Attacks on Media

South Asia Media Solidarity Bulletin: November, 2016

18 Nov, 2016

Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on December 15, 2016, 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 content are available at the SAMSN Digital Hub: https://samsn.ifj.org

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In this bulletin:

  1. Turning Words into Action: IFJ’s annual End Impunity Campaign 2016
  2. SAMSN, IFJ demand concrete action to end toxic impunity in South Asia
  3. IFJ conference on impunity calls for codification of protection measures
  4. Sixth journalist killed in India as deadly year continues
  5. TV channels banned for a day in India
  6. Supreme Court of India rules equal pay for equal work
  7. Journalist killed in explosion in Afghanistan
  8. Police attack radio journalist during live program in Afghanistan
  9. TV journalists attacked in Bangladesh
  10. Senior Pakistan TV official convicted of sexual harassment
  11. SAMSN Blogs
    1. Defending the messenger: Interview with Sudha Bharadwaj and Shalini Gera
    2. Why do you need a free media?, by Hamid Mir
    3. Circle of Impunity, by Malini Subramaniam
    4. Anti Defamation Law: Instilling fear, by Ujjwal Acharya
  12. UNESCO Director-General’s Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity
  13. Getting Away With Murder: CPJ Impunity Index 2016 (Committee to Protect Journalists)
  14. Under Threat: The Changing State of Media Safety (Institute of News Safety)
  15. Impunity and press freedom in Sri Lanka (Doha Center for Media Freedom)
  16. Silencing the Messenger: Communication Apps Under Pressure (Freedom House)
  17. Government should not insist upon disclosure of news source: Pakistan Press Council (Dawn)

1. Turning Words into Action: IFJ’s annual End Impunity Campaign 2016

The IFJ launched its annual End Impunity campaign on November 2, the UN Day to End Impunity in Crimes Against Journalists, and will conclude on November 23, the anniversary day of the 2009 Ampatuan massacre in the Philippines when at least 32 journalists lost their lives in the single deadliest attack on media. Only one out of 10 killings in the media is investigated. The situation for non-fatal attacks on journalists is even worse. Impunity not only endangers journalists, it imperils democracy and compromises hope for peace and development. The IFJ #EndImpunity Campaign 2016 aims at holding governments and de facto governments accountable for their impunity records and denouncing any crime targeting journalists that remain unpunished. While IFJ is targeting all governments that have failed to investigate those crimes, a specific emphasis is on four countries: Mexico, Pakistan, India and Yemen. Read more about IFJ End Impunity Campaign here.

The IFJ Asia Pacific’s End Impunity campaign this year highlights the extent of impunity for crimes against journalists across the world, and hones in on ‘cultures’ of impunity that are being fostered in different countries in the Asia Pacific, particularly those in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Philippines. Read more about the IFJ Asia Pacific’s End Impunity Campaign here and the SAMSN End Impunity Campaign here.

2. SAMSN, IFJ demand concrete action to end toxic impunity in South Asia

The SAMSN, together with the IFJ, on the UN Day to End Impunity in the Crimes Against Journalists, issued a stern call to governments in the region to make greater efforts to address toxic levels of impunity that continue to blight journalism and the safety of media workers across South Asia. The region is viewed as serial offender on failing to secure justice for crimes against media workers.

South Asia is considered the deadliest region in the world for journalists. In 2015, 27 journalists lost their lives in the line of duty. Already in 2016, another 22 have been killed, according to the IFJ’s list of killed journalists . “Both India and Pakistan and their respective governments have overwhelmingly failed to deliver justice for journalists killed, threatened or injured as a result of their work,” SAMSN said. Read more. Read more about impunity in India here and Pakistan here.

3. IFJ conference on impunity calls for codification of protection measures

A conference convened by the IFJ on ending impunity for crimes targeting journalists and media workers has called for action to tackle the global crisis of impunity. The conference “Turning words into actions”, which took place at the IFJ headquarters in Brussels on 7 November, recommended addressing current weaknesses in the international legal framework for greater media protection through the adoption of a new convention on the safety of journalists. Read more.

4. Sixth journalist killed in India as deadly year continues

Dharmendra Singh, 35, correspondent from Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar at Rohtas was shot on the morning of November 12 by three unidentified motorcycle-borne assailants while he was drinking tea at a tea stall near his home in Sasaram. His colleagues believe the incident may be linked to his reporting on illegal stone mining. Singh died on the way to hospital. He is survived by his wife and a son. His murder, even as the killing of Rajdeo Ranjan in May is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), throws a spotlight on the abysmal law and order situation in Bihar. Read more.

