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South Asia Media Solidarity Bulletin: August, 2018

15 Aug, 2018

Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on September 15, 2018, 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 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 contents are available at the SAMSN Digital Hub: https://samsn.ifj.org

In this bulletin:

  1. Photojournalist Shahidul Alam arrested in BangladeshIFJ, SAMSN demand immediate release
  2. Deadly accidents at work in India and Afghanistan
  3. Indian journalist faces criminal charges over Facebook posts
  4. Editor attacked by pro-government mob in Bangladesh
  5. TV journalists attacked by illegal sand miners in Punjab, India
  6. Taliban burn down radio and TV station in Ghazni, Afghanistan
  7. Journalists under threat in Sri Lanka
  8. Journalists face increased attacks and threats in Nepal
  9. Raajje TV receive maximum fine under draconian defamation law
  10. Shots fired at TV anchor’s house in Lahore, Pakistan
  11. SAMSN Blog
    1. Rilwan abduction: cover-ups and negligence, by Mohamad Junayd
    2. Funding journalism in digital age, by Ujjwal Acharya
  12. Two more arrested in Gauri Lankesh murder case (The Wire)
  13. In India, the world’s largest democracy, journalists are muzzled (Gulf News)
  14. Media and the elections in Bhutan (Kuensel)
  15. Editors Guild of India decries political pressures on journalists (The Print)
  16. ‘My father died once but we are dying every single day to know the truth behind his killing’, says daughter of slain journalist (Freedom Forum Nepal)
  17. The thing about us women in the media (Newslaundry)
  18. RSF publishes report on online harassment of journalists

1. Photojournalist Shahidul Alam arrested in Bangladesh; IFJ, SAMSN demand immediate release

In a letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, the IFJ, SAMSN and several journalist organizations in South Asia demanded an end to the media crackdown that has accompanied protests in Bangladesh this week. The joint letter to Prime Minister Hasina, called the arrest and detention on Sunday, August 5, of renowned photojournalist Shahidul Alam an attempt to suppress the dissenting and critical voices in Bangladesh; and therefore a misuse of the legal authority.

Alam was arrested by police officers in plain clothes who stormed his apartment in Dhanmondi, Dhaka on Sunday, August 5, forcibly detaining and removing him from the apartment. Alam’s arrest followed a ‘live post’ on his Facebook, in which here narrated attacks on protesters in Dhaka. Earlier that day, Alam had also criticized the Bangladeshi government over the treatment of protesters on Al Jazeera TV. On August 6, he was remanded for 7 days; and on August 11, he was further remanded until completion of police probe.

In the letter, the IFJ and SAMSN expressed serious concerns over several attacks on the media covering the students’ demonstrations by masked men on the streets of Dhaka on August 4 and 5. More than a dozen journalists were attacked by unidentified men in helmets carrying sticks and metal rods when they were covering the agitation by thousands of students calling for safer roads. Read the letter here, the IFJ statements here and here.

2. Deadly accidents at work in Afghanistan and India

Journalist KK Saji and driver Bibin Babu, working for the local television Mathrubhumi News, died on assignment after their boat capsized on July 23 in Kerala, India. The victims, part of a four-member TV crew were returning from a reporting assignment in Mundur, an area completely cut off from the mainland due to floods, where they had to cover the conditions of monsoon-affected people in a relief camp. The accident happened in the Kariya River. Locals rescued bureau chief KB Sreedharan, cameraman Abhilash S Nair, ferryman Abhilash. However, Saji, 46, and Babu, 27, were swept away by a strong current. Their bodies were found a day later on July 24.

In Afghanistan, Mohammad Akhtar, a 31-year-old driver for Agence France Presse (AFP), was killed in a suicide attack in Kabul, which left a total of 25 people dead on July 22. Akhtar was on his way to work when the attack, which has been claimed by the Islamic State group, was perpetrated in the surroundings of the Hamid Karzai International Airport. The attack targeted supporters of Afghan Vice President, Abdul Rashid Dostum, who were welcoming him on his return from exile. Read more here and here.

3. Indian journalist faces criminal charges over Facebook posts

Television journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem was arrested and charged with inciting public mischief through a series of Facebook posts, in Imphal, Manipur, India on August 9, 2018. Wangkhem, an anchor and sub-editor at Information Service Television Network (ISTV), was arrested on August 9 on charges of misusing social media with the intention of inciting public mischief. On August 10, he was placed in 15-day police custody by the chief judicial magistrate of Imphal. After protests from journalists, and apology from the president of All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union and editor in chief of ISTV to Chief Minister N Biren Singh, he was released on bail. Read more.

