January South Asia Media Solidarity Network Buletin

Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on February 16, and your inputs are most welcome. We encourage contributions to let others know your activities; to seek solidarity and support from SAMSN members on your campaigns and activities. To contribute, email Umesh Pokharel (southasia@ifj-asia.org)

BREAKING:

IFJ mourns 49 killed journalists in 2019

The IFJ has recorded 49 killings of journalist and media professionals in 2019. In the Asia Pacific region there has been a significant reduction of deaths from 32 in 2018 to 12 in 2019. In South Asia, there were nine murdered journalists in 2019.

“This low figure should be a lifting moment for those who joined the campaign for the safety of journalists, which the IFJ has spearheaded over decades,” said IFJ President Younes Mjahed. “Yet, it gives little comfort when our report’s findings consistently reveal that more journalists are killed in so-called peace time for reporting corruption, crime and abuse of power in their own countries than in war zones. The failure by governments to stop the impunity for these crimes needs to be addressed through the Convention on media safety we are promoting.” Read more here.

India: Supreme court orders review of internet shutdown in Kashmir

On January 10, 2020, the Supreme Court of India ordered the reviewal of the Indian government’s illegal suspension of internet service in Indian-administered Kashmir.  

A three-judge bench of Justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai determined the internet shutdown was illegal and called for restrictions to be reviewed within a week. On January 15, 2020, limited broadband service returned to the Kashmiri people after more than 5 months. Institutions said to be given service include government websites and those dealing with essential services such as banking. Despite this partial lift, social network sites remain inaccessible. Read more here.

Unions at Work

India: Trade Unions called for Bharat Bandh

Ten central trade unions and several independent federations across India called for the general strike, or ‘Bharat Bandh’, on January 8 to protest against anti-labour policies of the Indian government. The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) supported the general strike. Read more here.

Arrest and Detainment

Bangladesh: Daily Sangram editor arrested under Digital Security Act

Police in Dhaka, Bangladesh arrested Abul Asad, Editor of Daily Sangram on December 13, 2019 after he described an executed opposition leader, convicted for war crimes committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 War of Independence, a “martyr”. Asad may face 14 years of imprisonment if the authorities deem his views defamatory or subversive, or 10 years of imprisonment for spreading propaganda on Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971. Read more here.

India: Journalists covering Citizenship Amendment Act protest detained

Police detained journalists in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kashmir who were covering the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Eight journalists from various Malayalam channels were taken into custody on 20 December when they reported outside a hospital in Mangaluru in which a postmortem of two men killed by police firing was ongoing.  On the same day, a plainclothes officer arrested Omar Rashid, a correspondent from the Hindu in Uttar Pradesh. In a separate incident in New Delhi, Mathrubhumi News reporter Arun Shankar and cameraman Vaishakh Jayapalan sustained injuries in another police attack. Earlier on 19 December, Busra Sheikh, a BBC journalist, was assaulted by police personnel while was covering a student protest in Jamia Milia Islamia University in New Delhi. Kashmir saw two more journalists, Azaan Javaid and Anees Zargar, abused by police while covering another student protest. Read more here and here.

Pakistan: Journalist sentenced to five years in prison under anti-terrorism laws

An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has sentenced journalist, Nasrullah Chaudhry, to five years imprisonment on December 21, 2019. Mr Chaudhry, a journalist associated with Urdu-language daily Nai Baat, was sentenced following being convicted of offences punishable under the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act.  According to a charge sheet filed by the Crime Investment Department (CTD), Nasrullah Khan Chaudhry was arrested from Karachi’s Garden area on 11 November 2018 for possession of literature against the state and spreading religious hatred. These alleged materials consisted of journals and booklets about Afghan Jihad and the Punjabi Taliban. Read more here.
 

Harassment

Nepal: Journalists barred from reporting at municipal assembly

Kamalamahi Municipality Chief in Sindhuli district barred journalists from reporting the Sindhuli Kamalamahi Municipality 6th Municipal Assembly on January 8, 2020. According to Freedom Forum, journalists couldn’t report on the assembly as Municipal Chief Khadga Bahadur Khatri stated that the issues to be discussed were not of a serious nature, and thus, did not need to be reported on. Read more here.

Nepal: Journalist receives death threat

Narjan Tamang, a Humla based journalist affiliated with Naya Patrika Daily received a death threat on December 27, 2019 for publishing an article highlighting the haphazard distribution of subsidized rice by the Nepal Food Corporation in Humla. Read more here.

Censorship

India: Internet shutdown in Kashmir ongoing for more than 150 days

The ban on internet and communication services in India-administered Kashmir as part of the shutdown imposed by Indian government has exceeded 150 days.  While the recent Supreme Court of India ruled the internet shutdown was “impermissible” on January 10, essential services such as social media remain inaccessible. The Kashmir Press Club held a meeting with editor bodies and journalist associations on December 31, 2019 to demand the restoration of internet services in the region. Local journalists working in Kashmir have noted the absence of media and social media has rendered it impossible to upload news online. The situation has led to widespread job and salary cuts. Read more here.

Nepal: Parliamentary committee passes controversial IT Bill

The Development and Technology Committee of the House of Representative (HoR) on December 29 passed an IT bill that impose fines of up to Rs 1.5 million (over €10,000) and jail terms of up to five years for posting content on social media that in the eyes of government may pose a threat to the “country’s sovereignty, security, unity or harmony”. Read more here.

Law

Sri Lanka: Wife of abducted journalist accuses military of derailing case

Sandya Ekneligoda alleged the Sri Lankan military has destroyed evidence and intimidated witnesses in a court case against nine soldiers charged with the abduction and enforced disappearance of her husband, Prageeth Ekneligoda, nearly 10 years ago. Ekneligoda addressed the court on December 31, 2019 in Colombo. Her husband went missing in 2010 during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the brother of current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Prageeth wrote against the alleged corruption and nepotism of Rajapaksa’s governance. Read more here

Opportunities

Reuters Institute accepting Journalist Fellowship applications

Reuters is accepting applications from practicing, mid-career journalists for the Reuters Journalist Fellowship Programme from journalists around the world. Thirty journalists will be awarded the scholarship. The application deadline is 3 February 2020. Read more about the internship here.

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