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IFJ Monthly SAMSN Bulletin - June 2013

IFJ Monthly SAMSN Bulletin--June 2013

To SAMSN members and friends,

Welcome to the e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) for the month of June 2013. The next bulletin will be sent on July 15, 2013, 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.

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

Please distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media.

In this bulletin:

1.     Indian parliamentary committee calls for media regulatory body
2.     Indian Vice-President addresses National Union of Journalists plenary
3.     Television ratings system in India in crisis, as broadcasters withdraw
4.     Telecom regulator in India holds consultation on cross-media ownership
5.     Sri Lankan government introduces code of ethics for media
6.     Journalists killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan
7.     Editor in India arrested for murder of staff
8.     Maoists threaten Indian journalist and broadcasting pioneer
9.     Journalists from India’s north-eastern states form federation
10.  Maldives TV channel protests warning issued by broadcast commission
11.  Sri Lankan journalists write to UN Human Rights Council
12.  MP claims meeting with disappeared journalist, summoned as witness in court hearing

DETAILED REPORTS FOLLOW:

1.     Indian parliamentary committee calls for media regulatory body

A standing committee of the Indian parliament has called for a statutory body to regulate print and electronic media. In a report submitted early-May, the Parliamentary Standing Committee attached to the Government’s Department of Information Technology inquired into the practice of “paid news” or paid for content being passed off as news rather than advertising. It observed that the practice had been prevalent not only in the context of elections, but also for purposes of promoting particular corporate and individual interests. In the light of the failure of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to evolve suitable checks on a practice that seriously erodes the public interest, the Standing Committee called for a body invested with statutory powers to regulate the media industry. Leading spokespersons of the media industry have reiterated their commitment towards evolving a suitable framework of self-regulation. Further details at: http://www.livemint.com/Politics/zcygRgFikOFQv89l8T5hOL/Parliamentary-panel-calls-for-media-watchdog.html. Full text of the Standing Committee report is available at: http://164.100.47.134/committee/committee_informations.aspx.

2.     Indian Vice-President addresses National Union of Journalists plenary

India’s Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, addressed the seventeenth biennial session of the National Union of Journalists (India) (NUJ(I)) at Aligarh in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on June 15. The Vice-President took note of the practice of “paid news” and the growth of monopoly ownership in different sectors of the media. He referred to a recent report by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, which pointed to a direct link between “uncontrolled ownership, paid news and corporate and political lobbying by the private news channels”. NUJ(I) president Prajnananda Chaudhuri drew attention to the long delay in the implementation of the latest wage award for the newspaper industry, which he said was a serious threat to press freedom. Further details at: http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=800808

3.     Television ratings system in India in crisis, as broadcasters withdraw

Already under a cloud following a USD 1.5 billion lawsuit filed by leading broadcaster NDTV Ltd., India’s TV ratings system, administered by the AC Nielsen promoted TAM Media, plunged further into crisis with a number of leading broadcasters unsubscribing from its services on the grounds that its figures were not reliable any more. The apex body of the broadcasting industry, the Indian Broadcasting Federation, has launched plans to set up an alternative system of audience measurement under the Broadcast Audience Research Council. Further details at: http://www.indiantelevision.com/mam/headlines/y2k13/jun/junmam32.php and http://www.indiantelevision.com/headlines/y2k13/jun/jun83.php.

4.     Telecom regulator in India holds consultation on cross-media ownership

Following its introduction of a discussion paper on the theme, the Telecom Regulatory Commission of India (TRAI) held an “open house discussion” on media ownership issues in the national capital of Delhi on May 18. No consensus emerged in a meeting at which there seemed to be a clear polarisation of views. SAMSN partners such as the Delhi Union of Journalists are seeking more regular consultations and greater involvement of journalists’ unions and associations. Further information at: http://www.trai.gov.in/consultationpaper.aspx?qid=0; http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-calls-for-broad-union-participation-in-evolution-of-ownership-rules-for-indian-media; and http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/media-crossholding-in-cross-hairs/article4743586.ece.

5.     Sri Lankan government introduces code of ethics for media

The Ministry of Mass Media and Information in Sri Lanka has introduced a draft “code of ethics” for the media in Parliament early-June. This follows the revival in 2010 of the long-lapsed Sri Lanka Press Councils Act of 1973, which has a provision enabling the government to notify a code of ethics for the media. This newly introduced code covers the print and electronic media, news websites and advertisements published in all forms of media. It incorporates strong language requiring that it should be “honoured in letter and spirit” and introduces thirteen specific grounds on which media content could be prohibited. Well over half of the code deals with explicit prohibitions on advertisement content. Many of its clauses are vaguely phrased and would allow for broad interpretations. SAMSN partners have called for the code to be withdrawn and the regulatory process sponsored by the press through the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL) to be strengthened. Further details at: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/sri-lankan-government-must-reconsider-move-to-introduce-ethics-code-for-media.

