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IFJ Asia-Pacific Regional eBulletin: November 2012

In this bulletin:

1. Journalist deaths continue to mount in Pakistan

2. Radio Station Owner, Activist Jailed in Cambodia

3. Concerns for Media Diversity and Workers’ Rights in Taiwan

4. IFJ Safety Summit in Nuremberg Debates Media Safety Crisis

5. Indian Journalist Released on Bail; Journalists Blocked from Covering Public Rally

6. Attacks on journalists and press freedom continue in the Philippines; Man jailed for the murder of Philippines radio journalist

7. Supreme Court decision orders a temporary restraining order against Philippines Cybercrime law

8. Political Interference in Hong Kong’s Digital Broadcasting Corporation alleged

1. Journalist deaths continue to mount in Pakistan

Two more journalists have been killed in Pakistan.

Television reporter and Khuzdar Press Club General Secretary Abdul Haq was killed instantly when unknown gunmen opened fire on September 29, as he left the press club. The killing marked another journalist death in Balochistan province; at least five journalists have been killed in Khuzdar – a district of the province - alone in the last few years.

In another incident, journalist Mushtaq Khand, a reporter for privately-owned Dharti TV, was killed when a gunman opened fire during a public meeting organised by the ruling Pakistan People’s Party in Khairpur, in the province of Sindh, on October 7. Khand had been working as a journalist for the last 10 years and was the standing president of Khairpur Press Club for the past five. According to reports, up to seven people were killed and twelve people were injured in the incident, including three journalists.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-condemns-brutal-murder-of-journalist-in-pakistans-balochistan-province

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/journalist-killed-and-others-injured-as-gunmen-open-fire-at-public-meeting-in-pakistan

2. Radio Station Owner, Activist Jailed in Cambodia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joined its Cambodian affiliate - Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ), and international human rights groups in strongly condemning the 20-year jail sentence handed down to independent radio owner and activist Mam Sonando, in Phnom Penh on October 1. Sonando is the owner of Independent radio station Beehive Radio, President of the Democrats Association, and a prominent public critic of human rights abuses in Cambodia. He was arrested on July 15 on the orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen -- accusing him of attempting to establish a secessionist movement in Kratie province. He was later convicted on all charges including insurrection, illegal interference in public function performing, and inciting people to take up arms against the state. In addition to the harsh sentence, Sonando was ordered to pay 10 million riels (2500 dollars) compensation. Mr Sonando will be 91 when he is released from prison and fears are already held for his health.

Prior to his conviction, the IFJ joined other international organisations in writing an Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, expressing grave concern over Mam Sonando’s detention.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-condemns-jailing-of-radio-station-owner-and-activist

3. Concerns for Media Diversity and Workers’ Rights in Taiwan

Serious concerns have been raised for media diversity and basic working rights of media personnel in Taiwan, after the sale of Next Media Group’s assets to a consortium of investors was announced on October 18. The deal includes the sale of Taiwan’s Chinese-language newspapers, Apple Daily, Sharp Daily, Next Magazine and Next TV, and will result in the full withdrawal of the Next Media Group from the Taiwan market, after 13 years. A number of the investors are reported to have major business holdings in China, and though PRC investment in Taiwan’s print, broadcast and television media is banned, its influence in Taiwan’s media has grown dramatically in recent years, through investment by favourably disposed investors and the extensive use of so-called ”embedded advertising” or ”paid news” purchases. The Taiwan Financial Supervisory Commission and National Communications Commission’s plans to investigate the intended purchase were announced on October 19.

In the wake of the announcements, IFJ affiliate the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ), affirmed the legal right of Apple Daily’s newly-formed union to engage in collective bargaining with the new owners, to ensure working rights and editorial autonomy. The Next Media Group sales followed protests in Taiwan against media monopolisation on September 1.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/concerns-for-media-diversity-and-workers-rights-in-taiwanv

4. IFJ Safety Summit and Executive Committee Meeting in Nuremberg

The International Federation of Journalists held a one-day Safety and Impunity Summit on 26 October in Nuremberg, Germany, in collaboration with the department of international relations of its German affiliate, DJU in Ver.di.

The Summit’s agenda covered topics including the alarming rates of journalists' killings, ensuring women journalists are actively engaged and safe, safety training programmes, legal instruments designed to protect journalists and strategies to hold governments to account in relation to positive obligations under national and international laws. The recommendations from the Summit will be published in a report entitled ‘The Nuremberg Declaration'.

