IFJ Asia Pacific: World Press Freedom Day Bulletin

02 May 2014

To IFJ Asia-Pacific affiliates and friends, 

Welcome to the special World Press Freedom Day bulletin of the IFJ Asia-Pacific. The next bulletin will be issued on 1 June 2014, and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email ifj@ifj-asia.org

Please distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media. The IFJ wishes you well for World Press Freedom day tomorrow.

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In this bulletin:

  1. Friends and affiliates mark World Press Freedom Day across the Asia-Pacific
  2. IFJ calls for task force to investigate media murders in Pakistan as violent campaign against journalists continues
  3. “The Campaign for Justice”: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14. IFJ launches 12th annual report: focus on gender and impunity
  4. IFJ media training workshops held in the Philippines, Pakistan, Cambodia and Thailand
  5. Respected Filipino reporter Rubylita Garcia killed in her home as President Aquino continues to turn a blind eye to media murders and impunity
  6. Acclaimed photojournalist gunned down in Afghanistan election tragedy –pre-poll violence against journalists takes death toll to four
  7. Congratulations to all the Asia Pacific RSF "100 Information Heroes"
  8. Call for action in India after yet another journalist is gang raped
  9. The IFJ pays tribute to Pacific journalism pioneer Laisa Taga
  10. Outspoken Chinese journalist disappears in lead up to Tiananmen Square anniversary
  11. Sri Lankan editor questioned by police over satirical photo caption
  12. Free Media Movement joins IFEX
  13. Amnesty calls for urgent action over the ongoing detainment of five Burmese journalists

 

 

  1. IFJ Asia Pacific affiliates to mark World Press Freedom Day

Saturday May 3 is UNESCO World Press Freedom Day and the IFJ’s Asia Pacific affiliates are marking the occasion with events, forums and activities across the region.

Here is a list of affiliate events for WPFD2014:

·         Australia: The Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) and Walkley Foundation will be hosting their annual Press Freedom Dinner on the night of May 2. The who’s who of Australia’s media will gather at Sydney Harbour to honour World Press Freedom Day and to fundraise for colleagues in need in the Asia Pacific.

·         Bhutan: On May 3rd The Journalists Association of Bhutan (JAB) is organising a half-day panel discussion on the theme of 'Freedom with Responsibility'. Panellists will be senior editors & journalists, and they will be delve into the freedoms & responsibilities of media in Bhutan's unique social, cultural and political climate.

·         Cambodia: The Cambodia Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ) will join with the UNESCO office in Cambodia, the Ministry of Information, the UN Human Rights office in Cambodia and the Cambodia Center for Human Rights) to organise a half day meeting on "Safety of Journalists in Cambodia: Rule of law and ensuring the safety of journalists and combating impunity." The meeting will be attended by 100 journalists from various media outlets as well as media students and representatives from NGOs. At the meeting students from the department of media and communications at Royal University of Phnom Penh will show a 5 minutes video presentation about the safety of journalists in Cambodia.

·         Malaysia: TheNational Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJM) are organising a press freedom forum and hosting a gala dinner to mark Press Freedom Day and to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The forum is titled “Press Freedom in ASEAN: Ahead or in Reverse?”. The IFJ would like to offer our congratulations to the NUJM on their anniversary and wish them the best for the occasion.

·         Pakistan: The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has organised a detailed program to celebrate WPFD on May 3. There will be a grand seminar and award ceremony to recognize the efforts of male and female journalists and union campaigners from all over Pakistan. As many as 150 people will be awarded in the ceremony to be held in Lahore. In addition to this, the PFUJ has organised the inaugural “All Pakistan Women Journalists Convention” to be held across May 2-3. The PFUJ will also host rallies across the nation and candles will be lit in memory of slain journalists. 

If any other affiliates or friends of the IFJ are planning events please send details, pictures, audio or video to angus.macdonald@ifj-asia.org. We wish all of our affiliates and friends the best for all the activities across the Asia Pacific.

  1. IFJ calls for task force to investigate media murders in Pakistan as violent campaign against media workers continues 

The ongoing violent campaign against Pakistani journalists, that saw the murder and attempted murder of two more journalists in the last fortnight, has led the IFJ to call on Pakistan’s government to set up an independent task force to investigate the increasing number of brutal attacks that are wreaking havoc on the country’s media community.

Seven Pakistani journalists have already been killed in targeted attacks this year, marking 2014 as one of the most brutal years for Pakistan’s media.

