IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: February 2015

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In this bulletin:

1.       CHINA’S MEDIA WAR: Censorship, Corruption & Control: 2014 Press Freedom in China report

2.       International Solidarity Mission release report; Ampatuan Massacre: Five Years On

3.       Taliban threatens Pakistani journalist

4.       New Sri Lankan President  signals for return to media freedom

5.       Chinese media worker detained for months without charge

6.       IFJ calls for release Japanese journalist in Syria

7.       Pakistan media guidelines rejected by Pakistan media

8.       AFP photojournalist shot during Charlie Hebdo demonstrations

9.       Philippine journalist dies waiting for justice

10.   Bangladesh extends block to online messaging services

11.   Afghan journalist gunned down at wedding

12.   Journalist accreditation violations press freedom

13.   Indonesian journalist shot dead outside his home

14.   DART 2015 Asia Pacific Fellowship: Applications open 

1. CHINA’S MEDIA WAR: Censorship, Corruption & Control: 2014 Press Freedom in China report

On January 26, the IFJ released their seventh annual Press Freedom in China report for 2014. The report, launched at a press conference in the Foreign Correspondent’s Club, China (FCCC) in Hong Kong, details the declining pattern of press freedom in China shadowed against increasingly repressive actions by the Chinese authorities in 2014.

The report also includes press freedom in issues in Macau and Hong Kong, particularly the major press violations during the Occupy Movement protests in the latter half of 2014.

Read more here.

You can download the English version here, the simplified Chinese version here and the traditional Chinese version here.

2. International Solidarity Mission release report: Ampatuan Massacre: Five Years On

The report of the IFJ-led International Solidarity Mission to the Philippines was released this month. Ampatuan Massacre: Five Years On highlights the injustice surrounding the 2009 massacre which left 58 dead including 32 journalists in Maguindanao in the southern Philippines. The mission, hosted by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), took place around the fifth anniversary of the massacre on November 23. From November 18-24, the mission met with government officials, the Department of Justice and law enforcement leaders in Manila and visited Mindanao, where the massacre took place, and included meetings with local media, victims’ families and a visit to the massacre site.

See the release on the mission here

3. Taliban threats to senior Pakistani journalist

A senior leader of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists received death threats from the Taliban over its reporting.

The IFJ wrote to the Interior Minister of Pakistan calling for action to ensure the journalist’s safety and that of his colleagues. The IFJ said; “The continued attacks, threats and intimidation against the media in Pakistan has reached an alarming level and warrants a serious state response. Democracy will be the victim if the media remains faced with these relentless attacks taking place in many cases with absolute impunity.”

Read more here and the letter here. 

4. New Sri Lankan President signals for return to media freedom

Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena has signalled for a return to media freedom in the country, following his historic defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Prior to the election, Sirisena met with the Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka (FMM) and agreed on a media reform proposal which included enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act, ending impunity for crimes against journalists and ending the censorship on media.

In an historic first step, the new government has determined to reopen the investigation into the 2009 murder of respected editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, who at the time of his death was involved in a legal battle with President Rajapaksa’s brother, the then-defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Read more here and here.  

5. Chinese media worker detained for months without charge

A Chinese employee of German-weekly, Die Zeit has been held by the Chinese authorities since October 2014. Zhang Maio was detained after returning from Hong Kong to cover the Occupy Movement protests in September. She was arrestedfor ‘inciting a public disturbance’ after she visited the family of a poet arrested for supporting the Hong Kong Occupy Movement upon her return.

Following her Zhang’s arrest, her colleague Die Zeit correspondent Angela Köckrtiz tried to investigate the allegations and tried to meet with Zhang, only to become the target of an investigation herself. She was ultimately forced to flee China when authorities insinuated she was spy.

Read more here.

6. IFJ calls for the release of Japanese journalist in Syria

Japanese freelance journalist, Kenji Goto, at this time, remains a captive of Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria. On January 20, IS released a video threatening to kill Goto and another Japanese citizen, demanding US$200 million for their release. When the ransom was not delivered, the other Japanese citizen, described as a military contractor, was killed. Goto, who remains captive, has been threatened with death, unless an Iraqi jihadist held in in prison in Jordanian is released. The deadline for the release has since passed. Negotiations are continuing with journalists in Japan and around the world calling for the release of Kenji – a respected international freelance journalist.

