Asia Pacific Bulletin: OCTOBER

Credit: Zunar

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In this bulletin:

1.       Fighting for Media Reform in the ‘New Malaysia’: IFJ report launched

2.       Framed by police: Two Reuters journalists jailed for 7 years

3.       Australia: national broadcaster’s independence questioned

4.       Draconian Digital Security Act passed in Bangladesh

5.       Afghanistan: Two journalists killed in suicide blast

6.       PNG village apologises for assault on journalist

7.       Media targeted online and offline in the Philippines

8.       Nepal: Editor arrested on cybercrime charges

9.       Senior Pakistani journalist wanted on arrested warrant

10.   Editor arrested and charged with militancy in Kashmir, India

11.   Vietnam: Activist and journalist sentenced to four years jail

12.   Afghanistan has top RTI rating – CLD

13.   Xinjiang Daily journalists arrested - RSF

 

 

1.       Fighting for Media Reform in the ‘New Malaysia’: IFJ report launched

In September, the IFJ launched a situation report on Malaysia – Fighting for Media Reform in the 'New Malaysia'– following on from an IFJ-SEAJU mission in June, 2018. The report analyses the changes needed to ensure freedom of expression and press freedom thrive in Malaysia, five months on from the General Elections which saw the Pakatan Harapan governing coalition defeat Najib Razak’s government, after 61 years in power. The report includes a series of recommendations including: abolition of any restrictive laws or regulations; comprehensive defamation law reform; and no criminalization of journalists’ activities, among others.

Read more here and the report here

2.       Framed by police: Two Reuters journalists jailed for 7 years

Two Reuters journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison after they were found guilty of breaching the official secrets act in Myanmar. The September 3 verdict saw the court used the colonial-era Official Secrets Act to jail Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, for alleged breaches of the act.

The two Reuters journalists have been incarcerated in the notorious Insein Prison since their arrest in December 2017 after being set up by police with a promise of ‘official leaked documents’. This followed their extensive investigation into war crimes against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Northern Rakhine State, specifically the September 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingyan men and boys, with strong allegations that connected responsibility to the Myanmar army leadership.

Read more here.

3.       Australia: national broadcaster independence questioned

On Monday September 24, the managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Michelle Guthrie was sacked from her position. On Wednesday, September 26, reports surfaced that ABC chairman, Justin Milne, had called for high-profile journalist, Emma Alberici to be fired following a complaint from the then-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Milne is a former business partner of Malcolm Turnbull. Following the reports, ABC staff across Australia held meetings calling for an independent inquiry and for Milne to step aside during the inquiry into editorial independence of the ABC.

On Friday, September 29, the ABC board met, without Milne. Milne then resigned as ABC chairman, and board member, Dr Kristin Ferguson became the acting chairperson. Two independent inquiries have been launched into the editorial independence of the ABC.

Read more here

4.       Draconian Digital Security Act passed in Bangladesh

On September 19, Telecommunication and Information Communication minister Mustafa Jabbar put the bill to a vote in the Bangladesh Parliament. The Bill passed with only 11 lawmakers voting against it.

Sections 8, 21, 25, 28, 29, 31, 32 and 43 of the Bill were identified as posing serious threats to freedom of expression in Bangladesh.

The IFJ has called on the government to make immediate amendments to the law to ensure freedom of expression is guaranteed.

Read more here.

5.       Afghanistan: Two journalists killed in suicide blast

Journalist Samim Faramarz and cameraman Ramiz Ahmadi of TOLO News lost their lives as they reported at the scene of an earlier suicide attack. The initial bombing targeted an evening sporting event at a wrestling gym in the Qala-e-Nazer area of Kabul, also known as the sixth district. The journalists were killed when a second explosion, an hour after the initial blast, is alleged to have specifically targeted first responders at the scene. Farmarz had been reporting live from the scene for TOLO just minutes before he was killed in the second blast.

The twin attacks killed at least 25 people and injured 80 others. The Islamic State is reported as claiming responsibility. Among the wounded were five other journalists also reporting at the scene of the sports club explosion - Amanullah Farhang of 1TV, Khaled Nekzad, Sayer Yunusi and Hussain Rastemanish of Khurshid TV, and Jamshid Ahmadi of Maiwand TV.

Read more here.

