IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: October 2014

To IFJ Asia-Pacific affiliates and friends

Welcome to the IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on November 1 2014, and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email ifj@ifj-asia.org

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In this bulletin:

  1. Petition against media laws delivered to East Timor Government
  2. Political protests impact on journalist safety in Pakistan
  3. Australia’s security laws threaten press freedom
  4. Female journalist brutally murdered in Afghanistan
  5. Media blackout in lead up to Fiji elections
  6. Floods in Kashmir claim the life of senior photojournalist
  7. Assaults on journalists in Sri Lanka on the rise
  8. Three arrested over disappearance of Maldivian journalist
  9. Malaysian journalist arrested for Sedition
  10. Philippines journalists barred from entering Ampatuan trial
  11. French journalists still detained in West Papua
  12. Use of ‘Allah’ for non-Muslim media banned in Malaysia
  13. House of Pakistan union leader fired upon
  14. Gender workshop held in India
  15. Hong Kong workshop on new media challenges
  16. Pakistani journalist released from Afghanistan
  17. Widespread pro-democracy protests across Hong Kong lead to attacks on media
  18. Journalist protest TV network in Telangana, India
  19. IFJ Blog: “Pursuing the journalistic dream in Nepal”

1. Petition against media laws delivered to East Timor Government

The IFJ has led an alliance of journalists, press unions and media organisations from across the world to protest East Timor’s controversial new Press Law. The law received widespread criticism ever since it was first proposed in August 2013, and in late August had a number of components declared unconstitutional.

In mid-September a number of petitions, including a letter and petition from 48 Australian and international journalists and media, a wider petition of 245 signatures including journalists from around the world, as well as a number of letters from IFJ affiliates and non-government organisations.

Read more here.

2. Political protests impact on journalist safety in Pakistan

Continued political protests across Pakistan, led by opposition leaders, Imran Khan from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), has seen a spike in assaults and attacks on journalists and media workers. On September 1 protesters stormed the PTV building, holding a number of staff hostage and forcing management to shut down the transmission of PTV News and PTV World. The offices of GEO News have also been attacked on two occasions during the protests, as well as reports journalists have been assaulted and man-handled across the country.

The IFJ issued letters  to Imran Khan and Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, as well as Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemning their roles in the recent violence and urging for immediate action.

On September 22, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) met with the chairman of PTI, Imran Khan to discuss the recent attacks on journalists, during which Khan condemned the attacks.

Read more here and here. 

3. Australia’s new National Security Law threaten press freedom

On September 27, the Australian Senate ‘urgently’ pushed through the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill No 1, receiving 44 votes to 12, with bipartisan support from the Labor Party. The IFJ and Australian IFJ affiliate, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) describe the new laws as an outrageous attack on press freedom and question the fast-tracking of the laws through parliament without out proper and thorough consultation. The laws will leave journalists susceptible up to 10 years in jail for ‘unauthorised disclosure of information’, “will have a chilling effect on legitimate journalism in Australia” said MEAA Federal Secretary Christopher Warren.

Read more here.

4. Female journalist brutally murdered in Afghanistan

The brutall stabbing murder of a female journalist in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, has shocked the South Asian journalist community and highlighted the ongoing issues in the country. Palwasha Tokhi Meranzai, a 26-year-old journalist was stabbed to death on September 16 after she opened the door to her attacker, who is alleged to have been disguised as a man without arms asking for water. She is the second journalist killed in the city in two months.  

The IFJ has joined its affiliate to Afghan Independent Journalists Association in strongly condemning the murder and calling for immediate action by authorities.

Read more here.

5. Media blackout in the lead up to Fijian elections

On Wednesday, September 17, Fiji held its first democratic elections since the military coup in 2006. In the 48 hours leading up to the elections, a ‘media blackout’ banned all political advertising on radio and television, and required all campaign posters to be taken down. It also required any story relating to the election to be vetted by the country’s media authority. The blackout was introduced to allegedly allow voters to make their own decisions on who to vote for without undue influence or pressure.

The media blackout came at the end of a long election campaign, during which two female journalists received death threats for their reporting of a political story a week earlier. Vosita Kotoiwasawasa from the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation and the Fiji Sun’s West Editor, Jyoti Pratibha were the target of death threats, including threatening phone calls and threats made on social media.

The IFJ said “The media blackout makes the dangerous assumption that freedom of expression and freedom of access to information can be switched on and off. The democratic process should not hidden, free from scrutiny and analysis.”

Read more here and here.