Read more here and here. 

7. Pakistan media guidelines rejected by Pakistan media

Following the devastating Peshawar school terrorism attack in December 2014, that killed 132 children, the Pakistan government has responded by proposing controversial new press guidelines for reporting on terrorism. The Proposals to Strengthen Media’s Role in Combating Terrorism report includes 46 points including provisions for censoring live reporting and setting up editorial boards to vet ‘each and every news, image and breaking news’.

The guidelines have been strongly rejected by the Pakistan media and the IFJ which argues the guidelines will be a disaster for press freedom in Pakistan.

Read the guidelines here and more here.

8. AFP photojournalist shot during Charlie Hebdo demonstrations

During an anti-Charlie Hebdo in Karachi Pakistan this month, an AFP photojournalist covering the demonstration was shot. Led by the student wing of religious party Jammat-e-Islami, the protest was against the depiction of the prophet Mohammed in the first issue of the magazine after the horrific Paris massacre that left 12 dead, including 6 journalists.

The photographer was rushed to hospital and a cameraman was also injured during the demonstration.

Read more here.

9. Philippine journalist dies waiting for justice

In a tragic end to a terrible story of injustice, the IFJ is sad to report that Philippine journalist Alberto ‘Pastor’ Martinez passed away this month – still waiting for justice for an attack almost a decade earlier. Martinez was paralysed in 2005 following a failed assassination attempt and required ongoing care. The hard-hitting broadcaster was shot outside his office following a number of death threats. Following the attack, Martinez identified the two alleged attackers and later filed charges against them. However the court did not being hearing the case until 2007. The three assailants remain free today and it is reported one offered to pay out Martinez in 2008 if he dropped the charges against him.

Martinez and his family suffered tremendously following the attack, losing their family home and Martinez was forced into care due to his injuries.

Read more here.

10. Bangladesh extends block to online messaging services

Following a block to internet-based voice and messaging services Viber and Tango, the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) ordered access to additional services WhatsApp, mypeople and Line to be also blocked. The blocking comes follows claims from Bangladesh authorities that subversive activities were been carried out through directives given using the online services.

Bangladeshi media have called the blocking a violation of fundamental human rights.

Read more here.

11. Afghan journalist gunned down at wedding

Afghan radio journalist Aqil Mohammed Waqar was the first casualty in the country’s ongoing media battle, after he was shot at a wedding. The young radio journalist who worked in eastern Afghanistan was previously the presenter of People and the Official, a political and social program. He was recently was promoted to reporter for the station.

He was killed when a gunman entered the wedding and fired at him, killing him immediately.

Read more here.

 12. Journalist accreditation violates press freedom

New Philippine House Bill 362 is seeking to amend Republic Act (RA) 53 ‘Sotto Law’ to narrow the parameters of journalism by forcing the issue of accreditation. Fundamentally, the bill is intended to make journalists exempt from revealing sources of information obtained in confidence. However Section 2 of the bill also calls for journalists to be accredited and narrowly defines the term ‘journalist’.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said: “Journalism, while a profession for those who derive income from its practice, is a logical extension of the people’s basic rights to information and freedom of expression.” It is strongly opposed to any attempts to create a so-called “accreditation” process.”

Read more here.

13. Indonesian journalist shot outside his home

Beni Faisal, chief editor of Fokus Lampung was shot outside him home on January 25, which according to reports was an attempted robbery to steal Faisal’s motorbike. Faisal was fatally shot in the chest when he confronted three men.

Read more here.  

14. DART 2015 Asia Pacific Fellowship: Applications open

Online applications are now open for the 2015 Dart Asia Pacific Fellowships, a unique seminar programme for veteran journalists, editors and freelancers based in Asia or the Pacific who want to deepen their knowledge of emotional trauma and improve coverage of violence, conflict and tragedy.

Fellowships are open to print, broadcast and online reporters, photographers, camera operators, editors and producers with at least five years’ full-time journalism experience.

Applicants must possess a strong command of spoken and written English, as all presentations will be made in English. Applications close on February 9, 2015. More information available here.