South Asia Media Solidarity Bulletin: OCTOBER

Rajje TV journalist have taken to the streets in a fundraising drive to help the struggle TV station. Credit: Maldives Independent

Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on November 15, 2017, and your inputs are most welcome. We encourage contributions to let others know your activities; to seek solidarity and support from SAMSN members for your campaigns and initiatives. To contribute, email Ujjwal Acharya at: [email protected] Please feel free to distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media. This e-bulletin and South Asia related contents are available at the SAMSN Digital Hub:  
In this bulletin:

1.    Access to Information an ongoing struggle across the Asia Pacific

2.    Spike in attacks, threats on journalists amidst entrenched impunity in India

3.    Pakistan: fourth journalist killed this year

4.    Criminal defamation slapped over investigative report in India

5.    Pakistan suspends mobile, internet services for security reasons

6.    Afghan journalist injured, security killed in attack

7.    Newspaper resists censorship by political organization in Arunachal, India

8.    Three journalists go missing in Pakistan

9.    Journalist threatened and assaulted for seeking information in Afghanistan

10.  Journalist attacked in Kalikot, Nepal

11.  SAMSN Blogs

a.    Raajje TV: Fines, fundraising and lawsuits, by M Junayd

b.    Living to Tell the Story, by Zaheena Rasheed

c.    Why did the police not stop the mob?, by Geeta Seshu

12.  Conference to discuss media freedom, safety and inclusion in Nepal

13.  Afghan Newspaper Hunts Corruption, but First It Has to Pay the Rent

14.  The latest trends in digital publishing in India

15.  India’s millions of new Internet users are falling for fake news — sometimes with deadly consequences

16.  Press Council of India’s Report of Interlocutors on Media and Media Scenario of Jammu & Kashmir

17.  Continuous internet ban in Kashmir affecting livelihood of media persons

18.  Sri Lanka gears to set up new authority to monitor hate speech

19.  A Study of Technology in Newsrooms

1. Access to Information an ongoing struggle across the Asia Pacific The IFJ, the South East Asia Journalist Unions (SEAJU), the SAMSN and its affiliates on September 28 observed the second International Day for Universal Access to Information, after resolution (38 C/70) was adopted by UNESCO on November 17, 2015. The IFJ highlighted the challenges journalists and media workers in the region face in accessing information. Access to information has legal protection in many countries in the region, but we are witnessing an unrelenting pushback on this right, as journalists and activists increasingly use this powerful tool to uncover corruption, press for good governance and expose scams at the highest levels. Sri Lanka passed the Right to Information Act in 2016, the last country in South Asia the introduce RTI legislation. Statistics from India demonstrate the safety issues for those making RTI request, since the law came into force in 2005, at least 69 people were murdered after they filed RTI requests; 130 have been victims of assault and 170 others have reported being harassed. As Nepal goes through turbulent political times and many laws are in the pipeline awaiting amendment, the media community is keeping a watchful eye on how overhaul of other laws will impact the constitutionally guaranteed access to information. More here. 2. Spike in attacks, threats on journalists amidst entrenched impunity in India India’s culture of impunity has seen a spike in journalist attacks, threats and killings, raising serious questions about the state of press freedom across the country. The IFJ documented several incidents in India in September and October, including:

A.    Santanu Bhowmik was killed by a mob in Mandwai near Agartala, capital of Tripura state in northeast India on September 20. He worked with cable television channel Dinraat and was attacked with sharp weapons while covering political clashes. The police found him with serious stab injuries and he was declared dead on arrival at the local hospital.

B.    KJ Singh, 64, was killed on September 23, along with his 92-year-old mother. Singh, the former news editor of The Indian Express, was murdered when he was stabbed in the stomach.

C.   Sajeev Gopalan of Kerala Kaumudi was hospitalized on September 24 after an attack by police officials in from of his house. Gopalan had published stories critical of police.

D.   On September 23, several journalists were injured when police ‘baton charged’ the group as they covered violent clashes at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Uttar Pradesh. Four journalists sustained injuries and needed treatment in hospital. The police also damaged their cameras and other equipment.

E.    Biju Muthathu, a TV journalist in Kerala received death threats after his documentary aired on September 24. The threats related to the title Thendigalude Daivam or ‘God of Beggars’, about a temple that shelters the aged and destitute.

F.    Asianet News regional offices in Kerala were attacked on September 20, reportedly for its series of news reports about the alleged involvement of the state minister encroaching on land for his plush resorts.

G.   At least four journalist filed police complaints in Delhi and Noida after receiving death threats via Whatsapp. The calls and messages warned that anyone critical of the government, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party would meet the same fate as journalist Gauri Lankesh Mohammad Ali, a reporter with The Hindu daily, chief reporter of Firstpost Debobrat Ghose and Sonal Kapoor of NDTV were among more than a dozen journalists who have received similar messages on WhatsApp. Ravish Kumar of NDTV has also received death threats on WhatsApp.

