South Asia Media Solidarity Network Bulletin: October

Welcome to the e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on November 17, 2014, and your inputs are most welcome.

We encourage contributions to let others know what you are doing; to seek solidarity and support from other SAMSN members on your campaigns and activities. To contribute, email Ujjwal Acharya at: ifjsouthasia@gmail.com

Please feel free to distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media.

In this bulletin:

1.    Jailed Pakistani journalist freed in Afghanistan

2.    Two journalists assassinated in separate incidents in Punjab, Pakistan

3.    UNESCO gender research on women in media in South Asia

4.    IFJ End Impunity Campaign – November 2014

5.    Female journalist brutally stabbed and murdered in Afghanistan

6.    Floods in Kashmir, Indian photojournalist killed on duty

7.    Workshop on gender and media held in New Delhi

8.    IFJ Blog: "Pursuing the journalistic dream in Nepal"

9.    Pakistan union demands government upholds landmark sexual harassment case

10.  Sri Lankan television journalist assaulted by political cadres

11.  Pakistan Opposition leader Imran Khan condemns attacks on media

12.  Shots fired at home of senior leader of Pakistan journalist union

13.  Maldivian journalist missing for 68 days

14.  Minivan News office attacked in the Maldives

15.  Afghanistan removes working restriction on expelled American journalist

16.  Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards – Nominations Open

17.  SAMSN Digital Hub to be launched in November

1. Jailed Pakistani journalist freed in Afghanistan

In an emotional outcome for journalists in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, on September 28 the Afghanistan court ordered the release of Faizullah Khan, a Pakistani journalists jailed in Afghanistan since April.  Faizullah, a reporter of ARY News TV channel, was handed over to Pakistani authorities at the Torkham border a day later where he as received by a delegation of IFJ affiliate Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and his family. Faizullah was reportedly freed on the orders from the Nangarhar High Court after outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered his release.

Khan was reported missing on April 22 after he told his supervisor he would be going to Afghanistan to interview senior Taliban officials near the Afghan/Pakistan border. He was arrested on April 30 by Afghan security forces on charges of espionage and immigration violation, allegedly because he was unable to provide the required immigration documentation. The espionage charges were later dropped but, on July 12, a court found him guilty of the offence of ‘entering without travel documents and communicating with militant sources’ and handed down a four-year jail sentence. More here and reports on his experience of imprisonment in Afghanistan are published here and here.

2. Two journalists assassinated in separate incidents in Punjab, Pakistan

Two journalists were murdered in separate incidents in Hafizabad, Punjab province, of Pakistan in the space of three days. With these murders, Pakistan grimly leads the world in the killing of journalists in 2014.

Nadeem Hyder, a correspondent for daily Dunya, was shot dead by two unknown assailants in Kaliki Mandi area of Hafizabad on Friday, October 3. The killers fled the scene.

Two days later, on Sunday, October 5, unknown gunmen shot dead Yaqoob Shehzad while he visited the office of a friend in the city’s busiest neighbourhood, Sagar Road. Shehzad, a correspondent of TV channel Express News, was shot in the head three times and was pronounced dead upon arrival at a hospital.

According to eyewitnesses, the gunmen arrived at the office and opened indiscriminate fire, which injured an office assistant. The assailants fled from the scene immediately. More Here.

3. UNESCO gender research on women in media in South Asia

The IFJ together with SAMSN is currently undertaking an important project with the support of UNESCO and UNWomen to research gender and media in the region. India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are the four focus countries in South Asia and first stage of the project has just completed with a huge online survey of men and women working in the media. The survey aims toidentify some of the key gender challenges in the media and had a strong response from South Asia, with each country meeting their target of 100 surveys and Pakistan and India both exceeding their target. This great result is a credit to both the researchers and the SAMSN network.

We are now into the second stage of our research, which includes interviews and case studies. If you have any suggestions relating to potential case studies or focus areas please contact Alex Hearne (alex.hearne@ifj-asia.org)

The final report which will include core recommendations will go forward for presentation at the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in March 2015.

4. IFJ End Impunity Campaign – November 2014

The SAMSN network will shortly launch its campaign against impunity, supported by UNDEF’s South Asia Media Freedom for Democracy project. We will write to you more about this campaign when it launches shortly and let you know how SAMSN members can get involved and run their own actions.

Importantly, SAMSN’s campaign starts on the new UN-declared International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on November 2 – beginning with a National Day of Action conducted by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) to draw attention to the country’s horrific record of impunity. Already this year, 13 journalists have lost their lives in Pakistan. Since 2002, more than 80 journalists have lost their lives in Pakistan – and only justice has been served in just two cases.

