during his address at the closing ceremony of a cycle rally in Kannauj on August 12. Pal said: “Some journalists think they can frighten us through their writings. They don’t know if Samajwadis get enraged, they will be cut to size.”

Uttar Pradesh in India’s north has seen a steady decline in press freedom and journalist safety in recent months, following the murder of two journalists in less than three months.

Read more here.


14. Communist Party demands punishment for media worker

The Central China Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party reprimanded Bi Fujian, a program host on China Central Television. Fujian was punished following an incident in April 2015, when he was at a private banquet and he sang a song mocking Mao Zedong, the former Communist Party leader. Video of the incident surfaced on Weibo, and Fujian was suspended from his role.

Read more here.


15. Bangladeshi journalist arrested for Facebook post

Probir Sikdar, the editor of online new portal Uttoradhikar 71 News, was arrested on August 16 for a Facebook status he posted a month earlier. Sikdar was arrested after Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain filed a case against him under the ICT Act. In the status, Probir claimed to be under threat and that Minister Hossain, Moosa bin Shamser and fugitive war criminal Abul Kalam Azad would be responsible if he were killed.

Read more here.


16. Five journalists released from jail in Myanmar

On July 30, Bi Mon Te Nay journalists Kyaw Zaw Hein, Win Tin and Aung Thant and its publishers, Yin Min Tun and Kyaw Min Khaing were among the 6,966 prisoners pardoned in a mass Presidential amnesty in Myanmar.

The journalists were arrested on July 8, 2014 and sentenced to two years in prison in October on charges of defamation under Article 505(b) of the penal code after the paper published claims that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ethic leaders had formed an interim government to replace President Thein Sein’s military-backed administration.

Read more here.


17. #FindMoyameenaa – one year on

August 8 was the one year anniversary since the disappearance of Maldivian journalist, Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla. The IFJ and Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) joined the Maldivian media community in remembering the independent journalist, who is feared abducted. The IFJ and MJA joined the international community in condemning the inaction from the Maldivian government who are yet to make an arrest or find out what happened to Rilwan.

On August 8, friends, family and colleagues held a rally in the capital Male demanding action in the search for Rilwan as well as support for journalist safety and protection of press freedom.

Read more here andhere.


18. SAMSN Blog: Sri Lanka’s young working journalists

Gagani Weerakoon discusses the challenges for Sri Lanka’s young working journalists in the SAMSN Blog.

Trapped in the mantra of self-regulation (irrespective when, where and whether it is necessary) and breaking ‘it’ first to beat the competitors with no or less professional guidance, young journalists in this country have their own battle to fight against various internal and external elements to ensure professionalism. Sadly, majority of them do not even realize that they need to fight.

Read more 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.

20. #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.