Express News TV’s senior anchor Raza Rumi was fired upon in an attack in in Lahore on March 28 that resulted in the death of his driver; in mid-April renowned Geo News TV anchor, Hamid Mir, was also fired upon in an apparent murder attempt in Karachi; and then on April 23 Shahzad Iqbal, a 28-year-old correspondent for SAMAA TV and editor of a local newspaper was shot and killed while travelling with his brother to work on his motorcycle.

As well as attacks on individual journalists, many media outlets have also been targeted in campaigns of violence. According to reports, The News in Islamabad recently received a threat by email that stated: “You people are the worst kind of swine in our society. No more warnings, no more suggestions….That’s it. Just remember; YOU chose to play with fire.”

After the attack on popular journalist Hamid Mir, the Pakistani government has moved to set up a commission to investigate the attack.

In a first, the Defense Ministry this week requested that the government invoke media regulations to shut down Geo, Pakistan’s largest television news station. The ministry accused Geo of running a “vicious campaign” against the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI.

IFJ President Jim Boumelha said in a statement: “While we welcome the news that the government of Pakistan has moved to set up a judicial commission to investigate the attack against Hamid Mir, it is clear that much greater and broader action is urgently required.”

Read more about the bitter fallout from the Hamid Mir attack here.

  1. “The Campaign for Justice”: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14. IFJ Launches 12th Annual Report: Focus on Gender and Impunity

South Asia’s near perfect record of impunity and the challenges facing the growing numbers of women journalists are the key focus of the 12th annual report on press freedom in the region. The IFJ, together with UNESCO, today launched “The Campaign for Justice”: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14 as part of its activities marking World Press Freedom Day 2014.

The report was launched at a UNESCO function in New Delhi by IFJ Asia Pacific Advisor Sabina Inderjit. 

Produced in partnership with IFJ affiliates in the region and members of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN), the report provides an annual report card on the situation of press freedom, media rights and other development relevant to media in South Asia.

The report is a key campaign tool for the IFJ and its affiliates to improve the safety and security of journalists and ensure balanced as well as safe participation of women in journalism in the region.

IFJ Asia Pacific acting director Jane Worthington said: “South Asia remains one of the most dangerous regions in the world for journalists to operate in and impunity is rife. We must continue to campaign for media workers to ensure governments observe their rightful obligation in ensuring their safety and security and that justice is swiftly delivered on journalist attacks,”

“Sadly, the region carries the mantle for a near perfect record on impunity. This must be brought to an end and the IFJ believes that governments which take the security of journalists seriously should be supported in that endeavour.”

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE.
DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE FULL REPORT 
HERE.

  1. IFJ Asia Pacific conducts media training workshops in Philippines, Pakistan, Cambodia and Thailand

During the month of April, staff from the IFJ Asia Pacific office travelled across the region to conduct specialised media training and workshops with affiliates in the Philippines, Pakistan and Cambodia as well as the emerging journalist union in Thailand.

The Cambodia workshop on April 4-5, supported by LO-TCO and hosted by the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ), focused on journalist rights, ethics and negotiation skills training. It was followed with a union management & leadership training with the Thai Journalists’ Association (TJA) in Bangkok, Thailand on April 8, supported by FES and LO-TCO.

Following a brutal year for journalists in 2013, a much-needed LO-TCO training on journalist safety and ethics was held in Manila with journalists from central Luzon and Southern Tagalog..

Then, as part of the new South Asia Media for Democracy project, supported by UNDEF, the IFJ began the first in a series of media rights monitoring and advocacy workshops that will be conducted across the region over the next year. The workshops were hosted by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and supported by the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ),

The first of the two-day workshops held in Karachi on April 13-14, focused on training journalists from the most troubled areas for journalists in Pakistan including Quetta, Khuzdar, Turbat, Balochistan and the KP-FATA tribal areas. Then on April 15-16, the IFJ conducted a new gender safety training with women journalists Karachi, Hyderabad and Peshawar with the support of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. See a photo gallery from this workshop here.

  1. Respected Filipino reporter Rubylita Garcia killed in her home as President Aquino continues to turn a blind eye to media murders and impunity

Earlier this month the IFJ was deeply saddened to report the death of Rubylita Garcia. Garcia was shot in her home in Barangay Talaba, Bacoor, in the city of Cavite on April 6. The female radio broadcaster was the first Filipino journalist to be killed in 2014 and was shot by armed assailants in front of her son and 10-year old granddaughter.