Following the one day summit, The Executive Committee Meeting of the IFJ was held in Nuremberg on October 27-28. During the meeting the IFJ confirmed its commitment to create a community of journalists with global standards uniting under principles of solidarity, but respecting the individuality.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-safety-summit-in-nuremberg-debates-media-safety-crisis

5. Indian Journalist Released on Bail; Journalists Blocked from Covering Public Rally

An Indian journalist held in custody for seven months on charges of terrorism has been released on bail. Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi was released on October 20 following orders passed by the Supreme Court, and the posting of a bond of two hundred thousand Indian rupees (roughly four thousand U.S. dollars). Kazmi was arrested on March 6 on charges of aiding and abetting a February 15 bomb attack on an Israeli diplomatic vehicle in India’s capital city. At the time, he was working for an Iranian news agency in Delhi and also for India’s state-owned TV channel, Doordarshan. His bail application was previously denied, and on June 2, despite charges still not being laid, the Magistrate extended Kazmi’s remand beyond the ninety days permitted under Indian law.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/indian-journalist-arrested-on-terrorism-charges-released-on-bail

On October 16, a number of journalists were blocked from covering a session of a global conference on biodiversity, addressed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in Hyderabad. The journalists, belonging to five media groups reportedly carried proper credentials, but were prevented from attending the session, seemingly because their organisations bore reference to the regional unit “Telangana” in their names. Telangana is a region of Andhra Pradesh where a political agitation, demanding a separate state within the Indian union, has been underway for several years. The journalists were reportedly told that they were being blocked on grounds of suspicion that they might use the Prime Minister’s participation in the biodiversity conference as an occasion for registering a political protest.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-deplores-blocking-of-journalists-from-covering-important-public-event-in-india

6. Attacks on journalists and press freedom continue in the Philippines; Man jailed for the murder of Philippines radio journalist

A news crew was attacked in Santa Mesa, Manila on October 11. PTV-4 reporter, Bernard Tan and cameraman Dante Morada were on assignment and driving a marked PTV-4 car at around 1.30 am in Manila; they were attacked after Tan stopped the car to allow a group of men to cross the street when one of them repeatedly hit the bonnet of his car. When they got out of the car both men were set upon and beaten; Morada received treatment for head injuries and Tan for injuries to his arm.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/news-crew-attacked-in-manila

In another incident, the City Council of Dipolog, the capital of Zamboanga del Norte province, on the island of Mindanao -- passed a resolution on September 25, rebuking a local journalist for asking a political rival of the city mayor a question that supposedly put the incumbent in a ‘bad light. The resolution condemned "the insinuation…that the administration of Dipolog City has the propensity of employing violence and terrorism against its political opponents.” It was also claimed under the Council’s resolution that the question of radio reporter Leo Cimafranca was “malicious and irresponsible”.

See: http://www.nujp.org/2012/10/alert-dipolog-city-broadcaster-rebuked-by-city-council-for-offensive-question/

On October 8, Benjamin Pallarca, one of the men arrested for the 2008 killing of radio block-timer Arecio Padriga pleaded guilty to homicide, after the charge was downgraded from murder, following a plea bargain. Padriga, an anchor on dxRS Radyo Natin and columnist for the local daily Mindanao Monitor Today was shot dead by two men on a motorcycle on November, 17, 2008 after dropping his daughter at school. Pallarca stands to face up to 12 years in jail and civil damages of P150,000.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/man-jailed-for-the-2008-murder-of-radio-journalist-in-the-philippines

7. Supreme Court decision orders a temporary restraining order against Philippines Cybercrime law

Following protests and widespread outcry, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a temporary restraining order against the implementation of RA 10175 - the Cybercrime Prevention Act, also known as the Cybercrime law. The law, which has been widely criticised for its potential to negatively impact freedom of expression, particularly as the scope of criminal libel under the law extends to all online expression, was prevented from being implemented by the 120-day order.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-welcomes-the-supreme-court-decision-ordering-a-temporary-restraining-order-against-the-philippines-cybercrime-law

8. Political Interference in Hong Kong’s Digital Broadcasting Corporation alleged

The IFJ reported on allegations that the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong exercised undue political influence over the editorial policies of the Hong Kong-based Digital Broadcasting Corporation. Hong Kong’s first digital radio station – the Digital Broadcasting Corporation (DBC), Kong closed on October 10, after just four months on-air. The station was forced to cease operations after a disagreement between shareholders, and a lack of funds to continue broadcasting. However, there have been allegations that the closure was politically motivated. The shutdown was met with protests calling for media freedom and for government intervention in an ongoing shareholder dispute. On the second day of the protests, a recording was played on-air which reportedly exhibited the Chinese Liaison Office seeking to influence the station’s editorial independence through the appointment of one of its hosts.

An independent inquiry to determine whether political influence was exercised over the station’s editorial policy, and appointments, or had a hand in its closure has been urged by the IFJ AP. The IFJ has reported on increases in political influence and self-censorship in China, and moves by the governments to tighten flows of information and news coverage since the beginning of the year.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-concerned-by-alleged-political-interference-in-hong-kongs-digital-broadcasting-corporation

ENDS

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