South Asia Media Solidarity Bulletin: February 201820 Feb, 2018
Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on March 15, 2018, and your inputs are most welcome.
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In this bulletin:
- Time to End Impunity: IFJ urges drastic change in media safety after 82 journalists killed in 2017
- Press Freedom Watchdogs Urge Maldivian Authorities to Respect Media Rights
- Maldivian TV station forced to suspend broadcast fearing military crackdown
- Bangladesh drafts draconian Digital Security Act
- Journalists attacked in court precincts in Sylhet, Bangladesh
- Indian authorities clamp down on foreign journalists
- Timber smugglers assault journalist in Meghalaya, India
- Pakistan shuts down radio station over content
- Deadly weekend in Afghanistan, journalist safety under attack
- Police attack journalist covering demonstration in Nepal
- Sri Lankan minister’s aide threatens two journalists
- SAMSN Blog
- Riding the Waves of Repression: State of Press Freedom in the Maldives
- The most difficult part of my job, by Ujjwal Acharya
- Still a Black January, by FMM Sri Lanka
- Ekneligoda, Sugirtharajan and 24th January, by Ruki Fernando
- ‘Where is Prageeth?’, by Laxmi Murthy
- India’s counter-terror agency preaches journalism
- ‘According to the Digital Security Law, I am a Spy’: Bangladeshi Journalists Defend Their Right to Investigate (Global Voices)
- Six years into journalist couple’s murder: Probe itself a mystery (Daily Star)
- Frequent internet shutdown angers south Kashmir inhabitants (Kashmir Monitor)
- Digital (in)security of journalists in Pakistan (Digital Rights Foundation)
- NWMI Fellowship for Women Journalists in India
1. Time to end impunity: IFJ urges drastic change in media safety after 82 journalists killed in 2017
The IFJ on February 1 launched its full annual report on journalists and media staff killed in 2017, which details the killings of 82 journalists and media staff. The tragic stories in the report reveal that although there is much to welcome in a year when the number of work-related killings of journalists fell to its lowest level in a decade, the death toll in journalism remains unacceptably high.
In many countries journalism remains an extremely perilous profession, including Afghanistan, which recorded the highest number of suicide attacks and Mexico with a record number of targeted killings (13), most of them victims of exposing local corruption and collusion of organized crime and drug trafficking criminals with local authorities.
The report highlights the pressing challenges to journalists’ security across the globe. It also features pro-active initiatives by the IFJ and its affiliates showing their determination to work together for change. One of them is the IFJ’s proposal for a new international convention on the safety and independence of journalists and other media professionals, which is to be proposed for adoption by members of the United Nations. The convention aims at providing a real means to enforcing existing laws in order to hold accountable those who attack journalists. More here.
2. Press freedom watchdogs urge Maldivian authorities to respect media rights
Amid the growing political crisis in the Maldives, the IFJ, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed deep concerns by ongoing restrictions and threats on media and press freedom in the Maldives and called on authorities to allow media to carry out work without reprisal.
The three international press freedom organizations jointly condemned ongoing threats to shut down media organizations in the name of national security during the country’s current political crisis and its declaration of a state of emergency. The media in the Maldives are enduring unprecedented restrictions, making it impossible to carry out and critical reporting in the public interest.
The level of threat to the media by state agencies is dangerously high, making it impossible to carry out independent journalism, they said. The current state of threats and repression directed at the media in the Maldives violate critical international standards of democracy and rule of law. More here.
3. Maldivian TV station forced to suspend broadcast fearing military crackdown
The opposition aligned Raajje TV suspended its regular broadcast from February 8 to 10 due to increased harassment, threats and intimidation as well as an unsafe environment for journalists to report freely and independently. The TV station’s decision came after a warning by the Ministry of Defense and National Security alongside the withdrawal of security provided to the station by the Maldives Police. More here.
Earlier on February 4, Abdul Raheem Abdullah, the deputy leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), had called on the security forces to immediately shut down Raajje TV accusing it of giving airtime to opposition leaders. More here.
4. Bangladesh drafts draconian Digital Security Act
Bangladesh’s Council of Ministers met on January 29 and approved the draft of Digital Security Act 2018, designed to combat ‘growing cybercrimes that are affecting many public and private organizations’. The draft will be now presented to the Jatiya Sangsad – the unicameral parliament for approval, where the ruling Awami League party holds a strong majority, and it is expected to pass.
The draft act seeks to repeal the controversial Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act that deals with defamatory or other harmful content online which has been used to silence critics and journalists. However, journalists and rights activists believe that the new draft is draconian and gags freedom of expression. More here.