The brutal killing shocked the media community in the Philippines, who staged a demonstration at her funeral to protest the state of impunity for the killers of journalists in the Philippines.

The dire environment for the media in the came to a head again later in the month of April when President Aquino stumbled over a question about press freedom in a joint press conference with US President Barack Obama. Aquino failed to remember key facts about 2009’s Magindanao massacre where 32 journalists lost their lives in a horrific assassination and subsequent mass burial. The incident remains internationally the single deadliest attack on media ever.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chairperson Rowena C. Paraan said: “President Benigno Aquino III’s reply clearly illustrates how much our leader really cares about media murders and extrajudicial killings in general -- zilch.”

  1. Acclaimed photojournalist gunned down in Afghanistan election tragedy –pre-poll violence against journalists takes death toll to four


On the day before the Afghanistan public went to the polls for an historic election, acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning AP photojournalist Anja Neidringhaus was tragically killed in an attack in Khost province on Friday, April 4. She became the fourth journalist fatality in Afghanistan this year in the lead-up to the national election.

An Afghan police officer shot dead Anja Neidringhaus and badly injured reporter Kathy Gannon when they arrived at the premises of the district government in a convoy to cover the preparations for the country's presidential election on Saturday, April 5.

Neidringhaus’ death led to an outpouring of grief from journalists across the world, especially from friends who had worked with Anja at AP over many years.

Watch a touching tribute to the work of Anja Neidringhaus here.

  1. Congratulations to all the Asia Pacific journalists selected in the Reporters Without borders "100 Information Heroes" list

The IFJ Asia Pacific would like to acknowledge and congratulate those selected from our region in Reporters Without Borders "100 Information Heroes". We would like to pay a special tribute to a very good friend of the IFJ, Rowena Paraan, chairwoman of the Nation Union of Journalists of the Philippines:

The RSF said in their report: "Rowena Paraan has been a journalist for more than 25 years. Formerly the head of research at the Philippines Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), she is now the chairwoman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines where for a long time she has been running the journalists’ safety program. This is a major issue in a country where 32 journalists were massacred in Ampatuan in Maguindanao province in November 2009, a scar on the national psyche which is unlikely to heal. Paraan subsequently led a fact-finding mission to try to establish the circumstances of the massacre. She has constantly pressed the authorities for justice for the victims and their families and an end to impunity. She now faces a charge of contempt as a result of her commitment. More committed than ever to freedom of information, Paraan now runs Bayan Mo iPatrol Mo, a citizen journalism outlet that encourages Filipinos to get involved in disclosing instances of corruption and shortcomings of society that they are aware of."

Our congratulations to Rowena and to all those from the Asia Pacific honoured by the RSF.

To view the list and read the RSF report click here.

  1. Call for action in India after yet another journalist is gang raped

The IFJ was deeply concerned to hear that a 27-year-old journalist on assignment was allegedly gang-raped by two people in Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh, Northern India March 28.

The journalist had gone to Asthabhuja temple to research her story on historic temples in Vindhyachal region and was returning hotel late evening when she was abducted, taken to an isolated place, raped by the two assailants and later dumped in a forest area.

The shocking incident came a week after an Indian court found four people guilty of gang rape of a 23-year-old photojournalist in Mumbai last year. They were sentenced to life imprisonment.

In its statement, the IFJ said: “The culture of sexual harassment and threat in India continues to endanger women journalists both in the newsroom and out in the field. Gender equity and safety is intrinsic to press freedom and freedom of expression and as long as women journalists’ lives are threatened, there can be no true freedom of the media.”

In response to these disturbing events, the IFJ strongly endorsed the actions of its Indian affiliates in taking a strict and absolute no tolerance stance against harassment and sexual violence against women journalists in India. That means ensuring the safest possible working conditions for female media workers as they go about their daily duties; campaigns on gender equity and education on sexual harassment; and an independent and robust process for complaints that adequately takes into consideration the need for confidentiality for victims.

  1. The IFJ pays tribute to Pacific journalism pioneer Laisa Taga

Trailblazing Fijian journalist Laisa Taga sadly passed away in her home amongst her family in Cunningham, Suva on Friday April 4 after battling cancer. During her time as a journalist, an editor and a media executive, Taga became one of the Fiji media community’s most respected voices.

