IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: April

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In this bulletin:

1.       IFJ launches ‘The Asia-Pacific through a gender lens’

2.       Indian Supreme Court guarantees free speech online

3.       Impunity breakthrough in Pakistan

4.       Second blogger killed in Bangladesh in as many months

5.       Thai military leader threatens journalists

6.       Chinese authorities ban ‘air pollution’ documentary

7.       Journalists convicted on defamation in Myanmar

8.       Nepali journalist found dead

9.       Key figure accused in Ampatuan Massacre released on bail

10.   Three journalists detained in the Maldives

11.   Press Freedom on the decline in Hong Kong

12.   Film-makers target of police intimidate in the Philippines

1. IFJ launches ‘The Asia-Pacific through a gender lens’

The IFJ marked International Women’s Day on March 8, by launching seven country reports from across the region, including Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu. The special series of country reports explore gender equity in the region’s media and detail the experience of journalists at work and in their unions. The IFJ hopes the reports will encourage much-needed discussion on the vital role media plays in leading and influencing change within its own industry as well as in the representation of women and gender issues. The seven reports highlight many commonalities, yet each country has its own experience and particular issues and areas of concern.

In Cambodia the biggest challenge for women is overcoming cultural barriers and stereotypes to join the male-dominated industry, with few women in decision-making roles and a significant gender pay gap. In India, the well-established and strong media landscape is full of women journalists, yet sexual harassment remains a critical issue for the industry. In Nepal, the lack of security in women’s employment and poor working conditions has created a sense of fear and instability among women journalists. Pakistan  has a vibrant media industry but the media and unions remain male dominated and women come up against ‘glass ceilings’ and ‘sticky floors’. In Sri Lanka the media industry is plagued with instability and inherent stereotyping and means women journalists are increasingly pushed to cover ‘soft beats’ such as gender issues, arts and culture. Malaysia has a strong female presence in the media industry. Although gender-balance is well-evident in the media sector, with working conditions and pay the most balanced across the seven countries, sexual harassment remains a key issue for female journalists.

With a very small media industry and workforce, working conditions and wages have been the first casualty in media in Vanuatu. Yet women are proving themselves as deft multitaskers, covering multiple beats and roles to participate in the media industry.

The seven country reports were completed as part of the IFJ/UNESCO Research and Media in the Asia Pacific project. The regional report, which was completed with support from Uks will be released with UNESCO on May 3.

Read more here and here.

2. Indian Supreme Court guarantees free speech online

On March 24, India’s Supreme Court ruled that Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act contradicted the rights of freedom of expression. Section 66A, which was legislated in 2009, criminalised freedom of expression. It included a vaguely worded provision that could see anyone convicted of sending messages deemed ‘grossly offensive’ or ‘menacing’ over the internet or other communication devices, sentenced to three years in jail.

The amendment was introduced following the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that saw 164 people killed. The amendments were pushed through parliament under the guise of national security and with only 15 minutes of debate. Since 2009, a numerous people were arrested under Section 66A, many as a result of Facebook posts.

Read more here.

Read the SAMSN Blog:  What next for the Section 66A cases? By Geeta Seshu here

3. Impunity breakthrough in Pakistan

Faisal Mehmood, one of the convicted killers of Pakistan journalist, Wali Khan Babar, was captured on March 11 during a raid on the Karachi headquarters of secular political party Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Mehmood (also known as Faisal Mota) was convicted in absentia alongside Kamran (alias Zeeshan) and given a death sentence for the murder of the respected Geo News reporter. Four others were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the murder.

This case marked only the second time in Pakistan history that the murderers of journalists were brought to justice. Babar was shot dead in Karachi in January 2011. During the investigation and criminal trial, several witnesses were killed and the trial had to move locations due to security threats.  

Read more here

4. Second blogger killed in Bangladesh in as many months

Md Oyasiqur Rahman Babu was brutally killed on March 30 as he travelled to work in Dhaka. The 27-year-old worked at a travel agency and was well-known blogger who used different pseudonyms to write on popular blogs. He also used his Facebook to share several notes opposing irrational religious beliefs and radical Islamists.

He was attacked by three assailants with a machete. Two of the attackers were captured shortly after the attack and told police that they killed Oyasiqur for writing on religious issues.

Oyasiqur is the second blogger to be brutally murdered in Dhaka this year after Avijit Roy was brutally murdered in Dhaka on February 26.

Read more here.