6.       PNG village apologises for assault on journalist

The village of Baliau on Papua New Guinea’s Manam Island has publicly apologised to an assaulted journalist and praised media coverage in the wake of the eruption of Manam Island.

National Daily journalist Dorothy Mark was punched in the face in the attack on August 25 after she entered Baliau village with four other journalists to report on the unfolding disaster. It is alleged that local villager Peter Sukua confronted Mark who was taking pictures at the time, hit her in the face and threatened to throw her camera into the sea.

Read more here.

7.       Media targeted online and offline in the Philippines

Safety concerns for journalists in the Philippines were raised when they were targeted, online and offline.

On Wednesday, September 19, radio broadcaster, Rey Siason’s home was shot at by armed men on motorcycles in Talisay City in Negros Occidental. Siason was not home during the attack; his 16-year-old daughter was home, but uninjured in the attack.

On Monday, September 17, Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter Julie Alipala was labelled a terrorist in a Facebook post by Facebook group called Huwang Tularan, which is maintained by Phil Leaks. The Facebook post targeting Alipala came after she published a report questioning the killing of seven young men during a military encounter in Patikul, Sulu.

Read more here

8.       Nepal: Editor arrested on cybercrime charges

Raju Basnet, the editor-in-chief of Khojtalash weekly, was arrested on Monday, September 10 from his home at Godavari Municipality, Lalitpur, in the Kathmandu Valley. The office of the Metropolitan Police Range said that he was arrested under court order reportedly over a news report about pressure being exerted by lawmakers to illegally sell government-owned factory land. He was charged under the Electronic Transaction Act 2008.

The story in question was originally published in another weekly, Drishti, on September 4. Khojtalash.com republished the story under a different headline on September 6.

Read more here.

9.       Senior Pakistani journalist wanted on arrested warrant

On September 24 the Court summoned Almeida, the assistant editor of Dawn newspaper, to appear for the next hearing on October 8, in a case relating to an interview, published in May, 2018. In the interview, Sharif had said the “attacks in Mumbai (in 2008) were carried out by people from Pakistan,” according to reports. The court also ordered Almeida to be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL), barring him from international travel.

Read more here

10.   Editor arrested and charged with militancy in Kashmir, India

Indian police arrested and detained the assistant editor of the Kashmir Narrator over alleged militancy crimes and held him for six days without charge. Police arrested Asif Sultan for questioning at his home in Jammu and Kashmir state on the evening of August 27. He was illegally detained for six days and was questioned about stories he published in the magazine.

Following concerns raised by journalist unions, Sultan was finally presented to court on September 1 but remained in police custody for another week over his alleged involvement in militancy-related incidents.

Police also seized his laptop, cell phones and other documents.

Read more here.

11.   Vietnam: Activist and journalist sentenced to four years jail

Do Cong Duong, Vietnamese land rights activist and citizen journalist was sentenced to 48 months jail for ‘disturbing public order’. On Monday, September 17, a court in Bac Ninh in northern Vietnam sentenced Do Cong Duong to 48 months jail for ‘disturbing public order’. The sentencing relates to the January 24 arrest of Duong by police while he was filming a forced eviction in Bac Ninh. Duong has been in police detention since January, and was only granted access to his lawyer on April 5. According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), Duong was one of four defendants, and was handed the heaviest penalty under article 331 of the 2005 penal code.

12.   Afghanistan has top RTI rating – CLD

In an exciting development, Afghanistan has replaced Mexico at the very top of the RTI Rating, with an impressive score of 139 points out of a possible 150, or 93%. Countries from the Global South dominate the top of the RTI Rating, with not a single Western country in the top 25. All but one of the countries in the top 25 positions adopted their laws since 2000, reflecting the fact that RTI laws are, on average, getting stronger and stronger as time goes on.

Read more here.

13.   Xinjiang Daily journalists arrested – RSF

Police in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region arrested Ilham Weli, Xinjiang Daily’s deputy editor-in-chief; Memtimin Obul and Juret Haji, directors at the same newspaper; and Mirkami Ablimit, the head of the newspaper's subsidiary Xinjiang Farmer's Daily, between late July and early August for publishing “two-faced” articles in the newspaper’s Uyghur language section. The vague term “two-faced” is adopted by the Chinese authorities to accuse those who allegedly secretly oppose government policies.

Read more here