South Asia Media Solidarity Network Bulletin March 16- April 15

Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on May 15, 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

India: Mass lay off and salary cuts for journalists amid Covid-19

The economic consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak has created an unprecedented crisis for India’s media industry, resulting in thousands of job losses, salary cuts and workers’ rights violated. The International Federation of Journalists and its affiliates the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) and the National Union of Journalists (India) are investigating the state of the industry in light of the outcomes of recent days and will release their investigations shortly.

Currently the IFJ has confirmed News Nations Network laid off 15 staff on the English-language digital team on April 10 without notice of termination. The Times of India and The Quint have also reportedly let staff go. Further, The Quint’s asked 45 employees on April 12 to go on indefinite leave without pay.

According to the National Union of Journalists (India) many newspapers and TV channels have prepared lists of workers for termination, with other workplaces reportedly cutting the pay of staff by up to 60 per cent.  

Reporting on COVID-19: Safety

The International Federation of Journalists created the Reporting on COVID-19:Safety course in collaboration with the Thomson Foundation and Dark Centre Europe.With this course you will learn how to ensure your safety and those of the people you work with and meet when covering a pandemic such as Covid-19. Enrol here.

Regional Solidarity

Postcards from Kashmir

SAMSN-IFJ campaign signalled stronger solidarity against Kashmir internet shutdown .A group of 37 national media unions from South Asia as well as global media advocacy and freedom of expression organisations, including the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) members with the International Freedom of Expression Network (IFEX) called for an end to the ongoing communications blockade in Indian-administered Kashmir. 

The joint SAMSN-IFJ POSTCARDS FROM KASHMIRcampaign, which ran from April 4 to April 9, highlighted the impacts of the indefinite communications shutdown in Kashmir on working journalists and press freedom.

The  37 co-signing organisations called on the Indian federal government and the Jammu and Kashmir state authorities to “1. Immediately restore all communications to the Kashmir Valley and ensure that all access is open and without restriction. 2. Allow local reporters to move without restrictions in order to carry out their professional duty of informing the public. 3. Ensure that media houses provide field reporters with standard personal protective equipment to keep them safe while on duty.”

SAMSN said: “The world needs to know the severe impact on the lives of civilians and journalists as a result of this shutdown. We need solidarity and collective action to end this violation of human rights and journalist rights immediately.”

Read the IFJ-SAMSN statements on Postcards from Kashmir here.

Read the IFJ-SAMSN statement on the international action with IFEX here

Read the IFEX letter here.

Visit the Postcards from Kashmir campaign here.

World Press Freedom Day, South Asia Press Freedom Report Launch

On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, the International Federation of Journalists will launch the annual South Asia Press Freedom Report detailing issues, threats, violations and attacks on the media from May 2019 to April 2020. From May 3, find the report here.

IFJ Blogs

Media in Pakistan unprepared to cover coronavirus outbreak.The rapid spread of Covid-19 is creating challenges for journalists covering the health crisis in Pakistan, writes Lubna Jerar Naqvi.Read more here.

Covid-19 Issues

Pakistan: Union secures Punjab Covid-19 relief package

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) successfully negotiated a Covid-19 relief package with Punjab’s information minister, Fayyazul Hassan Chohan. As per the agreement, the provincial information ministry will pay a monthly pension of Rs 10,000 if a journalist dies from a coronavirus while the Punjab Government will pay Rs.1 million relief funds to the family of any journalist who dies due to the deadly disease. Read more here.

Sri Lanka: Media organisations call for an accountable media industry

International Federation of Journalists affiliates in Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement, the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association and the Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Union, and three other organisations wrote to media owners to emphasise the need for greater transparency and consultation during the Covid-19 pandemic. Read more here.

India: Police attack journalists amid the lockdown                       

Police have harassed and attacked journalists in Hyderabad and Delhi on alleged breaches of lockdown orders amid the Covid-19 outbreak.These police attacks have occurred despite clear instructions issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on March 23 requesting all states and union territories allow journalists to work freely during the lockdown. Read more  here.

India: Kashmir unable to access COVID-19 information online

More than eight million people living in Kashmir are unable to access reliable health information about Covid-19 as the seven month long internet shutdown continues.The Kashmir population have been denied the free and unrestricted flow of information since August 5, 2019 when Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was revoked, and the communications shutdown was imposed. Read more here.

South Asia: SAMSN’s plea for journalists, media houses and the government

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) call on journalists, media houses and South Asian governments to act collectively against the Covid-19, by supporting responsible journalism.Amid the outbreak of Covid-19, the IFJ and SAMSN, a regional network of media unions in South Asia have issued the recommendationsfor journalist, media houses and the South Asian Government. Read more here.

Killing

Pakistan: Second post-mortem report reveals Aziz Memon murdered

The second post-mortem report of the slain journalist Aziz Memon who worked for Kawish Televiison Network and Sindhi-language Daily Kawish, was recovered from an irrigation ditch on February 16 with a wire wrapped around his neck, indicates he was murdered. The second post-mortem report conducted after the Joint Investigation Team found the initial report ‘unsatisfactory’ was issued by forensic experts Rizwana Khanzada Mohammad Hussain, Dr Ali Muhammad and Professor Muhammad Akber, revealed its findings on April 12. Read more here.