5. Thai military leader threatens journalists

Thai military junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha made threatening statements towards a group of journalists, when asked how he would deal with journalists who don’t adhere to the official line. He responded by saying “We’ll probably just execute them”. He went on to say “You don’t have to support the government but you should report the truth”, arguing that journalists should write in a way that bolsters national reconciliation in the kingdom.

Prayuth’s comments come after a string of media violations since he took power of the country after the military coup in May 2014.

Read more here.  

6. Chinese authorities ban ‘air pollution’ documentary

Within 24 hours of its online release, Under the Dome, a documentary by former anchor and state broadcaster, Chai Jing, went viral with over 155 million views. However within days the Chinese authorities had ordered the public should refrain for watching the documentary. By March 3, the Beijing Internet Management Office and Shanghai Propaganda Department ordered all media to remove the documentary from their websites within 12 hours.

Read more here.

7. Journalists convicted of defamation in Myanmar

Two journalists have been convicted of defamation and sentenced to two months imprisonment. Than Htiak Thu, editor of the weekly Morning Post and Hsan Moe Tun, a reporter with the same paper were charged in February 2014 following a defamation complaint from a military lawmaker.

The pair are the first journalists to be convicted of defamation since 2011, when President Thein Sein took office. They have both said that they will appeal the sentence.

Read more here.

8. Nepali journalist found dead

On March 25, the body of 25-year-old Nepali journalist, Ram Prasad Bhattarai ‘Sachin’ was found in Itahari, eastern Nepal. Bhattarai was on a person trip to Itahari when his badly beaten body was found on the side of the Koshi Highway. He worked as the assistant editor of the Baruwa Times and also contributed to the Ujyaalopatra daily of Biratnagar and the Aaujar daily of Dharan.

The FNJ said: “The circumstances and body indicates towards a murder, thus the FNJ demands an immediate investigation for find out the truth about the journalist’s death. We also urge the government to compensate the family.”

Read more here

9. Key figure accused in Ampatuan Massacre released on bail

On March 9, Saijid Ampatuan was released on bail after he posted a surety bond of PHP 11.6 million (USD 262,321). Saijid is the son of clan-patriarch and co-accused Andal Ampatuan Snr. It is also alleged that he was present at the meetings during which the massacre was planned. Saijid was immediately released from detention, but Leila De Lima, the Secretary for the Justice Department ordered the public prosecutors to review the decision.

Read more here

10. Three journalists detained in the Maldives

Three journalists including, Mohamed Nyaz from Channel One TV, Mohamed Wisam and Adam Zareer from Raajje TV were arrested and detained while covering opposition protests in the capital Male on March 24 and 25. Each was arrested for ‘obstructing police duties’. All three went before the Criminal Court and were remanded for five days with no charges filed against them. They were released on March 31.

Raajje TV said in a statement that called for the immediate release of the journalists that the arrests were an obstruction of rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution.

Following the arrests, the Maldives Police Service warned social media users against harassing and posting photos of individual officers online. The warning received strong criticism online; however the police claim that posting photos is an attempt to intimidate police. The warning came after a number of photos appeared online accusing officers of criminality and brutality.

Read more here and here.  

 11. Press freedom on the decline in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has released results from a survey it conducted in January 2015 about press freedom in Hong Kong. The survey was completed by 1035 people from the general public and 537 journalists, and focused on issues relating to press freedom in Hong Kong. According to the survey data, Hong Kong’s Press Freedom Index (a score ranging from 0 to 100) has declined over the past year, declining by 0.6 to 48.8 according to the general public and by 3.1 to 38.9 according to the journalists.

The data also highlighted the disparity in views between the two groups with journalists been more negative when looking at the state of press freedom in Hong Kong. However, both groups were in agreement when asked about violence towards journalists.

Read more here.

12. Film-makers target of police intimidate in the Philippines

A group of film-makers, including JL Burgos, the son of press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr, hosted ‘Sine Henerasyon’, a film screen event on February 28, in Quezon City. The event featured documentaries like Burgos’ Portraits of Mosquito Press, Ilang-Ilang Quijano’s Daughters of Cordillera and Ej Mijares’ Shapes of Crimson. However during day prior to the event, police visited the location on three separate occasions questioning the organisers and venue workers. On two of the occasions the police also left behind officers at the location. When Burgos’ and the other organisers confronted the police, they did not explain their motives and left shortly after.

NUJP said that the police were out to intimidate the organisers of what they thought was probably a subversive activity that shouldn’t have been allowed to take place.

Read more here