South Asia Media Solidarity Network Bulletin, July 2012
South Asia Media Solidarity Network Bulletin, July 2012
Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on August 15, 2012 and inputs are most welcome. We encourage contributions to let others know what you are doing; to seek solidarity and support from other SAMSN members; and to find out what others are doing in the region.
To contribute, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAMSN is a group of journalists’ trade unions, press freedom organisations and journalists in South Asia that have agreed to work together to support freedom of expression and association in the region. SAMSN was formed at a meeting of these groups in Kathmandu, Nepal, in September 2004. The group agreed to stand in solidarity and work together for media reform, for an independent pluralist media and to build public respect for the work of journalists in the region.
For further information on SAMSN, visit: www.ifj-asia.org/page/samsn.html
1. Journalist killed in IED blast in Afghanistan
Abdul Hadi Hamdard, a reporter with Radio Television Afghanistan, based in the Greshk district of the southern Afghanistan province of Helmand, was killed when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device on July 11. No group has claimed responsibility for planting the roadside bomb. At least one other occupant of the vehicle was killed in the incident and two injured. Further details are awaited from SAMSN partner, the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association.
Available details at: http://www.khaama.com/afghan-reporter-killed-following-blast-in-helmand-province-005/
2. Media owner murdered in Nepal
SAMSN partner, the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) has condemned the murder of Santosh Gupta, managing director of Bindas FM radio, based in Birganj in the central part of the country’s southern plains, bordering India. According to information available, Gupta was on a visit to the neighbouring Motihari district in India’s Bihar state, ostensibly to discuss a possible advertising contract for his radio station, when he was murdered. His body was found on July 6 with severe injuries in a village of the district.
Further details at: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/media-owner-murdered-in-nepal.
3. Crackdown on web-based media in Sri Lanka
SAMSN partners in Sri Lanka have informed the IFJ about a June 29 crackdown by Sri Lanka’s police and security agencies, in which the offices of two web-based news sites were raided and nine media workers arrested. A team of approximately 25 law enforcement officials arrived at the shared premises of the two websites, SriLankaXNews and SriLankaMirror, that morning. All the media workers present were detained within the locked premises for three hours and questioned by the police, following which they were taken to the headquarters of the Crime Investigation Department (CID). All nine were produced before a magistrate the following day and released on bail. Computers and other equipment were confiscated from the premises of the news websites. Concurrently, the police also raided the residence of Ruwan Ferdinandez, formerly with the SriLankaMirror and now editor-in-chief of SriLankaXNews. The latter is widely regarded as the news website of Sri Lanka’s principal opposition, the United National Party. Sri Lanka’s media minister later issued a public statement that the Government would continue cracking down on so-called “mudslinging” websites.
4. Ethical debate over filming of Indian girl’s molestation by mob
The IFJ has joined SAMSN partners in India in calling for full disclosure of the circumstances in which a shocking incident of the public molestation of a young girl by a mob of more than twenty men was captured on video camera by a news channel reporter. Video images of the incident, which occurred late evening on July 9 in the city of Guwahati in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, soon went viral on the web, provoking mass public outrage and raising questions over the role of the news reporter in the incident.
5. Sri Lankan journalists harassed, threatened
The IFJ and partner organisations in Sri Lanka have called on the country’s authorities to take concrete measures to ensure the security of senior journalist Shantha Priyadarshana Wijesooriya, target of an attempted abduction in the capital city of Colombo on July 5. Wijesooriya is a well-known journalist who currently works with the online news portal SriLankaXNews.com, whose offices were raided by police on June 29. Wijesooriya has reported being under surveillance by security and intelligence agencies in recent times. A number of suspicious inquiries by intelligence officials in his home village and frequent telephone calls from these sources were also reported all through 2011 and later. In another incident, Frederica Jansz, editor of the Sunday Leader, was threatened and abused by Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, when she called him to verify certain facts in a story involving him.
Further details available at: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/authorities-must-ensure-security-of-journalist-under-threat-in-sri-lanka and http://cpj.org/blog/2012/07/sri-lankan-editor-calls-for-backup-after-defense-m.php#more.
6. Fears that new Afghan law could erode media freedom
SAMSN partners are concerned that a new law proposed by the Government of Afghanistan could end up seriously curtailing the freedom of the media. The proposed law would replace the media law that passed in 2009 after much delay, and was circulated among government departments by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Information and Culture. Analysts believe that the law would greatly increase control over the media by the information and culture minister, deputy ministers, and other officials within a complex set of regulatory bodies. The minister would be director of the High Media Council, which would have expanded powers to set policies and modify implementation of laws governing the media and to influence the composition and budgets of all other media oversight bodies.
7. Concern over Nepali government threat to cancel broadcast licence
Electronic media operators in Nepal have expressed concern over the Government’s proposal to cancel the registration of broadcasters that have not paid their royalties for the current and past years. Under the rules framed by Nepal’s government, broadcasters have to pay two per cent out of total income or 10 per cent out of net profits as royalty for the use of the spectrum. Media operators have argued that this intent runs contrary to the Government’s pledge to remove the royalty payable by them within a reasonable time period.