5. Journalists attacked in court precincts in Sylhet, Bangladesh
Nirananda Paul, a video journalist with Jamuna TV, and Mamun Hasan, photojournalist with the Jugantor daily, were attacked in the Sylhet Court where they were covering the bail decision on a local Awami League (AL) leader Liaquat Ali in a murder case on January 25. They were recording video footage and taking photos of Ali and 29 others while the accused were being taken to jail after the court declined to regularize the interim bail, when around 50 AL cadres attacked them. More here.
6. Indian authorities clamp down on foreign journalists
On February 6, Amruta Slee, Indian-born Australian journalist, alleged that she and her colleagues were not granted journalist visas to India they had applied for in December 2017. Slee is a radio producer for Radio National, a program on ABC, and was part of the team that was given a grant to travel to India for reporting. They had proposed a trip to India in February 2018; however she was neither officially denied nor given a visa to travel to India.
In 2017, the ABC published an investigative report on the controversial Carmichael coal mine project in Queensland, Australia, funded by the Adani Group, an Indian multinational conglomerate head quartered in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The Consulate General of India (CGI) in Sydney denied the allegations and instead has accused the journalists of violating Indian visa rules. More here.
7. Timber smugglers assault journalist in Meghalaya, India
Freelance journalist Biplab Dey, who regularly contributes to The Assam Tribune and the Meghalaya Guardian, was assaulted by a group suspected to be members of the All Rabha Student’s Union on January 23 night in Athaibari, West Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya, northeast India, when he went to document the evidence of illegal transportation of timber to Assam. The attackers snatched Dey’s camera and mobile phone to destroy evidence. More here.
8. Pakistan shuts down radio station over content
Pakistan’s Interior Ministry on January 19 ordered the close down of the office and the operations of Radio Mashaal, a Pashto language broadcaster linked to the US-funded Radio Free Europe (RFE), on recommendations of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The ministry said that as per an ISI report, the radio airs programs ‘against the interests of Pakistan and in line with hostile intelligence agency’s agenda’.
RFE denied any connection to the intelligence agencies of any country and said it was ‘extraordinarily concerned by the closure’. More here.
9. Deadly weekend in Afghanistan, journalist safety under attack
On January 21, a vehicle carrying a team from Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) was attacked in Batikot district of Nangrahar province in eastern Afghanistan. The driver was killed while journalist Baz Shinwary and cameraperson Mohamad Rafiq were seriously injured when an armed group opened fire on their car. The driver received several bullets and died on the spot. The two journalists also received a few bullets on the upper part of their bodies causing serious injuries.
In another attack on January 21 evening, unidentified armed group burnt down Radio Saday-e-Adalat destroying all equipment and the building in capital Firuzkoh of Ghor province, central Afghanistan. More here.
10. Police attack journalist covering demonstration in Nepal
Prakash Dhakal, a journalist with Adarsha Samaj daily, was attacked by the police when he was reporting on the demonstration by students of the Prithvi Narayan Campus in Pokhara, western Nepal on February 6. During the police’s attempt to disperse the demonstrators, the police charged on Dhakal despite him showing his Press ID card. Dhakal received a minor injury on his leg. More here.
11. Sri Lankan minister’s aide threatens two journalists
Kapila Kuruppuarachchi of Sirasa TV and Jayalath Dissanayake of TV Derana, who were covering the election rally of United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena, were threated and chased away by an aide of the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Nimal Siripala De Silva.
The minister’s aide, Public Relations Officer Ajith Hikkaduwa Liyanage, reportedly told the journalists: “We do not want media like you, you are the ones who worked against us in the past, so do not come here.” The aide also said that if they were present in the rally, he would incite people against them and he would not be responsible for what people did. More here.
12. SAMSN Blog
a. Riding the Waves of Repression: State of Press Freedom in the Maldives
Maldives is weathering a severe political crisis following the Supreme Court’s February 1 order to release political prisoners and reinstate 12 Members of Parliament. President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency and cracked down on all protests. The media and journalists are facing a challenging situation. The SAMSN is monitoring the situation and this live blog will be updated with important information related to press freedom, media and journalist’s rights. Read the live blog.
b. The most difficult part of my job
Ujjwal Acharya, IFJ’s South Asia co-ordinator tells us why the IFJ’s annual Killed List is not a macabre roll call from a morgue, but a reminder of why we must ensure that killers of journalists are brought to justice. Read more.
c. Still a Black January, by FMM Sri Lanka
The Free Media Movement (FMM) has organized an annual protest, January is Still Black from 2011 onwards, and this year the focus was against the current Yaha Palana government which came into power in January 2015 promising to give high priority to media freedom. The new government had also put forward a series of statements promising welfare of journalists including on ending impunity. But there has been no visible progress during the past three years regarding journalists’ freedom. Read more.
d. Ekneligoda, Sugirtharajan and 24th January, by Ruki Fernando
For several years freedom of expression advocates have dubbed January as “Black January”. This was in the context of a large number of journalists killed, disappeared, assaulted, as well as attacks on media institutions – all in January. 24th is one such black day in January. The Trincomalee based Tamil journalist Subramaniyam Sugirtharajan was shot dead on 24th January 2006. The Colombo based Sinhalese cartoonist and journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda disappeared on 24th January 2010. Read more.
e. ‘Where is Prageeth?’
