South Asia Media Solidarity Bulletin: March 201819 Mar, 2018
Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on April 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: [email protected]
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:
- With women, unions are stronger: No better time!
- India: Arrest in editor’s killing beginning of road to justice
- Kashmiri photojournalist granted bail after several months in detention
- Sri Lanka blocks social media as communal violence escalates
- Journalist shot dead in Rawalpindi, Pakistan
- Supreme Court of Nepal order violates press freedom principles
- Journalists brutally attacked by police in Assam, India
- SAMSN Blog
- There is more to unions than protests, by Lubna Jerar Naqvi
- Taliban impose taxes on independent Afghan media (RSF)
- Pakistan Court declares network disconnections as illegal (Bytes for All)
- Bangladesh: Scrap Draconian Elements of Digital Security Act (HRW)
- Unshackling expression – A study on laws criminalising expression online in Asia
- Smart Phones and Stupid Governments: Blocking Social Media as Sri Lanka Burns (Groundviews)
- UNESCO’s World Trends in Freedom of Expression 2018 report released
- Chameli Devi Award for an Outstanding Woman Journalist for 2017
- Asia Journalism Fellowship calls for application
1. With women, unions are stronger: No better time!
On March 8, International Women’s Day IFJ Asia-Pacific and its affiliates across the region launched the campaign “IFJ Women Lead”. The IFJ’s 2018 campaign is a key stage in a long-term and progressive strategy for the IFJ and its affiliates in the Asia-Pacific to take affirmative and defined action on improving gender equity in union leadership.
“While we know that the ranks of women journalists and media workers continue to grow in Asia and the Pacific, we are still not seeing women in key decision-making roles in the unions and organisations that represent them,” the IFJ said. “IFJ research has revealed the lack of visibility in unions, so this is about pushing the conversation into action. For women to be adequately represented in unions and have their rights and issues advocated for, they need to claim their rightful place at the helm of media unions.”
The “IFJ Women Lead: Building Strategies for Female Leadership in Unions” using the slogan “No better time!” will continue to evolve as a progressive check on union leadership for the region. Read more.
2. India: Arrest in editor’s killing beginning of road to justice
Over six months after the cold-blooded murder of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bangalore, India, an arrest was made of the first accused KT Naveen Kumar. Naveen Kumar, a member of a hard-line Hindu group the Sanatan Santha, was arrested by the Special Investigation team (SIT) on February 18 on suspicion of supplying the weapons used for the shooting. He is also suspected to have surveyed and pointed out Lankesh’s house to a group of killers who came from outside Karnataka to carry out the killing.
Naveen Kumar was produced before the magistrate’s court on March 12 and was remanded in judicial custody for 15 days. Lankesh, 55, a respected veteran journalist and editor of a Kannada language weekly Gauri Lankesh Patrike and outspoken critic of Hindu nationalists, was shot dead outside her home as she returned from work on September 5, 2017. Read more.
3. Kashmiri photojournalist granted bail after several months in detention
A Delhi court on March 12 granted bail to freelance photojournalist Kamran Yousuf, 23, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on allegations of conspiracy and instigating stone pelting at security personnel on September 5, 2017 and was flown to New Delhi where he was kept in detention. Additional Sessions Judge Tarun Sherawat allowed the bail plea of Yousuf, asking him to furnish two sureties of Rs 50,000.
Yousuf, 23, based in Pulwama, contributed to various national and international publications including the largest circulated English daily in the state, Greater Kashmir. The NIA, a central counter-terror agency established by the Government of India in 2008, has sweeping powers, which appear to be being misused against journalists. Read more.
4. Sri Lanka blocks social media as communal violence escalates
In a concerning move, Sri Lanka blocked access to social media while imposing a state of emergency on March 7 in certain districts. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) ordered all telecommunication operators to restrict access to Facebook, Viber and Whatsapp across the country for three days to prevent the spread of communal violence that spread in Ampara and Kandy districts after Buddhist-led attacks on minority Muslim population. Internet access was completely blocked in Kandy.
The ban was lifted on March 15 evening after the visiting officials of Facebook agreed that its platform would not be used for spreading hate speech and inciting violence. amsnIFJ affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM), observed that actions taken to prevent the use of social media to trigger hate and violence, should not hinder democracy by contravening a citizen’s right to freedom of expression. Read more.
5. Journalist shot dead in Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Anjum Muneer Raja, 40-year-old sub-editor with Islamabad-based Urdu daily Qaumi Pukaar was shot dead by unknown assailants just before midnight on March 1 on Bank Road, the high-security area near the Pakistan Army’s national headquarters, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan while he was returning home after work. The motorcycle-borne assailants intercepted Raja’s motorcycle and fired six bullets, killing him on the spot.
The police is investigating the case as an incident of targeted killing. Raja, who also worked as a school teacher, is survived by his wife and a five-year-old son. Read more.
6. Supreme Court of Nepal order violates press freedom principles
The Nepali Supreme Court on February 25 ordered the country’s Press Council to ban the publication of news criticising the chief justice. Kantipur daily published a series of articles about discrepancies in the date of birth of Nepal’s Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli. The articles alleged that he might be close to retirement age. An advocate filed a contempt of court case against Kantipur, claiming that the articles caused controversy and dishonoured the senior-most judge.
Chief Justice Parajuli heard the case – despite the issue being about him– and entered an interim order on February 25, calling onthe Press Council of Nepal (PCN) to probe news reports published by Kantipur mentioning discrepancies about his birth date in official documents. The order asked the PCN to investigate if the news violated journalists’ code of conduct and to ensure that no news criticising the Chief Justice is published again. Read more.