8. Wave of violence against journalists in the Maldives
The Maldives Journalists’ Association has alerted other SAMSN partners to a recent wave of violence against journalists in the Maldives, as political agitations escalate and the confrontation between the ruling parties and the opposition sharpens over the schedule of national elections to the presidency and parliament.
9. TV station attacked in Pakistan
SAMSN partner, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has strongly condemned an attack on the office of Pakistan’s AAJ TV in the country’s southern city of Karachi on June 26. Two employees of the private TV channel were injured when four armed men opened fire at the main gate of AAJ TV’s office at Gurumandir in Karachi. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an Islamist militant umbrella group based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack. In a phone call to AAJ News, TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan threatened attacks against other Pakistani television channels that did not feature the Taliban point of view.
10. Licences demanded for radio and TV broadcasts in Pakistan’s FATA
Partners in Pakistan have called on the Government to issue an executive order or presidential ordinance extending the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of the country. This would enable PEMRA to start issuing licences for local radio stations and TV channels. The demand came as part of a special discussion at a roundtable discussion, “Can There Be Political Reforms in FATA without Media Reforms?” which was conducted by Intermedia Pakistan.
11. Manager of Nepal’s state-owned broadcaster demoted for airing opposition protest
SAMSN partner, the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) has reacted strongly to a decision by the Nepali government to demote the officiating General Manager of state-owned broadcaster Nepal Television, Deepak Mani Dhital, after he took the decision to broadcast live a meeting of 27 opposition parties on June 8. The FNJ has termed the measure as an “undemocratic” attack and an attempt to make the national channel the government’s “mouthpiece”.
12. Threats to journalists in Nepal
The Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) has alerted other SAMSN partners to a number of threats against journalists. On June 14, Arjun Bhattarai, a journalist affiliated with the Naya Karnali weekly and president of Revolutionary Journalist Association in Kalikot district in the mid-western region of Nepal, received an anonymous call threatening him with death if he continued his professional work. On July 10, Mithilesh Yadav, a correspondent for the Nagarik daily in Lahan in Nepal’s eastern district of Siraha was threatened by a police constable over news published about continuing criminal activities such as beatings, abductions and explosions in the area in the last five months.
13. Indian union rallies for law to protect journalists
SAMSN partner, the National Union of Journalists of India – NUJ(I) – held a rally in the capital city of Delhi on June 25, to highlight the rising trend of violence against journalists and demand a comprehensive law to deal with the range of hazards faced by media practitioners. All state-level units of the NUJ(I) presented memoranda to the relevant governmental authorities to focus attention on this demand. A delegation of the NUJ (I) later presented a memorandum to the Indian Prime Minister, which recorded over 190 attacks on journalists in the recent past and argued the case for comprehensive security legislation.
14. Sri Lankan Government announces plans to amend Press Councils law
The Sri Lankan government has announced its intention to amend the Press Council Act of Sri Lanka to extend its jurisdiction to news websites. This was stated by Sri Lanka’s minister for mass media and information, Keheliya Rambukwella, exactly a week after police raids on the offices of two news portals and the arrest of nine journalists. The Sri Lanka Press Council Act of 1973 is widely regarded as a media-unfriendly law which invests too much punitive power in the hands of the regulatory body.
Further details at: http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/07/06/pol01.asp
15. Press freedom groups criticise dismissal of senior Sri Lankan editor
SAMSN partners, the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) have criticised the decision by the management of the Ceylon Today newspaper to remove editor Lalith Allahakoon from his post without prior notice or assigning any reason. The FMM has said that it was "deeply worried and saddened" about the incident and also the concurrent dismissal from employment of cartoonist Wasantha Siriwardene. "In a context where media institutions are under the jackboot of the government and media freedom is largely suppressed, incidents of this nature do not augur well for the functioning of media," the FMM said. The SLWJA has said that the “invasive interferences of newspaper ownership in the editorial independence of newspapers would compromise the very idea of media freedom in the country and we are afraid that this disturbing phenomenon is not confined to the recent events at the Ceylon Today newspaper."
16. Press Council of India institutes awards for excellence in journalism
On July 1, the Press Council of India announced that it would institute a number of awards for excellence in journalism, beginning this year. The awards are in five categories and have monetary prizes that range in value from INR (Indian rupees) 50,000 to 100,000. All journalists and freelancers of Indian nationality would be eligible for the awards and nominations for this year’s awards are open till August 16.
Further details at: http://presscouncil.nic.in/HOME.HTM.
Afghan Independent Journalists' Association,
Bangladesh Journalists' Rights Forum (BJRF), Bangladesh
Dhaka Reporters' Unity, Bangladesh
All India Newspapers Employees' Federation (AINEF), India
Indian Journalists' Union (IJU), India
National Union of Journalists India (NUJI), India
Maldives Journalists Association
Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), Nepal
National Union of Journalists Nepal (NUJN), Nepal
Nepal Press Union (NPU), Nepal
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Pakistan
Pakistan Press Foundation, Pakistan
Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), Sri Lanka
Federation of Media Employees' Trade Unions (FMETU), Sri Lanka
Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka
Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF: Human Rights Journalists Forum of Bangladesh)
Media Watch, Bangladesh