6. Floods in Kashmir claim the life of a senior photojournalist

Senior photojournalist Shafat Sidiq, 40, was on assignment as a stringer for Dainik Jagran a Hindi daily when he went missing in the floods on September 7. His body, with his cameras still hanging around his neck, was found five days later. The IFJ and its Indian affiliates, the All Indian Newspaper Employees Federation (AINEF), the Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU) and the National Union of Journalists, India (NUJI) are deeply saddened by the death and have called on India’s media organisations to do more to protect stringers and freelance workers sent to the field to cover disasters. The IJU and AINEF have also called on the governments of Kashmir and Jammu to provide compensation for Sidiq’s family.

Sidiq is survived by his wife Yasmeen, 18-month old son Mohammad, ailing father Mohammad, mother Saleema and two sisters – all of whom he provided for.

During his 20-year career he worked for a number of media publications, and many of his images were picked up by global photographic agency Getty Images.

Read more here.

7. Assaults on journalists in Sri Lanka on the rise

On September 22, Sri Lankan television journalist Chandana Karupparachchi was attacked while covering a clash between political forces at Hali-Ela, in Badulla in Uva. The News1st TV correspondent was admitted to hospital with facial injuries and struggled to speak, however he told colleagues he was attacked after being told to stop filming.

The IFJ joined its affiliates the Sri Lankan Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) and the Free Media Movement (FMM) in condemning the attack, with all urging the government to take urgent action and ensure journalist safety.

Another journalist, Palitha Ariyawansa, of Lakadeepa newspaper was also attacked  on September 22. Ariyawansa was covering the political clash in Hali-Ela. On September 20, journalist Sinnarasa Sivakumaran was targeted in Kilinochchi, Jaffna by a group claiming to be members of the security forces.

Also this month, IFJ was informed that the France-based Tamil Media House was forced shut down earlier after an assassination attempt against a senior official.

Read more here and here.

8. Three arrested over disappearance of Maldivian journalist

Three people have been arrested and will remain in police custody for the next five to seven days over the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla. Rilwan has been missing since August 8, when he was last seen boarding the Hulhumale ferry. Evidence suggests he was abducted, and a recent independent investigation implicated radicalised gangs in his disappearance.

The safety of journalists in the Maldives continues to be a concern for the IFJ and its affiliate the Maldives’ Journalist Association (MJA). Last week the offices of Minivan News were attacked with a machete lodged in the front door, and the external CCTV camera damaged by a known criminal. Following the attack staff also received threatening text messages.

Read more here and here.  

9. Malaysian journalist arrested for sedition

On September, Malaysiakini investigative journalist Susan Loone was questioned and arrested by police, investigating her article Disoalsiasat selama 4 jam, dakwa dilayan seperti penjenyah (Interrogated for four hours, treated like a criminal). In the article, Loone included quotes from Penang Executive Councillor, Phee Boon Poh, and his account of police questioning several days earlier.

The IFJ joined its affiliate the National Union of Journalists, Malaysia (NUJM) condemning the actions by the police.

The arrest of Loone was part of a ‘sedition blitz’ in Malaysia which has seen the arrest politicians and an academic in recent weeks.

Read more here.

10. Philippines journalists barred from entering Ampatuan trial

Three journalists were denied access to the Ampatuan Massacre trial in Quezon City on September 17. Mike Firalde, of The Philippine Star; Evan Orias of Malaya; and Ces Drilon of ASB-CBN were refused entry to the makeshift court inside the Quezon City Jail Annex in Camp Bagon Diwa. According to the court, the journalists were denied entry because the courtroom was too full to accommodate the press. However the National Journalists Union of the Philippines (NUJP) were informed they were denied access because the witness being presented was a minor.

The incident at the court happened the same day that Philippine President Benigno Aqunio III was quoted during a Belgian visit, controversially suggesting the media was somehow to blame for the 2009 killings: “Did they die because they were investigative journalists? Were they excerising their profession in a responsible way?”

The IFJ Acting Director Jane Worthington said “The figures speak for themselves and that is that the Philippines government under Aquino has so far failed in its duty and obligation to deliver justice for the brutal execution and mass burial of 32 journalists.”

Read more here.

11. Two French journalists remain in police custody in West Papua

Two French journalists, Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat, remain in police custody almost two months after they were detained by Indonesian police in West Papua. The pair who were detained on August 6, are facing five years in jail on violation of immigration law, after they were found to be working as journalists on tourist visas.

Earlier this month, the Indonesian Press Council and the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) held a press conference calling for their immediate release, which was also attended by the French Embassy in Jakarta and the lawyer for the journalists.

The case is currently being prepared for the prosecutor, and is expected to go to court in October.