H.   Deeksha Sharma of The Quint news portal, received threats and online harassment for a video in which she questioned the rape culture and patriarchy in a popular rap song. The Quint took down the video.

I.      Similarly, in Coimbatore of Tamil Nadu state, the editor of The Covai Post Vidyashree Dharmaraj and reporter AR Meyammai received death threats over Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and VoIP calls for a story on their website about a ritual of parading half-naked pre-pubescent girls published on September 24.

Read more here, here, here and here.

3. Pakistan: fourth journalist killed this year

Haroon Khan, a journalist with Sach TV and stringer for local Mashriq Television channel, was returning home after offering prayers when two motor-cycle borne assailants opened fire in Swabi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in northwest Pakistan on October 12. Khan’s bullet ridden body was rushed to the hospital where he was declared dead on arrival. More here

4. Criminal defamation slapped over investigative report in India

Businessman Jay Shah filed a criminal defamation case in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, on October 9 against reporter Rohini Singh and Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia and MK Venu, editors of the news portal The Wire for the report ‘The Golden Touch of Jay Amit Shah’ highlighting a dramatic increase in some of his businesses since Narendra Modi became prime minister. The story based on annual filings of Shah’s companies with the Registrar of the Companies, was published by The Wire, a not-for-profit independent news website. Jay Shah is a son of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah. More here.

5. Pakistan suspends mobile, internet services for security reasons

Between September 29 to October 1, most cities in Pakistan remained without mobile and Internet services as a part of the security measures for Ashura, during which there are major religious processions across Pakistan. The Sindh Home Department issued a formal notification of network disconnection across eight cities including Karachi while mobile and internet services were reported suspended in Punjab including Faisalabad, Baluchistan including Quetta and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including Peshawar without formal notice. The suspension affected 25 to 30 million people in more than 30 cities for more than 1100 hours collectively. More here.

6. Afghan journalist injured, security killed in attack

Shir Mohammad Jahish head of Tanweer TV was on the way home from work when his car was attacked by unidentified gunmen near his residence in Pul-i-khumri, capital of Baghlan Province in northeastern Afghanistan on October 12. Jahish’s guard, Amanullah Haqiar was killed in the attack while Jahish sustained injuries on his face and body. Jahish was taken to Baghlan civil hospital, and later moved to the higher security police hospital. More here.

7. Newspaper resists censorship by political organization in Arunachal, India

The Adi Baane Kebang Youth Wing (ABKYW), the youth wing of the organization for the indigenous Adi people, destroyed and burned copies of The Arunanchal Times daily newspaper recently at the Indira Gandhi Park; and uploaded a video of it on social media. The ABKYW has also ‘banned’ the distribution of the daily in East Siang district and issued what it calls a ‘show cause notice’ on September 28. The ABKYW has been critical of the daily for ‘ignoring their voice’ and ‘not backing their demands’ while the newspaper maintained that it had remained neutral and covered all sides. More here.

8. Three journalists go missing in Pakistan

In three separate incidents on October 14 and 15, three journalists were abducted in Pakistan’s tribal region of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Shahnawaz Khan Tarkzai, from Mashal Radio, was taken by armed men from the Shabqadar Press Club, while Islam Gul Afridi from Akhbar-i-Khyber magazine was intercepted by armed men as he was travelling from Peshawar to Islamabad. Both were released the following day. Junaid Ibrahim, a freelance journalist and journalism student at the University of Swat was abducted from his house in Swat on October 14. He has not been seen since his disappearance.

9. Journalist threatened and assaulted for seeking information in Afghanistan

Dr. Molladad Tobakar, the head of presidency public health in Helmand province, assaulted and abused journalist Sardar Mohammad Sarwari of Shamshad TV on September 23 while he was working on a report about complaints that a local hospital did not receive its allocated budget. Dr. Tobaghar refused to provide Sarwari any information regarding the hospital budget and instead threatened him via fake Facebook accounts prior to the physical assault. More here.

10. Journalist attacked in Kalikot, Nepal

Journalist Arjun Prasad Bhattarai, central council member of the FNJ, was attacked by three people while he was playing a game of carom in the district headquarters Manma on October 6. The district headquarters houses the police, courts and administration, and is a source of local news for journalists. Bhattarai sustained head injuries and has been taken to Kohalpur Medical College in Nepalgunj for primary treatment at the district hospital. Similarly, Yagya Raj Dhungana, the consulting editor of Radio Accham, was attacked by the police on October 17 while he was participating in advocacy against corruption in police.  More here.

