South Asia Media Solidarity Bulletin: NOVEMBER

Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on December 15, 2018, and your inputs are most welcome. We encourage contributions to let others know about your activities; to seek solidarity and support from SAMSN members for your campaigns and initiatives. To contribute, email Ujjwal Acharya at: ifjsouthasia@gmail.com Please feel free to distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media. This e-bulletin and South Asia related content are available at the SAMSN Digital Hub: https://samsn.ifj.org

Photo: Members of the Newspaper Editors' Council of Bangladesh staged a protest demanding sweeping amendments to a newly enacted digital law that journalists and rights groups say will curb freedom of expression. Credit: MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP

In this bulletin:

  1. India: Two journalists killed in separate attacks in less than 24 hours
  2. Pakistani journalist killed for reporting on drug mafia
  3. Concerns for media safety in Sri Lanka amid political crisis
  4. Restrictive broadcasting bill endorsed by Bangladesh government
  5. Nepal government withholds Cabinet decisions from the media
  6. Journalist attacked and injured in West Nepal
  7. SAMSN Blog
    1. Economy of Bangladesh’s Digital Media, by Pulack Ghatack
    2. Barkha Dutt’s open letter to #MeToo critics
  8. Photojournalist Shahidul Alam granted bail [The Daily Star]
  9. Private papers receive 50 percent subsidy [Bhutan Media Foundation]
  10. How Pakistan’s legal system failed the murdered journalists? [Freedom Network]
  11. Maldives: Anti-defamation law repealed [Maldives Independent]
  12. Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act challenged in Pakistan [Daily Times]
  13. Getting Away with Murder; CPJ’s Global Impunity Index released
  14. The Rise Of Digital Authoritarianism; Freedom on the Net 2018 [Freedom House]
  15. Journalists covering conflict: How to stay safe and live to tell the story! [Free Speech Collective]

 

1. India: Two journalists killed in separate attacks in less than 24 hours

In less than 24 hours, two journalists have been killed in attacks in Chhattisgargh and Jharkhand, India on October 29 and 30. Video-journalist Achyutananda Sahu was killed as he covering preparations for upcoming state elections in Chhattisgargh. Sahu was part of a media team from government-run Doordarshan, embedded with local police. He was killed from crossfire when the group came under attack from a Maoist militant group.

In a separate incident, Chandan Tiwari, a journalist with Aaj News was last seen on October 29 in the Chatra district of Jharkhand. Tiwari was found unconscious in the jungle and rushed to hospital where he was declared deceased. Tiwari had lodged two police complaints over threats he had received with police. Read more.

2. Pakistani journalist killed for reporting on drug mafia

Pakistani journalist Sohail Khan was shot and killed just days after filing a story about drug mafia on October 16. Sohail had just left the District Police Office (DPO) in Haripur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa when he was shot at several times. He died at the scene. He was at the DPO filing an application for protection after receiving multiple death threats following his report on drug mafia in Pakistan. Read more.

3. Concerns for media safety in Sri Lanka amid political crisis

Newsrooms of the state-owned media in Sri Lanka were targeted and editorial staff harassed following the controversial appointment of former president Mahinda Rajapaksha as the new Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena on October 26, 2018. After Rajapaksha was sworn-in on October 26, members of the unions loyal to Rajapaksha’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) moved in to take control of state-owned institutions. Senior editorial staff at the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), the Independent Television Network (ITN), the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) and the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL) kept away from the offices.

A group of SLPP loyalists within ANCL barged into the layout section of the Daily News on October 26 night and changed the layout telling that they were acting under orders from the PM’s office. Similarly, the staff at the Sunday Observer, were pressured to publish a story of Rajapaksa being sworn in, and warned not to report any stories regarding Wickremesinghe. Read more.

4. Restrictive broadcasting bill endorsed by Bangladesh government

The Bangladesh Government has endorsed the Broadcasting Bill in a cabinet meeting on October 15, raising concerns over restrictive provisions. Under the draft legislation, media outlets that publish material deemed to be ‘harmful to the country’s history and image, public interest or law and order’ will be punished with a maximum of seven years’ jail and a fine of BDT 50 million (USD 588,000). Under the draft legislation, a broadcasting commission would also be established to help ‘regulate the electronic media in keeping with the international practices and standard for ensuring objectivity, neutrality and accountability of mass media’. The broadcasting commission would be responsible for licenses for private media outlets, and under the proposed bill, airing materials that may pose threat to national security and sovereignty or may appear satirical to national ideology will be prohibited. Read more.

5. Nepal government withholds Cabinet decisions from the media

Nepal government withheld the decisions of the meeting of the Council of Ministers from the media on November 11. Nepal Government’s spokesperson and Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota told the media that ‘the decisions will be known in due time’ and didn’t read out the decisions breaking a long practice. He added that the Council of Ministers had decided to adopt a ‘managed procedure’ to make decisions public. The decision was taken as ‘the Cabinet unanimously felt that revealing these decisions immediately faced widespread criticism from the public and occasionally faced legal challenges in the Supreme Court’. Read more.

