Asia Pacific Bulletin: MAY

Yameen Rasheed, at the latest #FindMoyameehaa rally with Rilwan's mother.

Welcome to the IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on June 1, 2017 and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email ifj@ifj-asia.org

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In this bulletin:

1.       IFJ annual South Asia Press Freedom report: released tomorrow

2.       World Press Freedom Day 2017: What are you doing?

3.       IFJ friend & blogger stabbed to death in the Maldives

4.       Social media crackdown: 22 sites taken offline

5.       IFJ celebrates May Day and the work of its affiliates

6.       Foreign media in China threatened over interview

7.       Pakistani journalism student killed in mob attack

8.       Malaysian government ordered to pay for damaged cartoons

9.       Apple blocks content for China, Hong Kong & Taiwan users

10.   Provincial govt in India passes Journalist Protection legislation

11.   Maldivian TV station fined for alleged defamation

12.   Chinese espionage scheme puts media in danger

13.   Press freedom ‘never been so threatened’: RSF

14.   Attacks on the Press: The New Face of Censorship: CPJ

15.   Are you insured? We seek your opinion!

 

1.       IFJ annual South Asia Press Freedom report: released tomorrow

Tomorrow, on World Press Freedom Day (May 3), the IFJ and SAMSN will release the annual South Asia Press Freedom Report. The report, now in its 15th year, continues to document and illustrate the state of press freedom across South Asia.

The report will be launched in India and Nepal by UNESCO, and will be available online via the SAMSN Digital Hub and IFJ website

For pre-release embargo copies, please contact Alex Hearne (alex.hearne@ifj-asia.org).

2.       World Press Freedom Day 2017: What are you doing?

May 3 marks World Press Freedom Day, with activities and events taking place across the world. The IFJ Asia Pacific is participating in the official UNESCO World Press Freedom Day events in Jakarta, Indonesia, along with members of the South East Asia Journalist Unions (SEAJU).

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) in Australia is launching its annual press freedom report for Australia. The 2017 report will be the 13th published by MEAA. See more here.

The Free Media Movement in Sri Lanka will be co-hosting a panel discussion at the Sri Lanka Press Institute. The discussion is entitled, Media Freedom, Social Responsibility and Regulation.

The Aliansi Jurnalis Indpenden hosted the SEAJU meeting in Jakarta in the lead up to WPFD events in Jakarta. They also hosted a solidarity event with SEAJU and activists in Jakarta on May 1.

If you hosting an event or activity for WPFD please let Alex Hearne (alex.hearne@ifj-asia.org) know and share any pictures.  

3.       IFJ friend & blogger stabbed to death in the Maldives

Rasheed, 29, was a prominent blogger and social media activist advocating for rule of law, human rights and social justice in the Maldives. He was found with multiple stab wounds in the stairway of his apartment building at 3am on Sunday, April 23, and was taken to hospital where he died soon after due to excessive bleeding. Reports indicate he had 16 stab wounds on his body, including 14 on the chest, one on the neck and one on the head. Yameen’s father, Hussain Rasheed, told local television channel Raajje TV that he had been informed that the CCTV cameras in the building had been turned aside so that the crime was not caught on footage. The family suspects that the murder was planned.

Read more here.

4.       Social media crackdown: 22 sites taken offline

On April 26, the Jammu and Kashmir government ordered all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to ban 22 social media sites and messaging apps including Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Skype, Viber and Twitter in Kashmir for one month on ground that they were being “misused by anti-social elements by transmitting inflammatory messages in various forms”. The order issued by Principal Secretary (Home) R K Goyal under the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 asked all the ISPs to immediately stop transmission of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, QQ, We Chat, Qzone, Tumbir, Google , Baidu, Skype, Viber, Line, Snapchat, Pinterest, Telegram, Reddit, Snapfish, You Tube (upload), Vine, Xanga, Buzznet and Flickr for one month or until further notice. The order came as Kashmir continues to reel under violent demonstrations since July, 2016 when Burhan Wani, a young militant was killed by the Indian security forces.

Read more here.

5.       IFJ celebrates May Day and the work of its affiliates

The IFJ marked May Day, May 1, calling for unions to continue the work and to continue to be at the forefront of the fight for decent work. Pointing to global research that workers covered by union agreements enjoy, on average, higher wages, better conditions and improved health, safety and welfare rights the IFJ has backed journalist organisations building stronger, more representative unions.

Read more here

6.       Foreign media in China threatened over interview

On April 19, Voice of America (VOA), a US government-funded, independent media outlet, live streamed an interview with Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire, currently in exile in the US. Guo has made a series of allegations of corruption against relatives of high-ranking Communist Party officials. In the interview, which VOA streamed, Guo made new allegations about businesses secretly controlled by Chinese leaders, including one allegation involving Chinese President Xi Jinping, as well as the nephew of Wang Qishan, a current member of the Politburo Standing Committee. The interview was into its second hour, when VOA abruptly ended, citing issues of miscommunication. Speculation spread online, particularly on social media and in the media industry. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that on April 19, Interpol has issued an arrest warrant for Guo Wengui and that was the reason the interview finished.

Read more here.

7.       Pakistani journalism student killed in mob attack

Mashal Khan, 23, was lynched by a violent mob in his hostel at Wali Khan University in Mardan of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, allegedly for uploading blasphemous content on social networking site Facebook. The police however have found no evidence of the alleged blasphemous content. Graphic video footage of the lynching showed Khan lying on the floor and his body which bore multiple marks of severe torture was not moving. The mob was seen kicking his lifeless body and beating it with wooden planks. He was then thrown from the second floor of the university building. Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan and PM Sharif in March, 2017 issued an order recommending removal of blasphemous content online saying that anyone who posted such content should face strict punishment under the law. When condemning the murder, the Senate of Pakistan suggested amending the blasphemy law to improve it.