5. TV channels banned for a day in India

The Information & Broadcasting Ministry of India passed an order on November 2 to prohibit the transmission or re-transmission of NDTV India channel and News Time Assam for one day on any platform throughout India on November 9.  The government invoked Rule 6(1)(p) of the Cable TV Network Regulation Act, which prohibits any programme that contains live coverage of any anti-terrorist operation by security forces. This controversial new section was added to the programme code in June 2015. The decision was purportedly taken as NDTV India allegedly violated the Cable TV Act by revealing ‘strategically sensitive details’ while covering the terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base in January. The ban order on News Time Assam is purportedly for its coverage of a child subjected to torture, in which the identity of the child was revealed. However, other channels too had run similar footage. Read more.

After outcry and support from journalist unions, national and international organizations and media houses, the Supreme Court’s readiness to hear NDTV’s application for a stay on the ban, the Ministry withheld its ban.

6. Supreme Court of India rules equal pay for equal work

The Supreme Court of India in a verdict said that the principle of equal pay for equal work applies for every employee regardless of the status of employment. The bench of J.S. Khehar and S.A. Bobde ruled that an employee engaged for the same work, cannot be paid less than another based on whether they were engaged on regular or temporary basis. The Court said: “An employee engaged for the same work, cannot be paid less than another, who performs the same duties and responsibilities. Certainly not, in a welfare state. Such an action besides being demeaning, strikes at the very foundation of human dignity.” The verdict came on the petitions filed by the temporary workers of the Punjab Government, who had moved to the Supreme Court after the Punjab and Haryana high courts denied them the pay-scale equivalent to the permanent employees. Read more.

7. Journalist killed in explosion in Afghanistan

Journalist Nematullah Zahir, a local reporter for Kabul-based Ariana TV, was killed in a bomb blast in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan on Friday, November 4. He was on a reporting trip with two other reporters near Lashkargah city when the incident occurred. AIJA Helmand president Zainullah Stanekzai and a reporter of Zwandon TV survived the explosion. It was not immediately clear whether the journalists were targeted or fell prey to an ambush. Read more.

8. Police attack radio journalist during live program in Afghanistan

On November 12, three police recruits stormed into the studio of Feroz-Koh Radio and violently assaulted journalist Janat Meer while he was presenting a live show in Firozkoh, central Afghanistan. The Ghor Police Chief General Ghulam Mustafa Muhsini said that the police involved have been arrested and an investigation has begun. Read more.

9. TV journalists attacked in Bangladesh

A dozen people assaulted reporter Shakil Hasan and cameraperson Shahin Alam of Jamuna TV as they were reporting on the illegal polythene factories in Chawkbazar, Dhaka on November 6. The gang, including owners of two polythene factories, also tried to burn the reporter with kerosene. Local residents provided shelter until the police rescued them. The attackers damaged the camera, lights and microphone carried by the crew. A case of ‘attempt to murder’ has been filed by Hasan, but police are yet to arrest anyone. Read more.

10. Senior Pakistan TV official convicted of sexual harassment

On October 21, the Federal Ombudsperson Against Harassment of Women in the Workplace, retired Justice Yasmin Abbasi, imposed a fine of Rs 250 000 (USD 2400) on Athar Farooq Bhuttar, the director of the state-run channel Pakistan Television (PTV), and censured him over sexual harassment complaints filed by six female news anchors at the station. The news anchors in June 2016 accused Bhuttar of sexual harassment, humiliation and insulting behaviour. Read more.

11. SAMSN Blogs

A. Defending the messenger: an interview of Sudha Bharadwaj and Shalini Gera

Journalists of Chhattisgarh have that the state implement an Act that protects journalists from physical violence and arbitrary arrests. In response to this, the Chhattisgarh unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has proposed the draft The Chhattisgarh Special Act for Protection of Journalists and Human Rights Defenders, the first law of its kind. As part of the campaign to End Impunity, SAMSN interviews the lawyers who were instrumental in drafting the Act. More here.

B. Why do you need a free media?, by Hamid Mir

“I live in South Asia that’s why I am more concerned about growing threats to media freedom in my part of the world. There is democracy in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India but why these three South Asian countries have become dangerous for media? Extremism is not the only reason. Reporting against criminals and corrupt mafias is also becoming difficult. Sometimes people sitting in power corridors don’t like voices of dissent and they try to silence journalists by declaring them “anti-national.” I believe that freedom of expression plays a very crucial role in good governance, transparency and accountability. South Asian economies cannot achieve the goals of sustainable development without good governance and it is not possible if media cannot raise some fair questions.” More here.