The SAMSN campaign will feature actions and stories from all countries in SAMSN, running from November 2 to November 23. We call on all SAMSN members to get involved in this important effort to tackle impunity for journalist attacks, threats and killings and calling governments to account by using the hashtag #whatareyoudoing? #SAMSN and using country leader’s names also eg: #NawazSharif or #Rajapaksa.

SAMSN is also asking members to focus this year’s efforts on one or two key cases of impunity per country and call on governments for action on these cases and to recognised the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, The best impunity cases to focus on are those with a strong cooperation from civil society, family and  media. Stay tuned for more details on the SAMSN impunity campaign.

5. Female journalist brutally stabbed and murdered in Afghanistan

Palwasha Tokhi Miranzai, a female journalist, was brutally murdered in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in the Balkh province of northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, September 16. An unidentified man repeatedly stabbed Miranzai, who worked for the Bayan-e-Shamal news network from 2008 to 2012. She had recently returned from completing her Master’s Degree in Thailand and was planning a return to journalism shortly. Miranzai was believed to have opened the door to her attacker was alleged to be in disguise of a man without arms asking for water.

The man is then said to have followed her inside her home before attacking her with a knife. A suspect has been arrested in connection to the murder and is currently in police custody for further interrogation. More here and here.

6. Floods in Kashmir, India photojournalist killed on duty

Shafat Sidiq, a 40-year-old respected Kashmiri photojournalist, was swept away on duty covering the floods in India’s Kashmir Valley. He was on assignment 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.

He is survived by wife Yasmeen, 18-month-old son Mohammad, ailing father Mohammad Sidiq, mother Saleema and two sisters. His family was dependent on his earnings to survive. He published photos on the Dainik Jagran for many years but is said to be working for it only as a “stringer” where freelancers are only paid when work is published.

During his 20-year career in journalism, Sidiq also worked with the Srinagar daily Aftab, the Jammu-based Kashmir Times and the daily Amar Ujala. Sidiq was also working for the Philippines-based Pacific News Agency, with many of his images picked up by global photographic agency Getty Images. A request to support his family has been made to the IFJ Safety Fund, which is working on it and the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) is lobbying with the publisher and the state government to compensate his family. More here.

7. Workshop on Gender and Media held in New Delhi

The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) organized a workshop on gender and media ‘A Day of Truth Telling’ on September 20, 2014 with the support of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and sponsorship of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The workshop discussed issues such as women representation, sexual and other types of harassment, working conditions, difficulties of working as freelancer and on desk faced by woman journalists in India.

The workshop concluded that it’s need of the hour to work jointly with the central trade unions and women’s organizations to strengthen the journalists’ movement. The role played by DUJ over the years in the struggle for equal treatment of women in journalism was also noted during the workshop. He said the need of the hour is to work jointly with the central trade unions and women’s organizations to strengthen the journalists’ movement and counter the problems that exist today.

The workshop guests included DUJ General Secretary S.K.Pande. President Sujata Madhok, who chaired the proceedings and Vice President Amit Prakash Singh.

8. IFJ Blog: "Pursuing the journalistic dream in Nepal"

“During Nepal’s Civil War, my father [a journalist] was shot dead along with other six others in our village. After this, our economic reality became much worse and we had no money left to pay school fees.”

“Now I am working at nepalbani.com and my office lies just next door to the association, which provides educational aid to children whose parents were once the victim of civil war. With constant help from so many people and motivation, I’m now also pursuing my second year of a journalism course at a college.”

Nepal’s Uma Khatry Chetry, 24, has been supported in her education by the Nepal Children Education Fund, which is supported by the Media Safety and Solidarity Fund, writes a blog about her persuasion to become a journalist.

9. Pakistan union demands government upholds landmark sexual harassment case

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) urged the Pakistan’s government to stand firm in a long-running sexual harassment case of a female journalist by an official of the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) by rejecting any appeal and upholding the Ombudsman’s orders.

In last week of September, the Federal Ombudsman for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace found the Executive Director of AAP, Muhammad Naeem Choudhry, guilty on the account of sexually harassing a female co-worker under the Women Harassment Act in a case that dates back to incidents that began almost 20 years ago. The Ombudsman ordered the imposition of a ‘major penalty’ wherein the culprit would be demoted by a grade and removed from his present post so that ‘taking advantage of his senior position he may not create such an unhealthy environment for other employees in the future’.

Choudhry has however filed an appeal against the order from the Ombudsman, which has been admitted by Office of the President of Pakistan and evading any action by the APP. More here.

10. Sri Lankan television journalist assaulted by political cadres

Chandana Karuppuarachchi, a News1st TV correspondent, was attacked while covering a clash between political forces at Hali-Ela of Badulla district, Uva province on Monday evening, September 22. He was filming a clash between supporters of ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and the main opposition United National Party (UNP) when the incident occurred.