7. Journalists brutally attacked by police in Assam, India
Police in the state of Assam in India’s Northeast, brutally beat up about six journalists, including television journalist Emmy C Lawbei on March 10 while on assignment covering a students’ demonstration. Lawbei and other journalists were at the Assam-Mizoram state border on assignment where students were protesting after the Assam administration issued prohibitory orders. While the police used forced to disperse the students,
Lawbei and other journalists were chased and beaten. She later said: “Police started chasing us, beating everyone on the way. I screamed and said ‘I’m a journalist’ but they keep beating us.” Lawbei, who works for News18 TV channel, sustained injuries on her shoulder and back due to the beating and needed a treatment at a nearby hospital. More here.
8. SAMSN Blog
There is more to unions than protests, by Lubna Jerar Naqvi
With the increase in the number of women entering media, we need more women journalists in decision-making positions in unions and media organizations, so that their problems are not under-addressed. The media is more vocal about issues faced by society but when it comes to its own rights there is little or no action. And if the issues are faced by women, there is even less noise against this, especially when it comes to promotions and increments. Read more.
9. Taliban impose taxes on independent Afghan media (RSF)
In addition to threatening Afghanistan’s news media on several occasions, the Taliban have in recent months been forcing media outlets in several provinces to pay arbitrary taxes — tantamount to a ransom – to be allowed to continue operating. The targets have included Ghaznavian, a privately-owned TV station based in the southeastern province of Ghazni, and two radio stations, Radio Killid and Radio Sama, both of which were asked to provide their turnover figures so that their ‘tax’ could be calculated. More here.
10. Pakistan Court declares network disconnections as illegal (Bytes for All)
In response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), Justice Athar Minallah of the Islamabad High Court on February 26 declared network shutdown as an illegal and disproportionate response to security threats. The judgement reads, “For what has been discussed above, the instant appeal and the connected petitions are allowed. Consequently, the actions, orders and directives issued by the Federal Government or the Authority, as the case may be, which are inconsistent with the provisions of section 54(3) are declared as illegal, ultra vires and without lawful authority and jurisdiction. The Federal Government or the Authority are, therefore, not vested with the power and jurisdiction to suspend or cause the suspension of mobile cellular services or operations on the ground of national security except as provided under section 54(3).” More here.
11. Bangladesh: Scrap Draconian Elements of Digital Security Act (HRW)
The Bangladeshi government has been asked to review and reform the proposed Digital Security Act (DSA) instead of enacting the law in its current form. On January 29, 2018, the cabinet approved a draft law, intended to replace the much-criticized Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT). The draft is even broader than the law it seeks to replace and violates the country’s international obligation to protect freedom of speech. More here.
12. Unshackling Expression – A study on laws criminalising expression online in Asia
Freedom of expression and opinion online is increasingly criminalised with the aid of penal and internet-specific legislation. ‘Unshackling Expression’ is an analysis on the criminalisation of online expression from six Asian states: India, Pakistan, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand. The report finds that Asian nations are increasingly drafting draconian cyber-laws, using offline laws to punish online speech, and harsher punishment to online offences. More here.
13. Smart Phones and Stupid Governments: Blocking Social Media as Sri Lanka Burns (Groundviews)
Struggling to contain a spate of attacks led by fundamentalist Buddhists on minority Muslims, Sri Lanka’s government imposed temporary blocking of social media and chat applications on March 7. This followed the reintroduction of Emergency Regulations, for the first time since 2011. Blocking public communications networks is ill-advised at any time, and especially bad during a crisis, when people are frantically seeking situation updates or sharing information about the safety of loved ones.
Blocking selected websites or platforms is a self-defeating exercise in any case, since those who are more digitally savvy – many hate peddlers among them – will use proxy servers to get around the block. It is the average web user who is deprived of news, views and updates. Such information vacuums can allow rumours to spread fast and wide. More here.
14. UNESCO’s World Trends in Freedom of Expression 2018 report released
The latest edition of UNESCO’s World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development has been published. Current developments paint a picture of both vast opportunity and steep challenge. The World Media Trends Report analyzes developments across the four key focus areas of media freedom, pluralism, independence and the safety of journalists.
Under the period of analysis, continued legal restrictions including criminal laws against defamation, national security concerns such as anti-terrorism laws and large-scale shutdowns of internet access have been seen on the rise. Such trends have seriously affected media freedom, while posing a serious threat to freedom of expression. Wholesale disruptions (like internet shutdowns) have become much more common. Gender gaps in journalism and law continue to affect the implementation of full media freedom. More here.
15. Chameli Devi Award for an Outstanding Woman Journalist for 2017
Uma Sudhir, the Executive Editor (South) at NDTV, was presented with the Chameli Devi Award for an Outstanding Woman Journalist for the year 2017 by The Media Foundation in Delhi on March 9. In her acceptance speech, she paid tribute to reporters across the country who do the everyday reporting integral to journalism and to the camerapersons and team work without which TV journalism in particular would be impossible. She also raised the contentious issue of what is “national” and what is “regional,” and questioned the unfortunate, growing tendency to reduce reporters to mere soundbite collectors. More here and her acceptance speech here.
16. Asia Journalism Fellowship 2018 calls for applications
Journalists from across Asia are invited to apply for the tenth round of the Asia Journalism Fellowship (AJF), which will run in Singapore from 16 July to 5 October 2018. Since its launch in 2009, the AJF has established itself as a prestigious mid-career programme for outstanding media professionals. The Fellowship brings around 15 Asian journalists to Singapore for three months, fully sponsored.
During their stay, Fellows will take part in seminars and workshops designed to sharpen professional skills and deepen their understanding of key trends shaping their profession. Fellows also get to work on an independent project and pursue their intellectual interests, guided by experts on and off campus. More here.
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 [email protected]