4. Editor attacked by pro-government mob in Bangladesh

Mahmudur Rahman, the editor of opposition-aligned Amar Desh daily, was brutally attacked by a pro-government mob outside the court in Kushita, western Bangladesh on July 22. The 66-year-old editor was attacked by more than 100 people allegedly affiliated to Bangladesh Chhatra League, the youth wing of governing Awami League, on the court premises in Kushtia after he was granted bail in a defamation case filed for his remarks about the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Several defamation cases have been filed against him for his remarks in a seminar in Dhaka in December 2017. Read more.

5. TV journalists attacked by illegal sand miners in Punjab, India

Journalists Sandeep Kumar and Neeraj Bali of News18 TV were attacked in Jalalabad in Punjab, India on July 30 while reporting on the illegal sand mining. Kumar and Bali, after receiving a tip off, had gone to the site to investigate illegal mining when they were surrounded by a mob who attacked them and damaged their video equipment. Both suffered head injuries and their video equipment was damaged. The police didn’t respond to their calls for half-an-hour and only took action after the reporters, who were told to seek police protection at the civil hospital, went to report the incident to the deputy superintendent at the police’s office. Read more.

6. Taliban burn down radio and TV station in Ghazni, Afghanistan

Taliban attacks on Ghazni province in Afghanistan saw the incineration of a local radio and television station; and the death of media technician Mohammad Dawood on Sunday, August 12, 2018. On August 10, Taliban forces stormed Ghazni city, 148 kilometers southwest of capital Kabul, attempting to seize the city by force. The massive attacks resulted in large numbers of casualties including that of Dawood, with as many as 100 as-yet-unconfirmed killings, in the heavy fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces and the torching of many government buildings. Staff of Ghaznvian Radio and Television were not inside building at the time it was torched by the Taliban. All local media and telecommunication services ceased from August 10 with media offices closed and journalists refused access to their offices to file reports. Read more.

7. Journalists under threat in Sri Lanka

The President of the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) of Sri Lanka has issued a direct threat to a journalist and publicly warned the association was compiling a ‘traitors’ list of journalists’. GMOA president Dr Anuruddha Padeniya, when contacted by a journalist of the state-owned English weekend newspaper Sunday Observer for his opinion on strike held on August 3, said that the association was compiling a list of journalists who betray the country. He added: “You should be ashamed of doing such a job. If I were you, I would stay home and cultivate rather than work for a paper like yours. I know you must be recording this. That is good. Let others in your newspaper also listen to this.”

In a separate incident, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Sustainable Development, Wildlife and Regional Development Sarath Fonseka asked an editor to withdraw a news item posted online accusing an unnamed minister of having links with criminals. Minister Field Marshal Fonseka called Hemantha Kahawalage, the news editor of the Neth FM radio, demanding the reaction of a new item on the website. The report was about links between a senior minister and criminals, although the minister was not named.

Kahawalage requested a clarification letter from the Minister, if the news was incorrect and the Minister threatened him saying: “Let’s clash and see what happens.” The minister also demanded an apology to named criminals. Read more here and here.

8. Journalists face increased attacks and threats in Nepal

In recent days, journalists faced attacks and threats in recent days in Nepal while covering the demonstrations. On July 21, five journalists were attacked by Nepal police officers while they were covering clashes between the police and demonstrators near the Parliament in Kathmandu. On July 18, LB Devkota of Kantipur daily and Prakash Upadhyay of AP1 TV sustained minor injuries after an attack by the police while they were covering the clashes between police and demonstrators in Jumla, Karnali. On July 22, journalist Bidur Katuwal, the joint secretary of FNJ Udayapur district, was threatened by Baldev Chaudhuary, the mayor of Triyuga Municipality, Devi Kumar Chaudhary, the vice-mayor, and Provincial Assembly member Sunita Chaudhary over a report.

Similarly, journalists Chhabilal Tiwari and Om Prakash Gayal were attacked in Parbat on August 9; and Radheshyam Biswokarma, Salman Khan and Deepak Ghimire were attacked while reporting in Rupendehi on August 5. Read more here and here.