6. Journalist attacked and injured in West Nepal

A dozen cadres of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) attacked journalist Lokendra Khanal of Nagarik daily in Rukum district in west Nepal on November 9. Lokendra Khanal was attacked by a dozen assailants with knives while on his way to a religious ceremony at Magma of Bafiyakot in Rukum on the evening of November 9. Khanal, also the secretary of district chapter of NPU, sustained injuries to his head and needed a few stitches during treatment. Police has made no arrest in connection to the case. Read more.

7. SAMSN Blog

        a. Economy of Bangladesh’s Digital Media, by Pulack Ghatack

Bangladesh saw massive growth of newspapers as well as the digital media in last few years. Pulack Ghatack analyses the situation of media in Bangladesh vis-a-vis the issues and challenges posed by the growth of digital platforms. Read more.

        b. Barkha Dutt’s open letter to #MeToo critics

India’s #MeToo movement is a powerful social campaign led by women. But not everyone is a supporter. Veteran senior journalists Tavleen Singh, Manjeet Kripalani and Seema Mustafa have openly criticised #MeToo, dismissed it as elitist and in some cases blamed the women making the allegations. Journalist Barkha Dutt questions them in her first video column for ThePrint, India. Read more.

8. Photojournalist Shahidul Alam granted bail [The Daily Star]

Internationally acclaimed photographer Shahidul Alam has secured bail after staying behind bars for over three months. There is no legal bar for Shahidul to get released from jail following the High Court verdict.

The High Court granted his permanent bail considering his age and the time he spent behind bars. The photographer was sent behind bars on charges of “spreading propaganda and false information against the government” while doing live coverage of street protests in Dhaka on Facebook. Shahidul was picked up by law enforcers on the night of August 5. Read more.

9. Private papers receive 50 percent subsidy [Bhutan Media Foundation]

The Bhutan government approved 50 percent subsidy for the private papers in the country. In April this year, Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) had notified that the private English newspapers to print a minimum of 1,200 copies of each publication. Dzongkha private newspapers had to print a minimum of 600 copies. The subsidy was approved from the month of July this year for two years. Read more.

10. How Pakistan’s legal system failed the murdered journalists? [Freedom Network]

Of the 26 journalists murdered in Pakistan during the last five years for their journalism work, the cases of only 16 journalists went to court for trial of which prosecution and trial was concluded in six cases only and conviction handed in one case only. This was revealed in a new research study tracking and examining the failure of the justice system in prosecuting and punishing the killers of all journalists killed in Pakistan during May 2013 and May 18, released here on the eve of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2 every year. Read more.

11. Maldives: Anti-defamation law repealed [Maldives Independent]

Maldivian Parliament passed a bill to repeal the draconian law that re-criminalised defamation on November 14.The 2016 law was abolished with 38 votes in favour and 13 against with 51 MPs present from the 85-member house. Earlier this week, MPs voted 48-17 with two abstentions to send the bill to a committee for review. As pledged by president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the repeal legislation was submitted in the wake of the joint opposition candidate’s decisive victory over President Abdulla Yameen in September’s election. Enacted in August 2016, the widely-condemned law introduced hefty fines and jail terms for journalists and individuals found guilty of slander. Read more.

12. Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act challenged in Pakistan [Daily Times]

The Pakistan Press Foundation has challenged the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 as being ‘ultra vires’ to the constitution, especially Article 19, which gives every citizen the right to freedom of speech and expression. In a petition, lawyer Yasser Latif Hamdani has argued that despite a lapse of two years the ministry is yet to frame rules under Section 37 of the PECA and continues to block online content with impunity and in violation of the requirements of the law. Read more.

13. Getting Away with Murder; CPJ’s Global Impunity Index released

Impunity is entrenched in 14 nations, according to CPJ's 2018 Global Impunity Index, which ranks states with the worst records of prosecuting the killers of journalists. Among the 14 nations, four are South Asians – Afghanistan at sixth position, Pakistan in ninth, Bangladesh in 12th, and India on 14th. Somalia tops the list for the fourth year in a row. Read more.

14. The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism; Freedom on the Net 2018 [Freedom House]

The internet is growing less free around the world, and democracy itself is withering under its influence, according to the annual Freedom on the Net 2018 report by the Freedom House. Disinformation and propaganda disseminated online have poisoned the public sphere. The unbridled collection of personal data has broken down traditional notions of privacy. And a cohort of countries is moving toward digital authoritarianism by embracing the Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance systems. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2018. Read more.

15. Journalists covering conflict: How to stay safe and live to tell the story! [Free Speech Collective]

The tragic death of Doordarshan cameraperson Achyutanand Sahu near Nilawaya village, Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh, has put the spotlight on the perils of journalism in conflict zones. Journalists in Bastar have spoken about the problems they have faced, targeted by the police for investigating atrocities by security forces against the villagers. Journalists have been arrested on trumped up charges, face court cases for sedition charges and when they venture into the forests, face gruelling interrogation from the security forces on their return. Covering Bastar is very tenuous and a situation fraught with danger. Trusting the right sources, maintaining one’s independence from the government, the security forces, the Maoists and the vigilante groups and still managing to move about in conflict zones, meeting villages and getting the story is a really difficult task. But, it is possible, with these simple guidelines. Read more.

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SAMSN is a network of journalists’ trade unions, press freedom organisations and journalists in South Asia that works together to support freedom of expression and association in the region.

For further information on SAMSN, visit: https://samsn.ifj.org/us/

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 ifjsouthasia@gmail.com 

 

 

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