6.     Journalists killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan

SAMSN partners have sharply condemned two tragic killings of journalists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Ahmed Ali Joiya, twenty-five year old reporter for several local newspapers was killed on May 24 in the district of Bahawalnagar in Punjab province of Pakistan. Joiya had been consulting sources within the local police on a crime story and had been threatened by a known criminal element in the district. He was shot dead in a marketplace by two unidentified men. Meanwhile, the body of Mohammad Mohsin Hashmi, a technician and reporter with the radio station Sada-e-Nijrab was found on May 20, in the Nijrab district of the eastern Afghanistan province of Kapisa, two weeks after he had gone missing. The body bore several stab wounds and nobody had at the time of writing, taken responsibility for his killing. Further details at: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/another-tragic-killing-of-a-journalist-in-pakistan and http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/journalist-killed-in-eastern-afghanistan-province-second-in-current-month.

7.     Editor in India arrested for murder of staff

Police in the north-eastern Indian state of Tripura have arrested Sushil Choudhury, editor and owner of the Bengali-language daily Dainik Ganadoot, on charges of involvement in the murder of three employees. The administrative manager, a proofreader and a driver – all employees of the newspaper – were killed when unidentified assailants stormed its office in the state capital of Agartala on May 19. Initial reports indicated that Sushil Choudhury was the target of the attack and that the manager of the newspaper was killed because of a superficial physical resemblance to the proprietor. Later interrogations of the proprietor showed revealed contradictory and potentially incriminating responses, leading to his arrest on June 7. Further details at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/Editor-jailed-in-Tripura-triple-murder-case/articleshow/20622172.cms and http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/three-killed-in-attack-on-newspaper-office-in-indian-state-of-tripura.

8.     Maoists threaten Indian journalist and broadcasting pioneer

SAMSN partners have reacted sharply following a statement issued by the supposed command centre of the Maoist insurgency in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, which directly targets Shubhranshu Choudhary, a widely respected journalist and pioneer in using new technologies to broaden public access to the media sphere. This followed a story filed by Chaoudhary on May 27 for the Hindi service of the BBC, presenting an analysis of a lethal insurgent attack on a political convoy returning to the state capital of Raipur from a public engagement in the southern district of Dantewada. Choudhary’s analysis of the calculations behind this attack attracted a seeming rebuke and a disguised threat from the “Special Zonal Committee” of the Maoist insurgency in the region. Further details at: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/journalist-and-broadcasting-pioneer-threatened-by-maoists-in-india.

9.     Journalists from India’s north-eastern states form federation

Journalists from the eight states of north-eastern India – Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura – formed a federation following deliberations in the cities of Guwahati in Assam and Shillong in Meghalaya, between June 8 and 10. According to the preamble of the declaration adopted on the occasion, the Northeast India Federation of Journalists will seek to “strengthen freedom of expression and access to information, healthy public dialogue, conflict resolution and democratic processes through promotion of quality and independent journalism underpinned by the respect for economic and professional rights of journalists and media workers”. The eight north-eastern states pose a number of serious safety and security challenges for journalists on account of armed insurgencies and constant civil disturbances. The IFJ and SAMSN have in recent years carried out a number of missions in the area and campaigned for improved working conditions for journalists. Further details at: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1130611/jsp/northeast/story_16993242.jsp#.Ub6Vr9jQ4t1.

10.  Maldives TV channel protests warning issued by broadcast commission

Raajje TV, an independent broadcaster in the Maldives has protested as “biased”, a warning issued by the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, for a violation of applicable broadcasting standards. The warning pertained to a news-item broadcast on February 23, in which the channel reportedly described a political rally at which threats were allegedly made by a party aligned with the government to attack members of the opposition Maldives Democratic Party. Raajje TV, which is aligned with the opposition in its editorial policy, has said that it will appeal to the Maldives Media Council, which is the statutory regulator set up by law, to have the warning rescinded. Further details at: http://minivannews.com/politics/raajje-tv-alleges-maldives-broadcasting-commission-warning-biased-59187

11.  Sri Lankan journalists write to UN Human Rights Council

SAMSN partners in Sri Lanka have joined other human rights bodies in addressing a memorandum to the U.N. Human Rights Council, demanding closer critical scrutiny of the ongoing pattern of attacks on freedom of expression, credible and independent investigations in all past cases of attacks on freedom of expression, support and protection for journalists and media institutions under threat and closer monitoring of the implementation of applicable covenants on human rights and freedom of expression. Further details at: http://www.srilankabrief.org/2013/05/sri-lanka-systematic-attacks-on-freedom.html.

12.   MP claims meeting with disappeared journalist, summoned as witness in court hearing

Arundika Fernando, a member from the ruling United Progressive Freedom Alliance, announced in the Sri Lankan parliament on June 5 that he had met Prageeth Ekneligoda, cartoonist and political commentator who went missing in Colombo in January 2010. Fernando claims that he was introduced to Ekneligoda in Paris by another journalist who has been living in exile since early 2009. The claim has stirred up a controversy with opposition parties demanding that the Government follow up on the statement by tracing the long-missing journalist and Ekneligoda’s wife demanding that Fernando be summoned to the next hearing of an ongoing habeas corpus petition that she has filed in a Colombo Court. Further details at: http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/30578-wediwardena-introduced-prageeth-in-france-arundika.html and http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/30868-yes-he-is-there-arundika.html.

IFJ Asia-Pacific
http://asiapacific.ifj.org
ifj@ifj-asia.org
SAMSN Members:
Afghan Independent Journalists' Association, Afghanistan
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

ENDS

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