Read more here.

12. Non-Muslim media banned from using the word ‘Allah’

Following a five-year court battle, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kuala Lumpur, Nicholas Xavier Pakiam lost his case against the Government of Malaysia that forbade non-Muslim Malaysian media from using the word ‘Allah’. The case, which began in 2009 following Pakiam being informed by the Ministry for Home Affairs that The Herald, a Catholic weekly newspaper, must refrain from using ‘Allah’ in their Bahasa Malayu version. Throughout the case Pakiam has fought against the Government and in 2009 was ruled in favour of, however the win was short-lived. The ruling was followed by raids and the burning of materials. In July, the case was officially closed by the Federal Court of Malaysia.

Read more here.  

13. House of senior PFUJ official fired at 

On September 16, unidentified people fired shots at the Lahore-based President of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Rana Azeem. According to Azeem, the attack intended to silence and intimidate him.

The IFJ joined the PFUJ in expressing serious concern over the attack, which took place during a time of increased violence against journalists across Pakistan. These were not the first attacks or threats against the leader, the most recent threats were on January 24, 2014.

Read more here.

14. Gender workshop held in India

On September 20, the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) held a workshop on gender as part of the IFJ Research Study on Gender and Media in the Asia Pacific. The workshop was attended by 35 people including men and women. The workshop focused on discussing the important issues that should be included in the research and report for the project for India, including gender case studies.

15. Challenges for new media workshop held in Hong Kong

Over two days, September 27 and 28 the IFJ supported by Amnesty International Hong Kong, held a workshop discussing challenges for new media. The workshop was attended by 15 journalists from across China, including Hong Kong and Taiwan and had training in secure communications. The workshop took place during extensive protests in Hong Kong led by the Occupy Movement. Read more here.

16. Pakistani journalist released from Afghanistan

Pakistani journalist, Faizullah Khan was released from Afghanistan on Sunday, September 28, following a six-month detention in Nangarhar, in eastern Afghanistan. Khan, a journalist with ARY TV, went missing in April this year, after he told his supervisor he was going to the Afghanistan border to interview leaders of the Taliban. He was missing for three weeks before Afghan security forces reveled they had detained the journalist. In July, Khan was charged with entering Afghanistan without travel documents and communicating with militant sources. He was sentenced to four years in jail. . The IFJ welcomes this release saying “The dropping of the excessive jail sentence by Afghanistan and the decision to allow Faizullah Khan to return home to his family is an immense sign of goodwill and respect to the media in Pakistan but also more broadly toward the South Asian media community. This is an important outcome for media freedom in the region.”

Read more here and here.

17. Widespread pro-democracy protests across Hong Kong lead to attacks on media

The IFJ and its affiliates continue to monitor the situation in Hong Kong after the widespread pro-democracy protests across Hong Kong in recent days, with reports more than 10,000 people rallied in support of genuine universal suffrage. During the protests a number of journalists suffered brutal treatment by police. They were hit with batons and manhandled, and some were subjected to clouds of tear gas as they reported on the demonstrations.

The IFJ and the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) strongly criticised the attacks and called on authorities to investigate the circumstances of the attacks.

As information was posted on the internet mainland authorities were calling on internet administrators to delete all information of the protests.

The IFJ called on journalists to remain vigilant and adhere to the IFJ Safety Guidelines for Covering Demonstrations and Civil Unrest.

Read more here.

 18. Journalist protest TV network ban in Telangana, India

A reported 40 female journalists were arrested in Telangana, India on September 9, after they protestedin front of the Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s office, over the banning of two Telugu TV channels TV9 and ABN Andhra Jyothi. The journalists were arrested and held for several hours before being released.

Chief Minister Rao criticised the channels for ‘tarnishing’ the image of Telangana people and is reported saying “if the media crosses its limits, the government will not only ban but take other courses of action as well. If you cannot respect others and if you cannot become part of our Telangana culture, you have no place here.”

The IFJ joined the AINEF and NUJ(I) in strongly criticising the arrests and the condemning the attacks on journalists’ equipment. They also criticised the comments made by Chief Minister Rao.

Read more here.

19. IFJ Blog: “Pursuing the journalistic dream in Nepal”

Uma Khatri Chetry is a 24-year-old journalist from Kathmandu, Nepal. She shares her story about following her dreams to become a journalist after her father, also a journalist, was killed during the Nepal Civil War.

Uma said “My father is still the greatest inspiration for me to keep studying and to accomplish my dream. I still dream to do my Masters Course and become a successful journalist in future.”

Read more here.