The cartoonist disappeared eight years ago on January 24th. His wife’s struggle to find him shines a light on Sri Lanka’s dismal record on enforced disappearances, Laxmi Murthy reports. Read more.
13. India’s counter-terror agency preaches journalism
A Delhi Court on February 21 will announce an order on the bail plea of freelance photojournalist Kamran Yousuf, who was arrested on September 5, 2016 in Kashmir, India. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), in its chargesheet filed on January 18, claimed that Yousuf is not a ‘real journalist’ because he did not cover government’s developmental activities and statements of political parties, which it claimed was the ‘moral duty of a journalist’ and only covered ‘activities which are anti-national’. The NIA alleges his involvement in stone pelting incidents and conspiracies against security personnel. The sermon on what journalism should be, delivered by the NIA, an counter-terror agency was met with widespread scorn and condemnation. Read critiques here and a protest statement here.
14. ‘According to the Digital Security Law, I am a Spy’: Bangladeshi Journalists Defend Their Right to Investigate (Global Voices)
Since January 29, dozens of journalists in Bangladesh have claimed, in their social media profiles, that they are spies. Holding placards bearing the Bengali hashtag “Ami Guptochor” meaning “#IAmaSpy” , they are speaking out against a proposed law that would criminalize key research practices of investigative journalists.
The 2018 Digital Security Act, still in draft, is said to target digital crimes. The current draft was approved by the Council of Ministers of Bangladesh government on January 29 and is scheduled to be submitted to the Jatiya Sangsad (National Parliament) for approval. Along with journalists, various political parties, members of the civil society and ordinary people are protesting the law. Read more.
15. Six years into journalist couple’s murder: Probe itself a mystery (Daily Star)
The journalist couple Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi were killed six years ago on February 11, 2012 but their killers are still walking free. Meherun Runi, senior reporter of private TV channel ATN Bangla, and her husband Sagar Sarowar, news editor of Maasranga TV, were murdered for unknown reason. The cries of journalist associations and bereaved family members for justice fell on deaf ears in the last six years. Investigators do not even bother to tell the mother what, if anything, they had found.
Saleha Monir has never visited her son and daughter-in-law’s graves. “What will I tell the departed soul? That there is no justice for us?” the grieving 66-year-old mother of slain journalist Sagar said. “Justice is a far cry as I do not even know the names of the killers yet. I fear I would not get justice.” Read more.
16. Frequent internet shutdown angers south Kashmir inhabitants (Kashmir Monitor)
Internet services have been shut down in Pulwama and Shopian districts of south Kashmir, evoking anger from the residents. The shutdown has badly impacted thousands of students, job aspirants and those users who avail the service for e-commerce and banking.
“It is pure injustice and curbing of Right to Freedom and Speech by shutting down the internet. Nowhere in the world internet is banned even in adverse situations and conflicts. Astonishingly, internet ban is an easy and suppressive tool of the government in our state, especially in Pulwama district,” Tahir, a research scholar in Pulwama, said. Read more.
17. Digital (in)security of journalists in Pakistan (Digital Rights Foundation)
A nationwide survey in Pakistan on the state of security of journalists to shed light on the threats and concerns journalists face online, which runs parallel to the harassment journalists face offline. This report, titled “Digital (In)Security of Journalists in Pakistan” seeks to map and understand the digital risks that journalists face in Pakistan and recommends policy interventions based on the data collected. 66% of the journalists who participated in the survey responded that they had suffered online insecurity. Journalists face issues of digital security in various ways including blackmail, hacking, threats, sexual harassment, data theft, stalking, and attacks through malware or phishing emails. Read more.
18. NWMI Fellowship for Women Journalists in India
Women journalists who are residents of India, from Adivasi, Dalit, religious/ethnic minority or other disadvantaged groups, working in any Indian language, in any medium – print, television, radio, online– as well as photojournalists are eligible to apply for the NWMI Fellowship. The fellowship consists of a modest monthly stipend for one year; refurbished equipment; contacts with media houses and editors; mentorship to help pitch ideas, present and edit stories; and skill sharing. Deadline: March 15. Read more.
SAMSN is a group of journalists’ trade unions, press freedom organizations 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Maldives police forcibly enter the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) camp to break up celebrations of opposition supporters gathered to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision to order the release of all jailed political leaders near the capital Male on February 2, 2018. Credit: AFP