Pakistan: Government rearrests four acquitted for 2002 murder of Daniel Pearl

Four men accused of the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002 were rearrested on April 4, a day after a court controversially overturned their convictions. On April 2, the High Court of Sindh acquitted the four, including Briton Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death in 2002 for masterminding Pearl’s murder. The other three were sentenced to life. Read more here.

Missing

Pakistan: Exiled Pakistani journalist missing

Sajid Hussain, a Pakistani journalist granted political asylum in Sweden in 2017, is reported as missing. On March 28, online Pakistani newspaper Balochistan Times revealed its editor-in-chief, Sajid Hussain has been missing since March 2.The 39-year-old was last seen at 11am on March 2 in the Swedish city of Uppsala. Read more here.

Attack

Nepal: Attack on journalists and media houses

A group of people including Santosh Mudbhari, the ward chairperson of Dhangadi Sub-Metropolitan city in Kailali district picketed the Radio Dhandagi office and attempted to attack the journalists Nabaraj Dhanuk on April 12 after broadcasting a story on Mubdhari’s alleged embezzlement. Read more  here.

Arrest

Pakistan:  Journalist granted bail after two months in prison

Azhar-ul Haq Wahid, a reporter with Channel Five TV and the newspaper Khabrain was released on bail on March 26, after more than two months in jail for criticising the Pakistani government on social media. The journalist was accused of mocking the national anthem and government’s image on his social media account. Read more here.

Pakistan: Protest continues on arrest of Jang and Geo Media group editor

Protest against the arrest of Mir Shakeel Ur Rehman, the editor in chief of the Jang and Geo Media Group continued throughout March and April. Rehman was arrested on March 12 following an investigation by the National Accountability Bureau into allegations that property purchased 34 years ago by Rehman had been bought illegally. Read more here.

Threats

Nepal: Journalist issued death threat

Nepali Congress (NC) Khotang District president, Naresh Kumar Shrestha issued death threats to Khotang District chapter secretary of Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), Uttam Chaulagain on April 5 after publishing an article on the online news portal Prabhav News. The online portal run under the editorial leadership of Chaulagain alleged the president, Shrestha obstructed the set-up of a Covid-19 quarantine facility in Chhapdanga area in Durchhim Village of Haleshi Tuwachung Village Muncipality. Read more here .

Economic Pressures

Pakistan: PFUJ urges reversal of decision to close AAP News

The supports the Pakistan Federation Union of Journalists call for the AAP news closure decision to be reversed. Business tycoon Malik Riaz, who is estimated to be the ninth richest person in Pakistan with a net worth of over $1bn, announced he will be closing AAP News television channel, claiming "unavoidable legal and technical reasons". Read more here.

Censorship

Nepal: Article disappears from Kathmandu Press website

A Kathmandu Press article highlighting an alleged scam involving high level government employee and the sons of the defence minister and the prime minister’s chief advisor was removed from the Kathmandu Press website without their approval.Shiran Technologies who developed the Kathmandu Press website removed the article on April 1 citing immense pressure from ‘above’. Read more here.

Legal and Political Controls

India: UP police served notice to Wire Editor

Uttar Pradesh (UP) police served a notice to Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of The Wire to appear at Ayodhya police station on April 14, in connection with a First Information Report (FIR) against him that has started a criminal investigation. The FIR said he made an “objectionable” comment about UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath. Read more here.

India: Supreme Court orders media to only publish official information on Covid-19

The Supreme Court of India ordered media to only refer to, publish and broadcast the official information on the health crisis, citing a need to avoid inaccuracies and widespread panic.The order was issued on March 31 to avoid panic in “larger sections of society. Read more here.

Opportunities

CUNY seeks application for Business Journalism Fellowship

The McGraw Center for Business Journalism at the City University of New York's Craig Newmark School of Journalism offers a fellowship program to support in-depth coverage of business and the global economy. The program is accepting applications for in-depth text, video or audio pieces. Fellows will receive grants of US$5,000 a month for one to three months. Applications for the Summer 2020 Fellowships are due on July 10, 2020. Read more here.

Resources

IFJ: Covid-19 Report Safely

With the world in the middle of a health crisis caused by Coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliates are taking actions to ensure the rights and safety of media workers when reporting on the virus. 

Find more IFJ resources on reporting safely and actions taken by IFJ affiliates to support journalists here.

International Labour Organisation Standards and Covid-19

The International Labour Organization (ILO) published a Frequently Asked Questions resource outlining labour standards relevant to the evolving circumstances of Covid-19 and how workers can be supported. Read more here.

Government responses to protect lives, jobs and incomes

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has analysed the government responses of 69 countries to protect lives, jobs, and incomes during the global pandemic. Find the report here.

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