Asia Pacific Bulletin: October

The faces of India's growing impunity problem - (L-R) Gauri Lankesh, Santanu Bhowmik and KJ Singh who were all murdered in September, 2017. Credit: IFJ

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In this bulletin: 

1.       Impunity is rife in India as press come under attack

2.       IFJ AP celebrates Access to Information Day

3.       South Asia solidarity forges ahead

4.       Myanmar journalists detained in Bangladesh

5.       Indonesian journalist facing defamation allegations

6.       Cambodia’s press freedom crackdown continues

7.       Media diversity under threat in Australia

8.       China tightens grip on media as National Congress nears

9.       Corruption reports in Nepal lead to defamation lawsuit

10.   A bad year for free press is Asia – Nikkei Asian Review

11.   Korea’s media unions strike over labor practices – Korea Herald

12.   How today’s unions help working people – Economic Policy Institute

13.   Cambodia:Switching off independent radio stations – Al Jazeera

14.   There is a method in the targeted murders of regional free thinkers –The Wire



1.       Impunity is rife in India as press come under attack

September became a deadly month in India, with the murder of three journalists, which was partnered with an unprecedented spike in attacks and threats against the press.

On September 5, respected veteran journalist and outspoken critic of Hindu nationalists Gauri Lankesh, was shot dead outside her home in northern Bengaluru as she returned from work. Lankesh died at the scene after receiving gunshots to the head and chest. The gunmen fled the scene.

On September 20, Santanu Bhowmik, a journalist with cable television channel Dinraat was attacked with sharp weapons while covering clashes between supporters of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), a tribal party agitating for a separate state. The police found him with serious stab injuries and he was rushed to a hospital where doctors declared him ‘brought dead’. He had injuries on his head.

On September 23, KJ Singh, former news editor with The Indian Express, and his 92-year-old mother were found murdered at their residence in Mohali on Saturday. Singh was stabbed in the stomach and his throat was also slit while his mother appeared to have been strangled to death.

Across India, journalists and media workers were threatened and attacked as tolerance to critical voices continued to decline.

·         Sajeev Gopalan – hospitalized on September 24 after allegedly been assaulted by police outside his house, following a report he published criticizing the police

·         Banaras Hindu University – several journalists were injured in a baton charge by police on September 23, while covering violent clashes at the University

·         Biju Muthathi – received death threats over the name of his latest documentary - Thendigalude Daivam or ‘God of Beggars’,

·         Asianet News – on September 20, unidentified people attacked the office of Kerala-based regional news channel reportedly for its series of news reports about the alleged involvement of a state minister in encroaching on land for his plush resort.

Read more here, here, here and here


2. IFJ AP celebrates Access to Information Day

The IFJ Asia Pacific, SEAJU and SAMSN celebrated International Day for Universal Access to Information on September 28. IFJ, SAMSN and SEAJU highlighted the importance of Access to Information, and how draconian laws across the Asia Pacific are making it harder for journalists to access information and tell their stories.

The IFJ also shared updates from across the region, including from Sri Lanka and Vanuatu which are the latest countries in the Asia Pacific to have RTI legislated.

See more here and here.

       3. South Asia solidarity forges ahead

On September 8-10, the IFJ and SAMSN met together in Nepal for the ‘Credibility, Safety and Equity: An Agenda for Change in South Asia’s Media’ meeting, supported by Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES). The meeting endorsed the Kathmandu Declaration 2017 which called upon governments for an urgent roadmap to ensure a safe environment for journalists and the media; ensuring robust police investigations into threats; and journalist protection acts to ensure speedy judicial procedures in cases of crimes against journalists.

The meeting also endorsed three resolutions on internet shutdowns as an attack on press freedom, the need for Twitter not to act on arbitrary requests from governments, and expressing solidarity with journalists in Kashmir.

Read more here, and see the resolutions here, here and here.

      4. Myanmar journalists detained in Bangladesh

Award-winning photojournalist Min Zayar Oo and his assistant, Hkun Lat, who work for German magazine GEO, were accused of entering Bangladesh on tourist visas instead of journalist visas, and reporting “fake news” and arrested on September 7. They have been denied bail and are in detention. The photojournalists face up to seven years in jail if found guilty of violating Bangladesh’s immigration laws. GEO had said its editorial board was deeply concerned about the two journalists' continued detention.
The two journalists were released on bail after 7 days in detention, but remain in Bangladesh.

Read more here

       5. Indonesian journalist facing defamation allegations

Relawan Perjuangan (Repdem) (Volunteers for the Struggle), a volunteer group, filed a report to the East Java Cyber Crime Division regarding a Facebook post written by respected journalist Dandhy Dwi Laksono on September 6. Dandhy’s post, according to Repdem, compared Indonesia’s fifth president, Megawati Sukarnoputri to Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, in the way that their parties had handled Papua and Rohingya issues. According to Repdem, Dandhy’s criticisms were slanderous and insulting of Megawati.