Karuppuarachchi was admitted to Badulla Hospital with injuries to his face. He had difficulty speaking but told his colleagues that he was attacked after being asked to stop recording the clash. More here.

Similarly, on the evening of September 20, journalist Sinnarasa Sivakumaran was targeted at Kilinochchi, Jaffna, by a group of people who claimed to be members of the security forces. Sivakumaran saved his life by screaming for help, to which several of neighbours replied. More here.

11. Pakistan Opposition leader Imran Khan condemns attacks on media

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the chairman of opposition party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan, met on Friday, September 19 to talk about recent attacks on media. The PFUJ drew Khan’s attention to the recent attacks on journalists and media across Pakistan at opposition party rallies.

The PTI has been demonstrating against the government since August 14 in the capital Islamabad. During rallies demonstrators have repeatedly attacked journalists, media and media staff. The increased hostility against media prompted the IFJ to issue a letter to PTI leader Imran Khan, along with letters to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and PAT leader Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri. More here.

12. Shots fired at home of senior leader of Pakistan journalist union

The IFJ globally condemned threats against senior PFUJ leader after unidentified people fired shots at the home of Rana Mohammad Azeem, the Lahore-based president of the PFUJ, on September 16. The PFUJ said it was the second time in a week that shots were fired and it was strongly understood to be a move he believes was intended to intimidate and silence the leader. No-one was hurt in either incident.

Rana Azeem said: “By the grace of god, I’m safe. The incidents seem to be part of a series of threats and attacks on the journalists in Pakistan.” More here.

13. Maldivian journalist missing for 68 days

Maldivian journalist Ahmed Rilwan Adbulla, 28, has been missing since August 8. Abdulla, a journalist with Minivan News, was last seen in the early morning on Friday, August 8 on a ferry traveling to Hulhumale Island from the capital Male.

The Maldives Police so far has failed to provide any clue regarding Rilwan’s disappearance. The Police arrested four suspects in connection with the case including two 22-year-old men and one 24-year-old man on September 28. The suspects were released by the Criminal Court after an initial extension of custody.

Rilwan’s employer, the Minivan News, have started to begin all their news online with “No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan” as a part of the campaign to pressure the state to locate the journalist.

The International Federation of Journalists and the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) had called on the Maldives government to expedite police operations and deploy all necessary resources to determine the whereabouts of Rilwan. 

There have been widespread concerns about Rilwan’s disappearance with most of the Maldivian private media, human rights organizations, and media rights organizations such as CPJ and RSF expressing concerns.

To join the online campaign use #FindMoyameehaa in Twitter and find more information at http://findmoyameehaa.com/ More information on Rilwan’s disappearence here, here and here.

14. Minivan News office attacked in the Maldives

In an ongoing disintegration in press freedom in the Maldives, the office of Minivan News in capital Male was attacked on Thursday, September 25. A machete knife was lodged into the door of the office building in the afternoon shortly after a notorious gangster removed a CCTV camera from outside the building. More here.

15. Afghanistan removes working restriction on expelled American journalist

Afghanistan removed working restrictions on New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg on October 5. Issuing a statement, the Afghan Attorney General’s Office said Rosenberg is allowed to return to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan had earlier expelled Kabul-based Rosenberg, 40, on August 20 for refusing to identify sources for an article. Rosenberg was first barred from leaving and then ordered to leave Afghanistan within 24 hours. He left the country on the evening of August 21. More here.

16. Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards – Nominations Open

Nominations for the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards 2015 are now open. They honour some of the most remarkable fighters for freedom of expression from around the world and can have a considerable impact helping to generate much needed publicity for individuals and groups who often face considerable threats. Anyone involved in tackling free expression threats – either through journalism, campaigning, the arts or using digital techniques – is eligible for the awards.

Nominate can be made here.

17. SAMSN Digital Hub to be launched in November

The South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) Digital Hub is scheduled to launch in November 2014. The Digital Hub will be central repository of South Asia-related media issues, press statements and resources; and also the one-stop website for news and statements.

All the affiliates and partners of the SAMSN are requested to send in any material they want to publish in the Digital Hub including photographs, personal blogs and campaigns

We welcome your submission at ifjsouthasia@gmail.com

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SAMSN is a group of journalists’ trade unions, press freedom organizations and journalists in South Asia that work together to support freedom of expression and association in the region.

For further information on SAMSN, visit: www.ifj-asia.org/page/samsn.html

If you have information on a press freedom violation or matters relating to media freedom and journalists’ rights in South Asia, contact staff at IFJ Asia-Pacific so that action can be taken. To contribute to this bulletin, emailifjsouthasia@gmail.com