9. Raajje TV receive maximum fine under draconian defamation law

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has fined opposition-aligned Raajje TVwith an exorbitant MVR two million (USD 130,000) for live broadcasting a politician’s speech from an opposition demonstration that was deemed defamatory towards President Abdulla Yameen and a threat to national security. On August 8, the MBC imposed the maximum fine under the Maldives Defamation Act on Raajje TV for its contents during a broadcast on March 16, 2018. The MBC didn’t specify which speech during the broadcast had violated the law. Raajje TV has to pay the fine within 30 days or risk losing its broadcast license; and can only appeal the decision once the fine is paid. This is the fourth time that Raajje TV has been fined for its content since March 2016. Read more.

10. Shots fired at TV anchor’s house in Lahore, Pakistan

Unidentified gunmen fired shots at Express News TV anchor Imran Khan’s house in Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province in north-eastern Pakistan on August 1. The gunmen fired five shots at the main gate of the house at Pico Road Factory and fled the scene. No one was injured during in the incident, according to the Express News.

Similarly, on August 1, the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) sealed the office of the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) on the pretext of commercial activity in a residential area on August 1. Read more.

11. SAMSN Blog

a. Rilwan abduction: cover-ups and negligence, by Mohamad Junayd

“[…] Journalist Rilwan, who is now dead, no doubt, a very regrettable matter,” President Abdulla Yameen said Tuesday, August 7. The callously offhand remark came during a tirade against allegations leveled by his jailed former deputy. The remark was met with shock across the country. It came less than an hour after the abducted Maldives Independent journalist’s family told the press of their intention to sue the police for negligence. More here.

b. Funding journalism in digital age

Media worldwide is going through a tough period as the advertising revenues and sales go down, mostly due to the rise of the internet. IFJ South Asia Coordinator Ujjwal Acharya shares his thoughts on how journalism should be funded in the digital age. More here.

12. Two more arrested in Gauri Lankesh murder case (The Wire)

The Special Investigation Team probing journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder case arrested two more suspects – Amit Raghavendra Baddi and Ganesh Miski. Police said that they were produced before a metropolitan court, which remanded them in SIT custody till August 6 for further investigation. Police sources said that Baddi and Miski had helped in canvassing the area before Lankesh was shot dead on September 5 last year. Read more.

13.  In India, the world’s largest democracy, journalists are muzzled (Gulf News)

The Narendra Modi government is injurious to the media. This is evident in the way the private channel NDTV, which is disliked by Modi, was raided by the income tax authorities this year and a slew of cases filed by all the investigative agencies that the government commands. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has officially carried out a boycott of the channel… The press scenario is grim with the government deciding on even journalists’ employment. Read more.

14. Media and the elections in Bhutan (Kuensel)

The media needs support. Support here doesn’t mean through resources. The best support for media would be letting them do their job or not making them uneasy to even report on election events, forget analysis and investigations.  The feeling among the media, in the aftermath of the Council elections, is that authorities are getting over-excited. It is unwise to tell media what they can or not cover as long as it is in the interest of the public and done professionally. Should media be answerable, it is the citizens they should be answerable to. At the same time they should have a clearer understanding of their responsibilities. Read more.

15. Editors Guild of India decries political pressures on journalists (The Print)

The Editors Guild of India has condemned the manner in which the right to practise free and independent journalism is seen to be undermined by a combination of forces – some media owners’ inability to withstand political covert or overt pressures from the political establishment and frequent instances of blocking or interference in the transmission of television content that is seen to be critical of the government. Read more.

16. ‘My father died once but we are dying every single day to know the truth behind his killing’, says daughter of slain journalist (Freedom Forum Nepal)

Trishna Achraya is a daughter of slain journalist Dev Kumar Acharya (D Kaudinya), who was killed during insurgency on July 23, 2002 inside Army camp at Charali Jhapa. He was associated with the Janadisha daily and Arko Bikalpa weekly; and a teacher at a local campus. Army persons had taken him under control and killed within 24 hours. Acharya shared her experience as a victim family and struggle for justice. Read more.

17. The thing about us women in the media (Newslaundry)

Newsrooms are beginning to shift their default patriarchal narratives and structures to include women, but there’s still a long way to go. Read more.

18. RSF publishes report on online harassment of journalists

In a report published today, entitled “Online harassment of journalists: the trolls attack”, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) voices concern about the scale of a new threat to press freedom, the mass harassment of journalists online. The perpetrators may be ordinary “haters” (individuals or communities of individuals hiding behind their screens) or “troll armies” of online mercenaries created by authoritarian regimes. In both cases the goal is the same, to silence journalists whose reporting annoys, often using exceptionally abusive methods. 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

Written By

IFJ Asia-Pacific IFJ Asia-Pacific

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries.
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