AJI, along with several civil society organisations have strongly criticised the report to police, noting that the Repdem had properly analysed Dandhy’s post.

Read more here.

      6. Cambodia’s press freedom crackdown continues

On September 15, Ouk Kimseng, an information ministry spokesperson, gave a speech, during which he said that while the government would not restrict Radio Free Asia (RFA) from continuing to broadcast from its base in Washington DC, USA, it would no longer be legal for RFA journalists to work in Cambodia. Kimseng went on to claim that RFA had ‘incited’ people against the Cambodia government.

Khieu Sopheak, an interior spokesperson also announced that government officials would no longer respond to interview requests from RFA reporters and would seek to take legal action against RFA journalists if a request was submitted to the information ministry.

Read more here

     7. Media diversity under threat in Australia

Changes to media ownership legislation in Australia that were passed on September 14, will ultimately lead to a loss of media diversity. Under the proposed changes, the two-out-of-three ownership rule will be removed, which will mean companies will be able to own television, newspapers and radio stations in the same market, as well as end the 75% rule, which will mean Australia’s three major TV networks will now be able to own their regional affiliates.

Under the new legislation, an innovation fund will be launched and benefit small publishers, provided that they are Australian companies and not connected to foreign media companies.

Read more here.

     8. China tightens grip as National Congress nears

With the 19th National Congress due on October 18, the Chinese government has tightened its grip on the media and flow of information across China. In the lead up to the Congress, the IFJ has recorded a spike in government directives and harassment of media workers, including:

·          August: Huang Shike, 49, was charged by Ili Kazakh police in Xinjiang for sharing messages on WeChat about Islamic ceremonies and messages from the Quran

·          September 1: Zhen Jianghua, the executive director of was detained and his apartment ransacked. Computers, phones and documentation of the Human Rights Campaign in China (HRC China) were taken in the raid.

·          September 4: SAPPRFTalong with four other departments, issues an ‘opinion’ notice to all media outlets, demanding that they allocate resources and time to promote the Communist Party and China.

·          September 5:  Police issued a detention notice for Yang Qingsong and sentenced him to five days administrative detention. Police had accused Yang of posting a ‘teasing’ message to a WeChat group. In the message he questioned whether police had conducted a drug driving test on a rainy night.

·          September 6: Liu Pengfei, an administrator for a WeChat group chat sharing information from Huanqiu Shibao, an overseas registered Chinese website, was detained by police. Huanqiu Shibao is known for publishing many banned foreign media reports.

·          September 22: Ding Lingjie, the editor of Minsheng Guancha (Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch), disappeared. Several belongings, including her computer were also reported missing, and Ding’s mobile phone has been turned off.

·          September 28: Wu Lijuan, the publisher of Rose China has been under surveillance by security agents in Hubei since September 28.

Read more here, here, herehere and here


9. Corruption reports in Nepal lead to defamation lawsuit

Gopal Khadka, the Managing Director of state-owned Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) filed a defamation case against Nagarik daily, claiming Rs 800 million (US$ 780,000) in damages on August 17, 2017. The Kathmandu District Court official served a notice to the daily’s directors Binod Raj Gyawali and Shova Gyawali, editor-in-chief Guna Raj Luintel and correspondent Dilip Paudel on September 1. Nagarik daily has published a series of investigative stories on corruption involved in the procurement of land by NOC in various parts of the country.

Read more here.


10. A bad year for free press is Asia – Nikkei Asian Review

The Nikkei Asian Review looks at the challenges to press freedom in Asia, and how September has made a bad year, even worse.

Read more here.


11.Korea’s media unions strike over labor practices – Korea Herald

On September 4, over a thousand media union members at Korea's two biggest TV networks went on strike simultaneously to protest alleged management interference in news coverage and unfair labor practices. The dual strike at both networks is the first since 2012. The number of unionists joining the strike amounts over 3,000. The massive walkout by journalists and production crew means a disruption to the broadcast of a slew of programs.

Read more here


12. How today’s unions help working people – Economic Policy Institute

The Economic Policy Institute looks at how unions are giving workers the power to improve their jobs and unrig the economy.

Read more here


13. Cambodia:Switching off independent radio stations – Al Jazeera

Nearly a dozen stations have had licenses suspended without notice as media crackdown continues ahead of 2018 election.

Read more here.


14.There is a method in the targeted murders of regional free thinkers –The Wire

English is influential, but has limited reach; regional-language journalism can make a real impact which scares communal forces. The Wire looks at the increasing number of regional journalists been killed in India.

Read more here.