Read more here.

8.       Malaysian government ordered to pay for damaged cartoons

On Tuesday, April 11, the High Court of Malaysia ordered the Malaysian government and police to pay political cartoonist, Zulkiflee SM Anwar Haque, whose pen name is Zunar, RM18,000 (USD 4,000). The ruling against the government was made due to damages to Zunar’s works which were seized seven years ago in 2009. Zunar has originally sued two police officers, A Arikrisna and Marina Hashim, along with the former inspector general of police Ismail Omar and the government for unlawful detention and false imprisonment, but in 2012, the High Court dismissed the lawsuit, but ruled that seizure and continued possession of the 66 books was unlawful and damages to be assessed. Following the decision by the High Court, the government has agreed to pay compensation to Zunar for damage to the original cartoons.

Read more here.

9.       Apple blocks content for China, Hong Kong & Taiwan users

According to Globe Voices, China Uncensored, a satirical news show was censored by Apple TV through the app store if users trying to access the show were based in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The curator, Chris Chappell issued a statement noting that content regarding the two-party system in Hong Kong and Taiwan was censored. Chappell also wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook urging Apple to remove the block on China Uncensored to Hong Kong and Taiwan-based users, threatening to take legal and political action. China Uncensored launched on YouTube in 2012. The show mocks China’s Communist Party and its authoritarian rule through curating news about crackdowns on dissidents, persecutions of religious minorities and state-sponsored hacking activities, turning them into satirical reporting.

Read more here.

10.   Provincial govt in India passes Journalist Protection legislation

The Maharashtra Media Persons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2017 was passed in the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council on April 7. Any incident of violence against media persons or damage or loss of property of media persons or media institutions is now punishable in the state. Any offender who commits or attempts to commit or instigate or provokes the commission of any act of violence against a journalist would be punished with imprisonment extending up to three years and fine, which may extend to Rs 50,000 (approximately USD 780) or both. Besides, offenders shall be liable to pay compensation for damage or loss of the property as well as liable to reimburse medical expenditure incurred by the victim journalist. The Act also states that only high ranking police officers must investigate incidents of violence against journalists; the offense would be cognisable and non-bailable.

The Act covers reporters, correspondents, editors, news editors, sub-editors, feature writers, proof readers, copy testers, cartoonists and photojournalists from all registered newspapers, online media, news channels, news based electronic media and news station establishment. Branch offices and printing presses would be treated as parts of media houses.

Read more here.

11.   Maldivian TV station fined for alleged defamation

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) slapped the opposition-aligned Rajje TV with a fine of MVR 1 m (US$ 64,850) for content that it deemed defamed President Abdulla Yameen. The content in question is a speech by a speaker at a rally held by Maldivian United Opposition on October 26, 2016 which the TV had broadcast live. The channel had been ordered to pay the fine within a period of 30-days. According to the controversial Anti-Defamation Act, the channel cannot even appeal the decision in court without paying the fine. If the fine is not paid, the MBC can suspend or cancel Raajje TV’s license. This is the second time Raajje TV has been fined under the law and the order came on the day that the channel paid its first fine of MVR 200,000 (US$ 10,400) which they collected through public fundraising.

Read more here.

12.   Chinese espionage scheme puts media in danger

On April 10, the Beijing-based National Security Bureau announced the anti-espionage scheme, ‘Report on Espionage’, in its latest attempt to influence and censor the free flow of information in China. The scheme aims to use citizens as the eyes and ears of the government, asking them to report any suspicious activity to the Bureau. By participating in the program, citizens would be eligible for monetary rewards, with a successful ‘tip offs’ able to receive between 10,000 and 500,000 Yuan (USD 1,500 – 73,000). According to Mainland reports, the National Security Bureau alleges that some of the espionage activities are taking place within foreign non-government organisations. The Bureau believes that members of these organisations are attempting the obtained state secrets and influence Chinese officials. According to Beijing Daily, the Bureau said: “several espionage activities are taking place, illegal mapping, taking photos and so on.”

Read more here.

13.   Press freedom ‘never been so threatened’: RSF

The 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reflects a world in which attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise. We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms. Media freedom is under threat now more than ever. In all, the situation has worsened in nearly two thirds (62.2%) of the 180 countries in the Index.

In the Asia Pacific region, New Zealand has the best ranking sitting as 13 out of 180 countries, followed by Australia at 19 and Taiwan at 45. At the other each of the scale, the countries with the worst ranking are China at 176, Bangladesh at 146, Malaysia at 144, Thailand (142), Sri Lanka (141) and Pakistan at 139.

Read more here.

14.   Attacks on the Press: The New Face of Censorship: CPJ

CPJ has released its latest report, Attacks on the Press: The New Face of Censorship, which documents the innovative ways government and non-state actors are finding to suppress the media.

New information technologies--the global, interconnected internet; ubiquitous social media platforms; smart phones with cameras--were supposed to make censorship obsolete. Instead, they have just made it more complicated. The fact is that while we are awash in information, there are tremendous gaps in our knowledge of the world. The gaps are growing as violent attacks against the media spike, as governments develop new systems of information control, and as the technology that allows information to circulate is co-opted and used to stifle free expression.

Read more here.

15.   Are you insured? We seek your opinion!

Have you ever sought insurance? Are you planning to use ‘insurance for journalists' supported by the IFJ? Take part in the ‘Insurance for Journalists' survey and help them improve and deliver the best insurance services to the community of news professionals the world deserves.
Take the survey here and read more here.