Tributes poured in for Taga, who hailed from Bua province in northern Fiji, represented her country in athletics during the 1974 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand, became the nation’s first female editor of a daily paper and was appointed the editor-in-chief of the Pacific region’s biggest magazine publishing company.

Peter Lomas, the CEO and publisher of Fiji Sun who first recruited Taga, said she was a remarkable journalist and editor whose legacy would be felt for generations: “She led and influenced through deeds, rather than talking. She made a true difference in many lives. But one of her most enduring legacies is showing the way for the women who are editors and news executives today.”

“Laisa was also never afraid to stand up for what she believed. She was removed from her job as executive producer of our first local TV news. She had refused to bow to political pressure on stories from ministers in Ratu Mara’s interim government.”

In a statement, the IFJ said: “Laisa was an inspirational figure in the Asia Pacific media. She set a standard of excellence for herself and for her staff that those following her can now aspire to. She will be sorely missed.”

  1. Outspoken Chinese journalist disappears in lead up to Tiananmen Square anniversary

Outspoken freelance Chinese journalist Gao Yu and two of her family members, have been missing since April 24 in what has been suspected to be a political detainment.

Analysts suspect that Gao Yu, 70, has been detained in the lead-up to the sensitive 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, due to her recently disclosures of the intensifying conflict among China’s top leaders.

Gao sent her last email on April 23, and failed to attend a private gathering on April 26 which was held to commemorate the “April 26 Editorial” in the Communist Party’s People’s Daily in 1989. The editorial called the student-led protests in Tiananmen Square an “anti-party and anti-socialist upheaval” and is regarded as having paved the way politically for the military crackdown in which hundreds, possibly thousands, of people died.

Gao is currently working for Deutsche Welle, Radio Free Asia and Hong Kong magazine Mirror Monthly. She was jailed for 15 months after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in June 1989, and for six years in November 1994 for “publishing state secrets”.

In a statement the IFJ said: "Gao’s disappearance echoes a common phenomenon, where journalists and activists are suddenly disappeared during sensitive periods or when controversial issues are raised.”

  1. Sri Lankan editor questioned by police over satirical photo caption

On Sunday, April 9 Saman Wagarachchi, the editor of leading Sinhala language newspaper Lakbimawas was summoned by police over a satirical photo caption he had published that depicted the Chairperson of Seva Vanitha Unit of the Ministry of Defence, Mrs Ioma Rajapaksa, receiving a donation from a well-wisher.

The tongue-in-cheek photo headline read “Hora Salli Nemeine”, which can be loosely translated into English as “not fake notes, right?” Mrs Rajapaksa is the wife of powerful defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Wagarachchi was extensively questioned on the motives of the publication of the photo caption.

IFJ affiliate the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) was shocked that the Sri Lankan government would consider satirical content of a newspaper deserving of investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department of Police.

Read more in the IFJ’s statement here.

  1. Free Media Movement joins IFEX

The IFJ congratulates Sri Lanka’s Free Media Movement on its acceptance into the highly-respected International Freedom of Exchange Network (IFEX) this week.

The FMM has been an affiliate of the IFJ since 2005 and has been an active affiliate for journalists rights in Sri Lanka and more widely through the South Asia as a member of the IFJ’s South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN).

The IFJ congratulates FMM’s journalist activists on this well-deserved recognition of its endeavours in all areas relating to media freedom and defending the rights of journalists and media workers. It has campaigned on legislative reform and been a key voice in the fight against censorship and intimidation of media personnel as well as standing for the broader democratic principles of freedom of expression and human rights.

As well as its own actions and activities, including the most recent “Black January” campaign, the FMM regularly generates international releases and reports for the IFJ outlining press freedom violations and developments in media. Congratulations!

  1. Amnesty International call for urgent action over the continuing detainment of five journalists in Myanmar

The IFJ urges all friends and affiliates to support Amnesty International in this campaign to secure the release of Burmese journalist Lu Maw Naing and four other Unity Weekly News reporters who were arrested following their reporting on an alleged chemical weapons plant in Pauk township.

The IFJ initially reported on the story in February and since then Amnesty have learnt that the journalists are currently detained in Pakokku prison, Magwe Division and that Lu Maw Naing is unwell and is suffering back and stomach pain. There are concerns that he has yet to receive adequate medical treatment.

The IFJ has joined Amnesty’s campaign and written to Burmese authorities demanding the release of the five journalists and we ask that you take a moment to head to Amnesty’s urgent action page and do the same.