C. Circle of Impunity, by Malini Subramaniam

“When my house was attacked in February this year as a threat “to mend my ways” andwrite only what does not “tarnish the image of the police”, I made the rounds of the Collectorate and the SP office meeting officials the next day, February 8,to file a complaint.They were away in a ‘surrender function’ along with the very same people I was filing my complaint against; the police refused to file the First Information Report (FIR), the first step in pursuing a criminal case. They wanted to first discuss the matter with the SP, who cut my repeated phone calls when I tried to speak to him of the attack the previous evening”. More here.

D. Anti-Defamation Law: Instilling fear, by Ujjwal Acharya

“… but after the law, I am not sure,” a blogger from the Maldives told me answering my questions about how long he would continue writing critically on the government. The law he was referring to was the Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act, passed by the Maldivian parliament on August 9, 2016, despite widespread criticism.Every conversation with anyone who writes opinions on public issues – journalists or bloggers or social media users – the law was mentioned as a sword hanging over their heads. More here.

12. UNESCO Director-General’s Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity

The 2016 UNESCO Director-General Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity offers an overview of the killings of journalists condemned by the Director-General in 2014-2015. It also provides an analysis of a decade of killings of journalists, media workers and social media producers between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2015. The extent of the risks faced by journalists is demonstrated by the 827 killings recorded by UNESCO over the course of ten years. To this, one needs to add the countless other violations endured by journalists, which include kidnappings, arbitrary detention, torture, intimidation and harassment, both offline and online, and seizure or destruction of material. This Report is focused exclusively on the killings of journalists, the ultimate form of censorship. Read more.

13. Getting Away With Murder: CPJ Impunity Index 2016 (Committee to Protect Journalists)

The annual Global Impunity Index by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) spotlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free. This year’s report lists Afghanistan (7), Pakistan (8), Bangladesh (11) and India (13) from South Asia among 13 countries globally where impunity reigns high. Sri Lanka, where violence against journalists has receded since the end of a decades-long civil war, dropped off the list for the first time since CPJ began calculating the index in 2008. Read more.

14. Under Threat: The Changing State of Media Safety (International News Safety Institute)

Journalism has never been more dangerous, and journalists say they have never felt so unsafe doing their jobs. The overwhelming majority of respondents to our quantitative survey, 88 percent, agreed that the safety of journalists and media workers is more of an issue than it was 10 years ago , with 86 percent saying that journalists are more likely to be targets of violence. Local journalists are particularly at risk. The INSI found that even those who don’t work in hostile environments face greater dangers than they did in the past. Our interview respondents also corroborated this. INSI research done for this report shows that 1,480 journalists and media support workers have died doing their jobs in the past 10 years , an average of 131 every year. The majority, 822, died during peace time. More here.

15. Impunity and press freedom in Sri Lanka (Doha Center for Media Freedom)

It’s been less than a decade since the war ended, and less than two years since Mahinda Rajapaksa – the man accused of committing some of the worst atrocities against the media – left office. With scars as deep as Sri Lanka’s, more time will be required if justice for Sri Lanka’s slain journalists is to prevail. Read more.

16. Silencing the Messenger: Communication Apps Under Pressure (Freedom House)

The annual Freedom on the Net report features a ranked, country-by-country assessment of online freedom, a global overview of the latest developments, as well as in-depth country reports. The report has country analysis for Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in South Asia and reveals that Internet freedom around the world declined in 2016. It lists Pakistan as ‘not free’ and the three other South Asian nations as ‘partly free’ countries. In Bangladesh, the report states that internet freedom declined as fatal attacks on online activists hit a record high, and due to use of ICT Law and internet shutdowns. In India, it says local officials ordered 23 internet shutdowns to prevent unrest, and cheating during exams; and 17 arrests for WhatsApp messages. In Pakistan, anti-terror courts passed 13-year sentences for “seditious” Facebook comments, in additions to internet shutdowns and curbing laws. Read more.

17. Government should not insist upon disclosure of news source: Pakistan Press Council (Dawn)

The Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) said that a committee formed by the government to investigate Dawn story on a high-level security meeting should not insist upon disclosure of the source of information during its probe. The PCP also unanimously resolved that the government probe committee should not proceed against the newspaper or its staff. Read more.

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SAMSN is a group of journalists’ trade unions, press freedom organizations and journalists in South Asia that work 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.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific
Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific

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