11. SAMSN Blogs

a. Raajje TV: Fines, fundraising and lawsuits, by M Junayd

In August 2016, the Maldives passed a controversial law that criminalised defamation and restricted freedom of expression. The Maldives Broadcasting Commission has punished opposition-aligned Raajje TV several times under this law, increasing tensions between journalists and the government-backed regulator. Read more.

b. Living to Tell the Story, by Zaheena Rasheed

When journalists are under severe threat in a beleaguered media in the Maldives, one of the only ways to survive and continue to inform the public might be to leave, says an award winning editor. Read more.

c. Why did the police not stop the mob?, by Geeta Seshu

Shantanu Bhowmick was clearly marked out since he worked for DinRaat channel which was perceived as being pro-CPM, the ruling party, journalists in Tripura tell Geeta Seshu about his killing. Read more.

12. Conference to discuss media freedom, safety and inclusion in Nepal Leading journalists, academics and policy makers came together to discuss freedom of expression and inclusivity in the media, in a conference organised by the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ). The “International Conference on Promoting freedom of expression and Marginalized voices in the Media” took place 9-10 October in Kathmandu. Panels on wide range of issues, including the challenges of reporting in difficult environments, self-censorship, alternative media and new technologies, gender and media, business interests versus editorial independence, disaster communication, and how to make media more inclusive of marginalised voices were held. Read more here, here and and the declaration adopted here. 13. Afghan newspaper hunts corruption, but first it has to pay the rent (New York Times) The first time Zaki Daryabi started a small newspaper in Afghanistan, it shut down within months. Daryabi lost most of the money lent to him by friends to start his business. But soon after, he restarted the newspaper, Etilaat e Roz. And now, five years later, it has found itself in the middle of some of Afghanistan’s most important national conversations. The publication remains on financial life support. Daryabi often finds himself writing desperate grant proposals, asking creditors for a little more patience or amplifying the paper’s online presence on days when he can’t afford the $250 required to publish in print. More here. 14. The latest trends in digital publishing in India (The Hoot) Publishers are losing direct traffic, regional language sites see an uptick, WhatsApp is India’s largest media consumption platform, and start-ups find that millennials are willing to pay for news. The Hoot reports on trends that digital players are discerning in India. More here. 15. India’s millions of new Internet users are falling for fake news — sometimes with deadly consequences (Washington Post) While fake news in the United States is said to have contributed to President Trump’s election victory, in India, a nation with 355 million Internet users, false news stories have become a part of everyday life, exacerbating weather crises, increasing violence between castes and religions, and even affecting matters of public health. “Common sense is extinct,” Pankaj Jain of said. “People are ready to believe anything.” More here. 16. Report of Interlocutors on Media and Media Scenario of Jammu & Kashmir (Press Council of India) Press Council of India (PCI) had constituted a sub-committee on December 19, 2014 to examine the Report of Interlocutors on Media and Media Scenario of Jammu & Kashmir. Led by S N Sinha, the Sub-Committee held its sittings with media persons related to J&K at New Delhi, Srinagar, Baramulla, Anantnag, Jammu, Rajouri and Leh. The subcommittee visited all regions of the state early this year. On October 9, 2017 – the last day of the three year term of the Council, the PCI flew top Srinagar for its last meeting. It released its report on J&K media scene later in the evening. Given the significance of the investigations made by the PCI in the allegation levelled by the interlocutors in their report, the findings of the subcommittee are important. Read the report here (PDF). 17. Continuous internet ban in Kashmir affecting livelihood of media persons (Two Circles) The Jammu and Kashmir Young Journalist Association (JKYJA) strongly condemned the continuous clampdown of 3G and 4G Mobile Internet services in Kashmir. The JKYJA said that the Internet ban not only heightens the state of paranoia amongst the citizens but also affects the work of journalists in Kashmir, adding that the internet ban also attacks the livelihood of dozens of people including professional journalists whose work is dependable on the Internet. More here. 18. Sri Lanka gears to set up new authority to monitor hate speech (Sunday Leader) A new Authority is to be established to monitor the use of hate speech and take appropriate action in Sri Lanka. Minister of National Co-existence Dialogue and Official Languages Mano said the new Authority, once established, will monitor and recommend legal action on anyone promoting hate speech. He said that religious organisations and non-governmental organisations that promote reconciliation will be registered with the new Authority. More here. 19. A Study of Technology in Newsrooms (International Center for Journalists) In an era of fake news, digital security threats and competition for audience attention, journalists and newsrooms lack the technology skills to meet the challenges they face, revealed the first-ever global survey on the adoption of new technologies in news media. The results from The State of Technology in Global Newsrooms, a study conducted by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), showed which regions are the leaders and laggards in digital technology adoption, among other findings. While the disruptions in today’s newsrooms have been widely examined, the study focused on a missing link: how journalists worldwide are using technology. It is based on responses from more than 2,700 newsroom managers and journalists from 130 countries, who provided responses in 12 languages. Read press release here, key findings here and download full report here (PDF)


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: 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, email [email protected]